Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mindy's Second Day

Well, day two with Mindy went quite well. I had a horrible migraine today, so I had to stay in bed most of the day, but Mindy was very accommodating. She was content to alternate between playing alone with her toys and snuggling with me. House-breaking is off to an excellent start. She piddled on the puppy pad three times today when I told her to, and pooped on it once, without being told. I'm really impressed with how quickly she's getting the hang of it. I'm going to start working on getting her outdoor-trained as soon as I have her completely pad-trained. That way, I don't have to worry about what to do when the weather is bad, or if I am ill and unable to take her out.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I have a new puppy! She's a tiny purebred Maltese with a very sweet disposition and an intense attraction to my socks! I went to Busan today to get her, and with the help of my friend Jen, the journey was a success. I couldn't decide what to name my little girl, so I let her pick out her name. I called her by the top few names I liked, and the only one she responded to was Mindy. In fact, she actually comes (most of the time) when I call her that! I'm wondering if the breeder was calling her a similar name, or if she just likes the way Mindy sounds.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Learned a New Word Today...

Today I learned a new Korean word - bam-ee-da (I'm unsure of the exact spelling, but that's how the word sounds). Sit back and enjoy, folks; it's an interesting story.

We took the kindergartners to a mountain stream on a field trip today, with the objective of letting them catch tadpoles and frogs. They managed instead to catch about twenty little minnows, which I found impressive. The area we went to was breath-taking. There were mountains all around us, and a lovely waterfall cascading into the pool the children were playing in.

While we were there, we made a small fire and enjoyed a lunch of Korean ramen noodles, cooked over a portable gas burner. It was rather fun eating soup with chopsticks out of a paper cup! The kids loved every minute of it, and, of course, managed to get completely soaked.

When we got ready to leave, we first had to change eleven little kindies into their dry clothes. The girls changed on the bus, while the boys changed outside. I was leaning against a stone wall, helping Harry put on a dry shirt, when all of a sudden, my ordinarily-calm and sane boss started screaming.

Cate, as I have said, is not prone to fits of insanity. She is calm even when the kids are being wretched creatures of darkness. She also speaks very fluent English. So, I thought it rather odd when she started yelling hysterically at me in Korean.

"Bam-ee-da! Stephanie, bam-ee-da!!" She yelled frantically. Finally, she made a quick grab for my arm and pulled me toward her. As she did, I noticed the long snake who was poised as if he were ready to have a nice taste of Stephanie. He had been about an inch away from me, apparently. It was a startling moment, to say the least. Cate thought the snake was poisonous, although she certainly didn't get a detailed enough look to know for certain. I'm actually not scared of snakes, but I'll admit, this close shave shook me up a little.

For the entire drive back, the kids discussed the snake. They found the whole incident very thrilling!
First love...


I just realized that I have been in Korea for 1/3 of a year already. I can't believe it's been that long! I can't believe how much I've changed, either! I thought I should post some form of deep insight in honor of having come this far, so here is my conclusion that I have made over the past four months: Life is too short.

So, here's a piece of advice I'd like to throw out to the world. Borrow a page from my book (the current chapter). Get off your duff, stop dreaming, and start doing! For years I dreamed of living abroad, but I never had the nerve to do it. Then one day, I realized that just dreaming wasn't enough anymore. So I took the risk, and I did what I have always wanted to do. Just thinking about all I could have missed is a lesson to me. It may mean scraping my knees up a bit, but I intend to keep on taking risks as long for as I am able.

On an unrelated note, for those who were wondering, I'm getting my new puppy on Saturday. I couldn't be more excited!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Three Conversations

Here, to the best of my ability, are "transcripts" of three of the conversations I had with my kids today (two happy, one sad):

Conversation #1 - "The Happy Hug"
Me: "Oh, Amber, are you sad today?"
Amber: "Yes Teacher, I am very sad. I need a hug."
Me: (after pulling her into my lap and giving her a huge, tight hug) "Is that better?"
Amber: "Oh Teacher, you make very happy hugs. Teacher, I love you."
Me: "I love you, too."

