Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Let there be no division among you..."

Today I was overwhelmed by a desire for unity within the Church.  I feel it's Christ's desire more than my own.  I think it pains Him to hear us discount various denominations, to ignore them in our counts of "churches" from our missionary work, to follow the teachings of one train of thought unquestioningly, to fear each other for are differing beliefs.

Personally, I wish we could disband them entirely.

Today's post won't be long; I think that expresses my thoughts well enough on the topic.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A couple of impressive young men

Middle School is a hard time.  I would know... I went to three different ones, and none of it was easy.  I think that's why I find it most impressive when a middle schooler does something of character.  I think it takes extra strength to push past all of the hormones, self-discovery, and outside forces to shine through by doing something Good.  I want to take a moment to praise two young men who pushed through all of that on the last day before a long weekend.  These might not be impressive at first, but mull them over; I think you'll see what I mean.

The first is the less obvious example.  It requires a quick culture lesson, though.  One of the things that blows my mind in Korea is the relative lack of supervision the kids have here (ok, in my mind, it's more like an absolute lack of supervision).  They're allowed to do whatever they want, which usually means they're running around, screaming in the halls, and beating on each other.  This stops anywhere between 5-10 minutes after the bell rings to start class and is picked up again the moment class is over, although it often occurs more quietly during classes as well.  I know.  It's not at all what you pictured of Korean schools, but I assure you it's true.  Knowing that, it may be less surprising to you that I had noticed a slap fight starting in the back of my classroom, but ignored it in favor of finishing setting up.  I normally break those up pretty early in an effort to maintain a semi-Western-style classroom (in the name of culture lessons - not comfort, of course...), but not last Thursday.  Well, when I looked up again, something felt not quite right about it, but, by the time I processed what it was, it was too late.  The slaps had been getting harder, until one boy started punching the other in the face.  I could hear the impacts from the front of the room.  I kicked my shoes off and ran to the back of the room, bellowing "YAH!" before I grabbed the hitter from behind in a sort of bear hug, pinning his arms to his side.  The impressive part was that, instead of struggling against me, letting his adrenaline push him forward and out of my grasp (which would have been easy, as he's roughly a head taller than me), he went limp in my arms.  We both stood there, breathing heavily for about 30 seconds before I heard him say,

"Teacher, no fight."
"Yeah, I know 'No fight.'  That's exactly right."  I didn't let him go.  I didn't trust him.
"No, teacher.  No fight."
"Okay..." I said, slowly loosening my grip, waiting to see his next move.  I backed up, and still he stayed where he was.  He turned to meet my eyes.
"No fight."

I was proud of him, even in that moment.  I directed him and the other boy to sit at opposing sides of the back of my room, while sending another to go get a Korean teacher who I knew would be fair and would get to the bottom of what had happened.  The hitter was normally pretty quiet, while the hittee is pretty wide open and has a tendency to speak his mind, so I figure there's a decent chance that the hitter was provoked... not that that justifies rearranging someone's face, but it does justify further investigation.
Even in this moment, I glow with pride at the amazing amount of self-control this kid showed as soon as I got involved.  I don't like the situation, but I do like his actions once within it.

The second young man I want to lift up is more classic in the category of praise.  After school on Thursday, I prayed that G-d would provide me with some kids to take next door to the grilled cheese shop and buy a snack.  Well, He's generally more than happy to answer that prayer.  As I came out of the door of the school, there were about 8 kids sitting on the ground, waiting around for an after-school class.  I talked to them a little bit, mostly about their love lives.  One girl had just broken up with her boyfriend; one girl was yelling up to a third floor window to talk with her "husband;" one boy was gushing to me about how pretty his girlfriend was; one girl wanted to tell me about how she was chatting on an instant messaging service with her boyfriend.  All in all, I felt pretty honored to have them let me into their world.  The trick is that most of it was being relayed by the one boy who felt comfortable using English.  They all wanted to talk to me and I to them, but we needed a translator, and he was fully willing to help - never a sigh, never an eye rolled, breaking off mid-conversation when someone beckoned.  What's more, at the sandwich shop, he made a point of making sure the girls all got their food first, saying "Ladies first," when I looked at him in surprise.  You don't see that much anymore, but it was really nice.

