Thoughts on Separation

I had my way,
When I begged of you to stay.
You chose never to leave
My side.

Our lives went on.
How happy we were—
How happy I was
That you stayed.

We laughed together more,
Traveled and explored,
Spent every free moment
In each other’s company.

But if I had known that,
By my way,
You’d lose eternity,
I would not have selfishly begged you
To stay.

If I had known
That my selfish desires
Would lead you astray,
I would not have asked you to stay.

Would I?
God, forgive me.

These words came to mind as I lay down to sleep this evening. They struck me in a powerful way. I was thinking of how sad it is that close friends have to part ways. I have been blessed to make dear friends from all over the world—from various parts of the USA that I may never see, to South Africa, to South Korea. It’s only a matter of time before we part company, and the special times that we have spent together will become only a memory preserved in photographs. The likelihood of my seeing any of these people again in this world is very slim.

Separation is hard, especially when our hearts have been knit together in kindred Christian love. My selfish desires would have all of my close friends from all over the world always accessible—living nearby and able to spend time with me. But then I thought, that is not what God put us on earth to do. Yes, we are social beings meant to love one another and enjoy each other’s company, but our goal is not to solely develop and enjoy relationships on this earth. Our goal is to strengthen our relationship with God, come to know HIM, and bring people to Him—for it is through Him that we have life, and that more abundantly (John 17:3, John 10:10).

Because of this, God has created each one of us with special talents, and God wants us to use those for His glory. He has a great and special plan for each of our lives. Sometimes that means that He will send us to the ends of the earth to leave our family and friends behind. Wherever He sends us, we will start over and make new friends, but then the time may come to move on. If we choose to disobey God because of our selfish desires, we are intentionally ignoring His will and weakening our relationship with Him.

What’s worse, though, is the influence we can have on others. By pleading with people not to leave us due to the selfish desires in our hearts to have those dear to us ever near, we are treading on dangerous ground. We are, in a sense, asking them to choose us above God. And thus, we are leading them away from Him and from growing in the faith.

Paul went to his death in Rome, and in his travels all along the way, people prophesied what would happen to him there and begged him not to go. But what did Paul do? Although he wept with his friends, he showed them the value that God held in His life. Serving God was his top priority, and the thought of dying for his faith did not sway him from remaining faithful (Acts). This is the way our lives should be: with God as our first love and number one priority, we will 1) choose to follow Him wherever He may lead, and 2) not hinder those dear to us from serving Him. Rather, we can encourage them in the work.

In the end, we will see that the temporal pleasures that we would have gained in this life by our selfish desires do not even compare to the joys of heaven. It is because of Him that we can all meet again in eternity—in a perfect world void of evil, sorrows, pain, fear, and separation.


Thanksgiving Dinner

Now that I've got a four-day weekend ahead of me, I can finally catch up. However, now I've forgotten nearly everything I was going to say . . . so we'll start with Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day was just another day here in Korea. We all worked in the office from 8:30-6, and I came home and baked some sweet potatoes for dinner. What I looked forward to all week, however, was the Thanksgiving dinner in Ichon coming up that Saturday night (November 24). I would be meeting up with some friends there, and we would be fed a traditional dinner by some foreign church members. An added bonus to the weekend was that my friend Sarah had no weekend responsibilities, so she came to visit me on Saturday, and we headed over to the dinner together that evening.

Right after we got off the subway, we ran into Kecha, a member of our orientation group, and an older couple that we had met somewhere before . . . None of us really knew where to go to get to the banquet hall. We walked for a while until Kecha got a phone call and had to go back to the subway station to meet a friend. Then I called the lady in charge and asked for directions. We found that we needed to turn around and go back the other way, so as Sarah and I started back, the man turned to join us, but his wife had other plans. Sarah and I were fascinated with them from the very beginning when the woman refused to take the escalator that her husband wanted to take out of the subway station, and she went to take the elevator alone. Now when we began to walk, she nearly got on a bus without him, and he had to run to catch up with her. We didn't actually see what happened with that, but they arrived at the banquet hall significantly later than we did. Sarah made me laugh when she said, "You can tell who wears the pants in that family." Haha. The woman wasn't mad at him or anything. She just took charge in every situation.

Anyway, the evening was great. The dinner turned out to be for all of the foreign teachers within our organization, so I met a lot of new people and found some old friends as well, like Kecha and Joy. The meal wasn't the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, but for Korea, it was awesome! I have never been so excited to see familiar foods. The room was decorated beautifully, and the atmosphere was incredible. It truly was one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever experienced. I felt like, for a few hours, I was back at home in the States with one big happy family since all of us are really united through the same experience.

