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.