And that, my friends, is me publicly praising two of my many amazing young people at my school.  Or, as my friends at Blimey Cow would say, "That is me supporting my local chivalry."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes...

I want to share with you part of my most recent letter that I received from one of my Compassion children, Estefany:
Hello, dear Anne, I write you very excited.  I received your cards and stickers.  I think and feel you are doing a good job.  My teacher in the project told me that G-d enables those He has called.  G-d has put you in this place because He believes you can do it.  I always pray for you that G-d will use you.  I dedicate this verse to you: Isaiah 1:17 [Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.]...
The timing of her letter has been perfect.  In the face of uncertainty and a still undefined path, this is what I needed to hear.

My... how G-d speaks through children...

Sponsor a child today.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Because Valentine's Day wasn't enough.

If you think Paris is for lovers, try again.  While Parisians are rather okay with lovers loving on the street, Korea is all about giving you the holidays for love (though, preferably, with minimal PDA).  Korea has so many holidays I can't count them all, and I feel like they keep adopting more.  I want to focus specifically on the love-related holidays, but, just in case you felt like complaining about the gift-giving holidays in America (or wherever you're from), I'd just like to list out the holidays in Korea, and, yes, almost all of them require gifts (specific ones that the stores will conveniently position at entrances in big gift boxes).
Get ready for a country that truly likes this phrase.

Solar Holidays and Memorial Days 

Lunar Holidays and Memorial Days
  • Seolnal, 설날 New Year's (Seol-nal)- 1st day of 1st lunar month, plus the day before and after
  • Dae bo rum, 대보름 – First full moon festival, occurs on the 15th day of the month 1 on the lunar calendar (basically two weeks after seollal)
  • Seokga tansinil, 석가탄신일 Buddha's Birthday (Seokka Tanshin-il)- 8th day of 4th lunar month
  • Dano, 단오 — Spring festival, which follows on day 5 of month 5 on the lunar calendar, which usually puts it in June on the Gregorian calendar
  • Chuseok, 추석 Harvest Moon Festival (Chuesok)- 14-16th days of 8th lunar month
  • Seotdal Geumeum, Lunar New Year’s Eve — Stay up all night and see the first sun rise of the new year.
And, just in case that wasn't enough celebrating for you, there's also the love-related holidays.  There's dissension on this list, but I'll list what I know. (Slash, I'm doing a lot of copying and pasting here.  I'll list all of my sources at the bottom.)  Hold on to your hats.

Couples' Holidays
Almost all of the Korean love holidays are
arbitrarily on the 14th of the month.
  • January 14th: Diary Day - Couples or friends give each other the gift of blank pages for the new year. It’s said that girls usually do this to encourage their boyfriends to write about their time together.  Others argue it's so that guys will write down their anniversaries.
  • February 14th: Valentine’s Day - Pretty just what you’d expect. Chocolate sales. Red decorations. Champagne bottles. Except women are expected to give gifts to men. Granted, there’s more of a platonic nature to the events of February 14th in Korea.  Women give gifts to their male friends, even acquaintances out of a sense of obligation, and out of courtesy and friendship.
  • March 14th: White Day - This day is more what Americans would expect Valentine’s Day to be: men giving women gifts. It’s not uncommon for most of the gifts to be white in color: white chocolate, white roses, marshmallows, white toys. Again, obligation, courtesy, friendship in the workplace.
  • April 14th: Black Day - Black Day is unique to South Korea. If you are single, or at the very least had no one to give you something on Valentine’s Day or White Day, you go out in groups and eat jajangmyeon (자장면), noodles with black bean paste. It’s quite tasty… the taste of loneliness.
  • May 14th: Yellow Day/Rose Day - Couples are traditionally supposed to wear yellow clothes and exchange bouquets of roses (yes, for men too) as a sign of love. Single people are supposed to go eat yellow curry.
  • June 14th: Kiss Day - It's exactly what you think it is.
  • July 14th: Silver Day - Silver rings are exchanged between couples on this day as a promise to get married. It also happens to be when couples choose to introduce each other to their parents.
  • August 14th: Green Day - If you’re in a relationship, this is a day to go hiking, walk in a park, or just be out in nature. If you’re single, it’s a day to indulge in massive amounts of that beverage that comes in green bottles, soju (소주).  I've also heard it said that couples get drunk on soju together then go for that walk.
  • September 14th: Photo Day/Music Day - A day to take pictures of each other and finish up with some noraebang (노래방)... Although, that seems to be every day in Korea, so I think we missed the point of having a holiday.  It's also said that you should make a mix CD for your significant other.
  • October 14th: Wine Day
  • November 14th: Movie Day... Some people put Hug Day here, too.
  • December 14th: Hug Day - These last three are all what you think they are.  I feel no need to explain them. - Others declare this Money Day... where you drop a wad of cash on your significant other.
Those are all the 14's, but WAIT!  There's also Pepero day!  Pepero (aka Pocky) is a stick-shaped cookie dipped in candy coating, so on  11/11, the date looks like a bunch of Pepero.  People should give boxes of the stuff to the people they love on that day.  By the way... 11/11 is Pocky Day in Japan.  Don't tell the Koreans that they celebrate a same holidays as their neighbors to the East... please.  It'll probably make for a bunch of nationalism that'll end up giving me a headache.
Furthermore, Christmas and Solar New Year's Eve are days to spend with your significant other as well.