Melissa, Kecha, Joy, and Sarah 

Homemade pumpkin cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake,
and carrot bread


Bargaining in Namdaemun

I have so many blogs to write, but before the week escapes me, I simply must record one story that happened on Sunday before I forget. :)

Sarah and I planned a shopping adventure at Namdaemun Market. Namdaemun is one of the largest outdoor markets in Seoul. Unlike some markets that are geared more towards Koreans or foreigners, this one is kind of a toss up. One can buy souvenirs there, but just about everything else is also sold in the market: clothes, shoes, silverware and tableware, military stuff, traditional Korean fast foods and desserts, toys, stationery . . . I could go on forever. So while Sarah was on the hunt for souvenirs to send home for Christmas, I was on a search for winter boots.

Our first real snow here was on December 3. It has been bitterly cold ever since. Thankfully the winds haven't come yet, though. On average, the temperature has been about 14 degrees Fahrenheit--that's below 0 degrees in Celsius. It snowed three days that week, and the snow isn't melting. I think it's here to stay for a while. . .

After we had wandered around the market for a while, we came upon a larger-than-normal shoe store. You see, you can really buy shoes anywhere in Seoul. Shops are all over the place--including every subway station. But it's hard to tell how good the quality is, especially when the price is under $10. So this shop was a walk-in one. We took a peek, and decided to check it out. Thankfully, one of the workers spoke a decent amount of English to understand that I was looking for snow boots. Immediately he took me to the back of the store and showed me a large display of them. I had no clue what to choose! There were far too many options. I stuck my hands down a few of them to check out their warmth and then requested to try on three different pairs. At last, I decided which I liked best, but it just was too small.

Shoe sizes here are measured in centimeters, so my typical shoe size in the States (7.5-8) is about a 245-250 here. I requested a 245 first. Tooo small! Then a 250. That didn't work either. Granted, I was wearing two pairs of socks, one of which was wool. Finally I asked for a 255. The man stood aghast. Surely my feet couldn't be that big! His coworkers were just as surprised. I just laughed. . .

Well, he went and got them to try on me (store owners actually put the shoes on for you), and sure enough, they fit.

In between all of this, I continued to ask him in Korean, "How much is it?" and he continually refused to tell me. Eventually, when he realized I was close to making the purchase, though, he bragged that the boots were made with cow leather and gave me a price for two different ones. One was over 200,000 won, and the ones I was wearing were 180,000 won. I was shocked--especially after seeing so many pairs of shoes for 10,000 won (granted, the quality wasn't that great). After seeing that price on his calculator, I was about ready to walk out. I've never spent that much money on shoes, and I wasn't about to start then. I told him in Korean, "I don't have that much." However, he really wanted to make the sale, so he told me he'd give me a discount, and when I refused that amount, he asked me to quote him a price. So I typed 50,000 won in his calculator. "Oh my-----" he repeated over and over, astounded that I would stoop so low. He shook his head and typed in another number--maybe 165,000 won. I continued to stay, "No. I don't have that much," in Korean. We had this whole conversation with smiles on our faces, and it was actually rather fun. This is the first bargaining experience I've had where I haven't left the shop owner upset. In any case, this continued for a while. I refused to budge much past my 50,000 won mark. I pushed it up to 53,000, and he still couldn't believe it when he was dropping by the tens of thousands. Eventually he got frustrated. He took my hand, and Sarah laughed as she watched what happened next. He took my index finger and blew on it--like gamblers blow on dice, and then used my finger to type in 68,000 won into the calculator. Now I knew I was getting somewhere. I took my hand back and typed in 55,000 won. He repeated the previous action, but once he realized I wasn't going to exceed 55,000 won, he conceded. He let me try on the shoes one more time, and while I was walking back to do that, I noticed another pair that looked nice. He sighed, afraid that I was going to make him go through this all over again, but I didn't. He then pulled out some inserts. "Servic-uh," he said, which means "free service." He put them in the boots, but when I tried to walk, they were too tight again. Still, I asked to keep them for the future when I don't have super thick socks on. So he brought out his calculator again and typed in 57,000 won. "No, no!" I argued. He asked me to type in the amount again, and I returned to 55,000 won. OK. He finally gave up and charged me that amount. (That is the equivalent of about $50.)

I walked away a happy girl. So did Sarah. She bought a cheaper pair of boots, but she decided not to bargain. She laughed and told me that they could take the extra money as a donation for what I didn't pay.

And here is a picture of the boots. I figure he wouldn't have sold them to me at that price if he weren't still making a significant profit off me. And now . . . I'm set for winter!


Working in Textbooks

This post has been a long time coming. I apologize for the delay.

So at the end of October, I was moved to the textbook office to edit new junior English textbooks. This experience has taught me five things: 1) patience, 2) that I must never choose a career in the publishing field, 3) that editing is solely a hobby for me, 4) that God's timing is perfect, and 5) that God may answer our prayers as we desire in order to teach us that we don't know what's best for ourselves.
My first cubicle experience. Seventeen of us work in this room.
Months before coming to Korea, I prayed for this opportunity--to work in the textbook office here so that I could decide whether or not publishing should be my chosen career. At the time,  I was considering a graduate degree in publishing.

When I was first moved to the textbook office, though, I was upset. I had not wanted to leave my school and students that I had come to love. Still, God had reasons for putting me in this position at this time, and I am thankful for those reasons. But now I know.....editing can only ever be a hobby for me. As a full-time job, it is painstaking. I recall that Samuel Johnson, the writer of the first major English dictionary, once called himself a "harmless drudge" in his definition of a lexicographer. For the past several weeks, that's what I have felt like--a harmless drudge.

I sit in the desk where you see the green coat.
Still, there have been some fun parts about editing all day. One is the Korean exercise routine that we do for five minutes twice a day. It is quite enjoyable and hilarious. I tried to record it, but my camera would not allow me to record the whole thing. Another pleasant part of the job is the food. Several days a week, people bring in snacks--tteokbokki, rice cake desserts, ramen . . . I don't always eat what they bring, but it always provides a nice break for everyone to stand around the small snack table and chat while eating. Truly, though, my favorite part has been noticing hilarious mistakes that occur through translation. Since the book writers are all Koreans, I and my foreign friends edit and rewrite a lot. One of the Korean writers, who is my favorite (but don't tell anyone), tends to say "Wow...." whenever I rewrite an entire passage and questions and answers in front of him in such a short amount of time. One day he asked me for my secret, and another day he said, "English is your mother tongue. I cannot catch you up." Clearly he meant to say, "I cannot catch up with you." It was a cute mistake.

In any case, I gradually have been making up at list of amusing things for this particular blog post, so enjoy! :)

She looks nice on her outfit.

"Would you pass me the napkins, first?"
"Well-done, please."

"Then we all enjoyed walking on the beach and having a sun bath."

Green Hair Salon (I changed it to Sally's. Images of Anne of Green Gables could not escape my mind when I saw this name.)

new spapers

He lost his parents at the amusement park, and one man took him to Lost and Found.

What is the main purpose of the email?
To look for steak and hamburgers at the restaurant

A family is planning a travel to India.

You can learn insect watching and also observing wildlife.

Steak is made with meat.

Sometimes I forget to turn off the oven and burn the cookies. (Kinda sounds like you forgot to burn the cookies....)

Tomorrow he is going there to get a perm. He is so excited. (Sad part: this is not a mistake. Korean men get perms and wear makeup...)

What do you have to do to take care of your pets?
I clean their house once a week. (talking about hamsters)

She made snowmen and had snowball fights with them.

I have a toothache.
Put a Band-Aid on it. (This was actually intentional.)

The Lost and Found Family

growing pets

Why does the girl like going to the bookstore?
Because she can read freshly printed books there.

"Once I used a spoon to stir the food, and I put it in the microwave."
"Did you see many lightening storm?"

I love how language is so diverse and how humorous it can be when we try to translate from one to another without one of them being our native tongue.

And now for a few coworker pictures....

And here is a short clip of our exercise routine. Enjoy! :)



Thanksgiving is not just a day. It is a manner of living. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Lately I have been failing in this regard, so I am taking the time now to back up and survey my life--to re-prioritize and review the blessings of the last several months that are leading me into this year's Thanksgiving Day.

Living in Korea has made me appreciate things that I always took for granted, so while some of the things in my list may seem simple or questionable, it is likely because they mean much more to me now than they ever did before.

This year, I am thankful for:

God's faithfulness and constant refuge in spite of my unfaithfulness and lack of trust
the support, encouragement, and fellowship of like-minded believers
untainted mountains and rivers
every whiff of pure, fresh air I get
effective communication
helpful people, whether or not they speak my language
a job
a warm bed
a refrigerator
a stove top
a washing machine
the Internet
warm clothes
legs and feet that can carry me anywhere and everywhere
God's constant protection as I walk the streets of Seoul, one of the biggest cities in the world
friends and family in every corner of the world who contact me at the times when I need them most
good news after a difficult day
the Bible--those words have LIFE
being able to see the moon and maybe one or two stars on a clear evening in the city
the joy and innocence of children
the knowledge that God is using / can use me for His glory if I just let Him
contentment with appearance
Costco and E-mart
Western food
the values that have been instilled in me
my education
returned smiles
peaceful, familiar music
online sermons
my backpack
the opportunities for new adventures with new, amazing people
the Adventist connection
my mom--yes, I saved one of the best for last :)

What are you thankful for?