Sources for more information:

Now that I'm thoroughly disgusted, Go be grateful that you only have 5 major gift-giving holidays a year plus birthdays.

In case you couldn't guess, I'm not a romantic.

Monday, May 13, 2013

17 Thank-Yous to my Amazing Mom

I saw a version of this on Carlos Whittaker's blog, Ragamuffin Soul.  I think it's the perfect answer to my Mother's Day post.  (It's still Mother's Day in its country of origin, so leave me alone.)

1. I was so excited to go to Kindergarten, so excited to formally learn.  I ran into that classroom, and I don't think I even looked back to see if you'd left; if I did, it was to make sure you had.  You never let me see that bother you (I'm still not sure that it did).  Thank you for fostering a love of learning in me.

2. In first grade, I was tired of being the only kid who read with expression.  All the other kids stuttered their monotone ways through our readers; I thought that must have been the cool way to read, so I started doing it, too.  I brought the style home, and you immediately scheduled a meeting with my teacher to discuss my declining reading level.  She subscribed to an older version of teaching that encouraged all students to learn at the same level and would not budge to give me more challenging work.  You took me to the public library and assigned me weekly chapter books to go through.  Thank you for protecting my skills.

3. In second grade, I began to lose my first "best" friend.  We had moved across town, and I was still clinging to the friendship, even though it was pretty much gone already.  Thank you for patiently arranging play-dates and making the drives to and from her house.

4. In third grade, I got accepted into an alternative school and that friend did not.  I was devastated and didn't want to go without her.  You made me go anyway.  Thank you.

5. In fourth grade, you got up almost every school morning to drive me to said alternative school instead of making me take the hour-and-a-half bus ride.  We used that time to attempt to cram my spelling words into my head.  None of them stuck, but the methodology you used to teach them to me did.  Thanks for teaching me how to study.

6. In fifth grade, I began to experiment with everything, including how to do laundry.  I attempted to wash my costume for the school play on my own.  It was white, and I wanted it to look amazing, because I felt fat, dumpy, and ugly.  I wanted people to see me and think I was pretty.  So I added bluing to the wash, but I didn't realize it needed to be diluted.  You stayed up making me a new costume for the play.  Or maybe you bought it... but I think you made it.  I know you made the jacket, but either way, it was your time and money that you lovingly gave to prevent the ridicule and reprimand for my actions.  I'm grateful.

7. In sixth grade, I was asked to join with the high school orchestra for their Spring trip to New York City.  You said I could go, but only if you went, too.  I was horrified that you wanted to chaperon, but no amount of begging or attitude would change your mind.  After having been on those trips as a high-schooler on those trips, all I have to say is that you made the right choice.  Thanks for sticking to your guns.

8.  In seventh grade, I went out of my way to hurt you.  We'd moved again, and I didn't want to.  You knew I was planning to run away.  You called my likely refuges and warned them.  You told them not to send me back if I left; you knew I'd do it again and in a more dangerous way.  You told me later that you had been planning to sign over custody if I left.  For the sake of my safety, you were willing to give up your rights to me.  I'm astounded.