"Excuse Me, Sir?"

Before another week begins, I simply must report a humorous experience that occurred of late, before I forget.

Vickey and I had planned a Pepero Day outing in Itaewon. Pepero Day is a Korean holiday similar to Valentine's Day and is held on November 11. It is believed to have been created by Lotte Mart, a major department store in Korea, as a marketing strategy for their most famous dessert--the Peppero stick--a chocolate stick covered in almond slices.

Due to our different schedules, we agreed to meet there for our Mexican lunch. Well, I arrived much earlier than she did, so I decided to wander around town.

Shortly after exiting the subway station, I was tapped on the shoulder and heard a young man's voice say, "Excuse me, sir?" I wasn't sure whether to laugh or keep walking. I decided to stop. I lowered my hood (I was bundled up because it was a frigid day) and looked. There stood beside me a tall, young Korean boy.

"Are you alone?" he questioned me.

Having learned since childhood to never answer that question with a "Yes, of course, I am," my immediate yet honest response was to say, "No. I'm meeting someone here."

Well, he introduced himself, and eventually I came to the conclusion that he was harmless. A sixteen-year-old from southern Korea, he had come specifically to Itaewon in Seoul for the first time to practice his English with foreigners. And I, the lucky one, was the first foreigner he had ever spoken with--ever. We walked and talked for maybe ten minutes. His English actually was quite good. I mentally placed him at an adult level 4 or 5 out of the 6 levels taught in our language school. His word choices were amusing at times, though.

He boldly declared, "I'm awesome. Don't you think I'm awesome? You know, there are handsome people and awesome people. And since I'm not handsome, I'm awesome." I never answered his question, but giggled a bit inside.

He asked me where I was from, and once he discovered that I was from the USA, he was shocked. "Why did you come to Korea when you're from the greatest country in the world? I want to go there."

He explained to me that his father wouldn't let him go, but I soon ascertained why. He said that he doesn't like to study and that he doesn't do well in any subject in school except for English because he likes it. I told him that going to the USA is expensive, so if his father knows that he's not going to study there, then he knows that it would be a waste of money. Yes, I was blunt with the kid, but someone had to be.

I also told him, eventually, that if he really wanted to improve his English, here was a tip: "You don't call women 'sir.' 'Sir' is for men, and 'ma'am' is for women." He deeply apologized, and I assured him, "It's ok. You didn't know. Now you do."

"You're a good teacher," he said. "Thank you."

Finally I told him I was going back to the subway station to wait for my friend. It was bitterly cold, and I was still sick, so I didn't want to walk around outside anymore.

Nonetheless, that was an experience I can't forget.


The Secret Garden of an Ancient Palace

Last Friday afternoon, November 9, was the best day of my week. I had spent all week proofreading in the textbook office, commuting to and from work each day (about an hour with walking and subway transfers), trying to get well from my cold/flu, and was just totally burned out. 

When I was working at Seongbuk, Liberty and I had planned this outing for all of us teachers, but when I started working in textbooks, it looked like I wouldn't be able to go. I asked my boss, though, and I just worked longer another day that week so I could leave early on Friday to go on this adventure.

Unfortunately, everyone waited till the last minute Friday afternoon to ask things of me, so I ended up leaving work 20 minutes later than planned. I was supposed to be at the palace garden entrance at 3:30, and it was already 2:50. I RAN to the subway station, transferred at 3:17, got out at the final exit at 3:20, and RAN to the palace to meet Liberty and Sophie--the only two who were able to come that day. (Liberty is a co-teacher who was teaching me Korean, and Sophie is our school's deskworker.) I arrived precisely at 3:30, when the tour was to begin. Praise the LORD!

We all three then ran to the Secret Garden entrance, which was a ways from the regular palace entrance. We were certainly a humorous sight. The thing is, though, you can only see the Secret Garden after making special reservations and purchasing special tickets. We had done all of that, but my work had delayed us. Thankfully, Liberty was able to explain the situation to them in Korean, and they let us through after the tour had already begun.