9.  In eighth grade, I had the opportunity to tour the country with a singing group.  You didn't feel comfortable with me being away for so long with a group you didn't know well, but still you drove me the day and a half out to training.  When my phone calls started sounding fishy, you showed up at every one of our shows.  You let me finish the tour, but you still looked out for me.  I felt safer because I knew you'd be there.

10.  In ninth grade, we were dealing with my on-going night-terrors.  They were so intense.  They still scare me to this day, and I know they scared you then.  Thank you for not making me feel like a freak for having them.

11. In tenth grade, you made better costumes for ALL the madrigals.  You stayed up later than I did a lot of the time.  That couldn't have been easy for you, but I really appreciate it.  It helped me stop being so much of a social outcast, which was (is) important to me.

12. In eleventh grade, you were working again.  I knew you wanted to be working, but I didn't realize all your reasons.  There's so much you did for me with the money you made from that job that I'm only realizing now.  You give and give and give.

13. In twelfth grade, you gave me my space.  I did a lot of things that I needed; those things probably hurt you, but you could also see why I needed to do them.  You stood up for me, and fought the big battles WITH me (not for me).  Words cannot express how truly grateful I am and always will be.

14.  In college, you helped me move in, you giggled with me about boys, you talked to me when I called, and let me go without talking when I didn't.  You sent me care packages (more than most kids got).  You made the 14-hour drive whenever I had an important concert.  You fought the urge to fly down every time I ended up in the ER and let me find my own two feet.  You cheered for me as I flew around the world, and you didn't panic when I told you I'd be leaving again in a matter of  weeks.  You fished me out of the waters when I got in too deep, but never coddled me.  AND helped me pay for toiletries.  You win.

15. You were nothing but nice to my boyfriends, even when you told them to get lost.  I really appreciate that.

16. I'm sure you cried when I told you I'd be moving to start my adult life out of the country, but you never let me see it.  I needed that more than you can know.  You came to visit me, I came to visit you, and we began to iron out our relationship as adults.  It's not an easy process, but I'm sure we'll get it.  Thank you for respecting me.

17. Recently, we've really begun to talk about faith - REAL faith.  Sure, we talked about "faith" as a kid, but not like this.  I appreciate that I can talk to you about things that are deep, and I'm floored by the extent of the faith you have.  When we lost Pop-pop, I felt like I lost my rock, my anchor - the thing that would helm me back in if I floated too far away.  I'm beginning to realize that I only lost one of a number of anchors, the exact number of which I can never be fully sure.  Thank you for standing firm and for opening up to me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cantina: Mexican Food in Cheonan - WHAT?

This week, the unimaginable happened.  A Mexican restaurant opened up in my town.  And not just any Mexican restaurant... no:  An American-owned-and-run Mexican restaurant.  And it's heaven.  From the moment the food crossed my lips, I knew my wallet would never be the same.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Before, we took the 45 minute trip to Songtan for Mexican food.  Now, it's just a 20-minute walk.

The owners, Dylan and Jenny, are currently in the process of growing their own veggies on the premises, and Dylan, although he never trained professionally to be a chef, spent much of his life in the food industry, picking the brains of any chef with whom he shared a restaurant.  He studied their work and practiced at home until he was able to create the amazing food he set before me at Cantina.

Although the menu lists a grand total of zero vegetarian main dishes (one if you allow for fish), all it took was for Dylan to hear me talking about not eating meat to offer me several options to suit my taste.  He went on to tell me that he was blown away by the number of vegetarians in the city who'd come out of the woodwork  so he was in the process of making a veggie-friendly revised menu.  In the meantime, he instructed me to warn him on Facebook before I wanted to come by, and he'd be sure to have veggie offerings for me.  What service!

Jenny, who is superwoman at the bar, is in charge of events and other such details.  My friend Nick and I knew immediately that we wanted to move the location of another friend's baby shower to the restaurant, so we spent a bit of time dealing with Jenny on those details.  Not only did she seem to know every trick in the book for how to throw a good party, she was also incredibly friendly about it all.  The conversation flowed easily, and Nick and I left the meeting with big grins on our faces.

Nick, me, and our grins.

The overall decor of the place is great, too.  It's a little loud, because, in keeping with the latest style in Cheonan, there's minimal fabric to absorb sound, but it's not so loud as to deter me from returning.  There are several tables at the front of the house.  In the back is an open-air kitchen and a pool table, positioned in front of this mural:

Painted by JnJ Crew from Hongdae (Seoul), this mural sets the tone for the whole restaurant.
I ordered their chimichanga, which melted in my mouth.  It was amazing.  Somehow, they'd gotten their hands on fresh cilantro, which adorned my plate.  After not having had it in two years, it was a phenomenal taste.  They didn't skimp on the sour cream (actual sour cream!!!) either.  The complimentary chips and salsa were delicious, and the Cantina Peppers were surprisingly good.  I could taste the spice on everything through my dish (which means it's probably pretty spicy, as my tolerance is rather high), but Dylan and Jenny assured me that they could make the food in non-spicy versions as well.

So, what have we learned?

Excellent food.
Excellent service.
Excellent location.

I'll definitely be returning.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Birthday Week (plus)

The past week has been a whirlwind to say the least.  I've finally (almost) gotten over a cold-turned-burgeoning-sinus-infection this week; I'll finish my antibiotics tonight.  I've still got a bit of a sore throat, but I think that's allergies taking over at this point.  I've been keeping my window open, because the weather's finally nice enough for that (meaning that my apartment is starting to take on over-like qualities), but the cool breeze brings pollen with it.  What's a girl to do?  I cracked open the Claritin D that Mom sent this morning, and that seems to be helping.

In spite of being sick and voiceless (even literally for a day), I still went about life as usual, because it hit hardest during BIRTHDAY WEEK.  What is it with me and getting sick on my birthday??? (Last year, although I didn't blog about it, I ended up in the ER, unable to breathe on my birthday night.  They ended up giving me some medicine to which I'm allergic... so the whole thing was a pretty big ordeal.)  This year, I planned a bunch of birthday week activities, and had an absolute BLAST.  Even though there are still some ongoing festivities (things I didn't plan, but people wanting to do more for me - I love my birthday and apparently others do, too!!), I'm going to post about what all's been happening!

Monday, April 22, 2013

For sure during Birthday Week, I wanted to go to Mt. Fishtail, my favorite restaurant here in Cheonan.  It's a bit of a trek for me, involving planning my schedule around that of the subway.  Many people go there for birthdays, so it's become a bit cliché to do that.  I don't really like doing the same things as everyone, and people have been starting to complain about that, so I asked two of my friends, Ashley and Heidi, if they'd go with me after our Korean class (which ended up involving a surprise TWO cakes and drinks!).  They happily agreed, making everyone winners.  The two ladies were super nice and even treated me!  

The picture you are seeing actually has nothing to do with Birthday Week, but I wanted to point out that the first time I hung out with Heidi was also the first time I went to Mt. Fishtail.  I conveniently had this photo, therefore, to show me, Heidi, and the restaurant, so I could have just let you think that it was from Birthday Week.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - Birthday!

On Tuesdays, I normally spend time with a young lady I'm tutoring/mentoring.  If you follow my Facebook,
you'll often see me writing about "my student;" that's her - Kristin.  Kristin's family wanted to take me out for my birthday and offered to do it any night, but I thought it was be sweet to see her on my birthday itself.  That afternoon, she and her mom actually met me at my school to walk me over to the restaurant.  Sadly, it was raining that day, and I had worn the wrong shoes, so I got soaked (probably contributing to how sick I got), but it was sweet nonetheless.  Kristin's mom decided just to let the two of us eat, so she paid and left us there.  This restaurant was also a first for me: My first teacher dinner had been there.

The place is rather expensive, but they give you enough food to feed an army.  Just when you think, "Okay, I'm stuffed; I can't eat anymore," they bring another course.  Then, you think, "Surely, that's it," but then, they bring another course.  And I'm not meaning, just a main dish and maybe a side... We actually had to move things off the table to fit all the food on it.