We had booked the reservation more than a month in advance! It was the only available opening since touring the palace's gardens is so popular at this time of year. Now I know why! It is soooo beautiful! The king had this Secret Garden pathway behind the palace so that he and his family and whoever worked at the palace, I guess, could escape to nature. Wow! That's all I can say. The pictures below will give you a good idea of what we saw that afternoon. The weather was perfect.

Koreans don't like taking pictures with Westerners
because they think their faces look too fat in comparison.
So for this picture, Sophie made me
put my head down. Silly girl. :)

This sign read: Eternal Youth Gate
Now that I've passed under it, maybe I'll live forever. ;)

Suspicious behavior, don't you think? hehe

The place was absolutely GORGEOUS! 
Ah, Sophie, Sophie!

I'm so thankful for my Korean friends. They make the stresses of every day worthwhile. :)

Bukhansan & Dobongsan Fall Hike

The pictures you will see below are from a hike taken on October 28. Five of us had planned to go hiking together that weekend because I had heard that it was the peak time to see the fall leaves before they were all gone. We all planned to meet at Dobong Station that morning, but Sarah called me and backed out because she was sick, and two others decided not to show up. So . . . it was just Calvin and me. Nonetheless, we had a good time. How could we not when the weather and beauty of the nature surrounding us was so astounding??! It was an awesome day--and my last weekend in Seongbuk. 

We began our hike climbing Bukhansan, looking for a particular place called "The Rock." Then we saw a map of at least five places labeled "Rock." Well, Calvin thought he knew which one it was, so we headed up the mountain to look for it. Turned out, that wasn't it, so we hiked and hiked, climbed several peaks, ended up in Dobongsan, and finally found our way back down the mountain, we discovered said "Rock" by happenstance.

We were sooooo sore at the end of the day, having climbed for about 6 or 7 hours. And let me tell you, this trail was not as easy as it appears. There were MANY rocky steps, among Korean ones. 

The picture you will see of me being hugged by a Korean requires a short story. We had stopped to rest near a peak, and this woman and her husband we resting there, too. For some reason, she wanted to take my picture . . . over and over again on her camera and my camera and then she wanted pictures with me. So I asked her husband to take one on my camera too so that I could remember this lady. I think she would have adopted me if she could've spoken my language! Sheesh. hehe. Afterward the photo shoot, I asked her if she wanted a picture with her husband, and the answer was no.

Despite all the climbing, my favorite part of the adventure was near the beginning, when we discovered a river and decided to climb over the fence to get to it. It was soooo beautiful, and we just rested there for a while and enjoyed the lovely music of water rippling down rocks on a crisp fall day. I want to go back there someday! :)

I hope you will enjoy the pictures! Happy Autumn!

We saw many lovely birds like this one. :)

It was a popular day to hike and picnic!

You can't go far without running into a Buddhist temple in Korea.
A three-layered fall leaf. Amazing!

There are four rock-climbers on the two peaks to your right.

With the sweetest Korean I've met who couldn't speak
a word of English.
Joy at finding the exit sign! We had been walking for quite
 a while, wondering how to get out of the park.

I believe these represent prayers or wishes.


A Story in Pictures: Seongbuk SDA Term 5

Junior Teachers Term 5
Errol, Silver, Vickey, Aileen, and Lucas
Adult Teachers, Term 5
Liberty, Errol, Vickey, Kevin, and Director Lee
Sophie, the most awesome desk worker EVER!
Staff Room
Hallway: My classroom was #301.
Lobby & Elevators
Church & Miscellaneous Room
Remnants of my ajumma class after party day
Heidi, Jessie, Jasmine, and Juna
Remnants of my evening class after party day
James, Jay, and Monica
One of my favorite Junior classes: WM Starter 8
Evan, David, Peter, James, Matthew, Bora, Julia
Jenna, Mirae, Jenny, Sunny, and June

Where is the teacher??!

WM Junior 2 class: Can you tell they were my troublemakers?
Justin, Angela, Amy, --, Victoria, Tom, Kyle, Jerry, Ben
YIC6: Boro, Peter, Sam, David, John, and Brianna
WinPlan teenagers: Toby, Phillip, Patrick, Tina, Rin, Ashley, Millie
YIC4: Daisy, Jane, Annie, June, and Rubi

with Korean teacher Silver

One of my favorites: WM Starter 4
Harry, Dana, Jenny, Justin, Jackie, Blue Toon

With Korean teacher Silver

So this was my first and only term at Seongbuk SDA. A few students and classes are missing. I loved this school and will miss the students and teachers very much. Pictures are forthcoming of my new office.