My co-teacher Sam (The CT, again, for Facebook followers), had given me a small cake in the morning to eat at the restaurant.  Often, cakes here come complete with a knife, candles, matches, and poppers for the the occasion, so we had a good time making a lot of noise in the restaurant.

Kristin was pretty nervous about the poppers at first.  I think maybe she doesn't like the noise... Or perhaps she thought she was going to burn her hand?  I'm not really sure, but once the confetti and streamers came out, she was one happy camper.

We both left too stuffed to move properly.  I waddled her home and vowed not to eat another large meal that week... until I realized I'd already planned a couple more.  Oops.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday was pretty low-key.  I went out for coffee with Kris and Cora, which was so fitting, considering Kris' new coffee website that he's about to launch.  We tried a coffee shop that just opened behind Korea Nazarene University called La Noche.  The Spanish in the name caught my eye, and, as it turns out, the owner spent some time in Spain and speaks Spanish.  That's not something to run into every day here.  (I'm not even sure they have a word for Spanish... every time I hear people talking about it in Korean, I'm pretty  sure they're saying "Spain's speaking.")  The place was cute, and the coffee was good (although too sugary for my liking... it tasted sweeter than I'm used to having), but by 8 it was HOPPING, and we, being all of the introversion persuasion, opted to leave.  It was awesome to get some time to talk with them, though, and hear about Kris' new business venture.  We even got a chance to chat a little about copyright law!  (It's begun to cross my mind to do a bit of online copyright law consulting once I'm done in Korea...)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I had intended Thursday to be a pseudo-rest-day to prep for the insanity of the weekend to come, but I ended up scheduling a non-birthday-related meeting instead.  Sitting still is apparently not my forte.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I planned my big dinner for Friday night at a buffet called Applebee (no relation at all to Applebee's in America).  I hadn't been there in a while, so I did realize they'd removed all the reasons that had made it worth the price of eating there, which was a bit of a bummer, but we still had fun.  I'd seen an interesting game on a Korean reality TV show, and I wanted to give it a try.  For lack of a better name, I dubbed it "Food Bingo."  Basically, you fill a 5x5 Bingo card with different foods.  Each player takes a turn choosing a food.  If you eat the whole of that food that you placed on your card, you get the space cleared.  If you don't eat all of it, or you didn't select that food, you can't clear the space.  You must have 3 Bingos to win.

My filled BINGO card

To make things more interesting, we required players to include a lychee (Although, at the time, we didn't realize that's what they were... we just saw the spiky fruit.), something dipped in the chocolate fountain, some wasabi, and one of the whole shrimp (gross).

We confused a lot of people while we were playing, and ended up scaring the employees to death: They saw Ashley and me walking around with a notebook, writing down foods, and they assumed we were conducting an inspection of some kind.  Luckily, our Korean friend had come and he explained what was happening to them.  BUT it was a blast, and I'd highly recommend playing it, although, perhaps you should play it at home...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday morning, all of the KNU program teachers went to Seoul for a culture trip (temple and a show).  IT was pretty fun, but I was mostly jazzed about what was waiting for me afterward.  Seoul has this cool trend that's, sadly, on its way out of fashion, but I'm going to take advantage of it until it dies entirely.  Popular these days are board game cafes.  You go in, buy a drink, pay hourly after the first hour, and have access to basically every board game every created.  Here's a smattering of them from my first trip to Board School:

Situated directly over one of the two Taco Bells in Korea, Board School was Heaven for my inner geeky child.  We stayed for three hours and played our way through Ticket to Ride (I won), some odd pirate game (see the video below) (I think Ashley won), Hulli Gulli (a Korean favorite that is basically Egyptian Ratskcew, plus math) (Ashley also won), Apples to Apples (Nick), and Uno (I don't remember who won this, but Nick introduced us to Killer Uno, which has about 20 extra rules, but is so much fun).  It was definitely the highlight of my week, and I'm already anxious to go back for more!


More birthday activities keep popping up.  This weekend, Kershea took me to my now undisputed favorite buffet, All That BBQ.  I should be going out with Jolie for coffee tonight.  Maybe I'll also hang out with Joshua on a similar adventure.  This weekend I'll be staying with Samuel and Ashley... it just keeps going, and I love it all!  I don't know how I'm going to top all this next year for the big 2-5, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. :)