Conversation #2 - "A Country Torn in Two"
(When I walked into the E3-C classroom, the students were very eager to tell me about something. It took a minute to get them to speak one at a time, but here are the most memorable things that were said.)
Me: "So what's going on today?"
Steve: "Teacher, marker please. I show you."
(He drew a long, squiggly blob on the whiteboard.)
Steve: "Teacher, this is Korea. July 25, this happen."
(He drew a line cutting the blob in half, demonstrating the division between North and South Korea.)
Toby: "North Korea and South Korea fighting. Many people die. USA help South Korea."
Me: "I know, my uncle fought in the war."
(The students all gazed at me with respect - normally they aren't this serious.)
Steve: (Very soberly) "Thank you, Teacher."
Carol: "Teacher, me grandpa fight. He get shot."
Toby: "My family house here" (pointing to a spot in the North) "and they go here." (pointing to where Gyeongju would be on the "map")
Steve: "My grandpa fight too. His leg - ptoo!"
Me: "He lost his leg?"
Steve: "Yes."
Susan: "Teacher, my grandpa fight. My grandpa brother die."
Me: (Struggling not to bawl like a baby and knowing that if we keep talking about war, I will) "Well, okay, let's get started now. Take out your 'Let's Go' books and open to page..."
(Note: There are eight students in that class. Seven of them told me about their grandfathers fighting in the war. The kids weren't sad when they told me about it; their attitudes ranged between matter-of-fact and serious. It's very interesting and enlightening when the kids teach me about things - and believe me, they teach me a lot.)

Conversation #3 - "The Matchmakers"
Anne and Angie: "Teacher! Teacher! We saw a foreigner today!"
Me: "You did?"
Anne: "Yes. He was a man and we talked to him."
Angie: "Teacher, he can be your new friend!"
Anne: "Maybe you will marry him."
Angie: "Yes, Teacher, you should marry him! He's very nice. He talks fast, but you can talk to him."
Me: "Was he handsome?"
Anne: "Oh yes, he looks like Brad Pitt."
(They compare a lot of men to Brad Pitt)
Me: "Ooh, I don't like Brad Pitt."
Angie: "That's all right, Teacher. You can change him when you marry him!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Latest Updates

Sorry about the gap in entries again. I do try to write each day, but sometimes, it's just out of my hands. Here, for anyone who's interested, are the latest updates in my life abroad:

~I have caught yet another illness from the kids! Honestly, it's beginning to seem like I'm always getting sick over here! Luckily nothing that I have caught has been serious (although the bronchitis did make me want to hide under the bed and pray for death). Right now, I have something very odd that has given me a sore throat, a bad cough, and a REALLY upset tummy. One of my kids said to me today, "Teacher, are you okay? Your face look like dead human."

~The rabbit died. I'm sorry to say, I really wasn't all that upset. I know it sounds hard-hearted, but while rabbits are very cute, they are also quite stupid. Please no hate-mail from rabbit-lovers over that statement!

~I found a fantastic new church in Busan. It'll mean an hour bus trip there and back each Sunday, but it's really worth it. I also met some terrific new friends.

~I came within less than two inches of getting hit by a car today when somebody decided that the sidewalk I was riding on looked like a good place to drive. After my shaking stopped (about ten minutes later!), I discovered that I was fine.

~I found out where to get oatmeal and dill pickles here in Korea (Home Ever in Pohang). Haven't had a chance to get out there yet, but I'm hoping to on Sunday before I go to Busan.

~In over a month's time, I still haven't killed any of my plants!

~I agreed to help groom some students for a speech contest, which means paid overtime for me, as well as the chance to spend extra time with some of my favorite kids. Assa!

~I'm getting a dog tomorrow. Mom and Dad are going to think I'm nuts, but I've thought it through thoroughly. More details on that tomorrow. And yes, in answer to everyone's question, the dog will be going with me when/if I leave Korea. And yes, Mom, I am allowed to have one in my apartment.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Love You, Raffi

I love you, Raffi. When I was a little girl, your songs were some of my favorites. Yup, I am a proud "Beluga Grad." I remember singing Down by the Bay until I just about drove everyone around me nuts. Even as an adult, I still think your songs are charming and fun. And that, dear Raffi, is why I am now falling back on you as a teacher. The verdict over here in Korea? Kids love your songs just as much here as they do everywhere else! Raffi, you're my hero. You can quiet a class of insane four-year-olds in seconds. You can entertain fidgety seven-year-olds. Your lyrics are clear and easy to understand for foreign children, unlike many other children's performers. Someday, I'm sure you'll be the favorite singer of my own children.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Yellow Submarine

Guess what I'm currently teaching my kindergartners? Yup, Yellow Submarine! It's a fun song for them and they're cute as can be learning it. I'm still not sure if they completely understood what a submarine is (my drawing left much to be desired), but there's always next week to work on explaining it better. As an added bonus, Yellow Submarine doesn't make me want to commit a heinous crime, like songs by The Wiggles do. I know kids are nuts about that group, but I, personally, have a VERY low Wiggles tolerance. I also taught the kids (both classes) the Hokey Pokey today. I managed to find a version done in swing style, so it's much more fun.

Two days ago I read the story "I'll Love You Forever" to my E4-B class, just as something different to start class with. They loved having a story read to them so much that they begged me to read one yesterday. So, with Mindy in tow, I ran downstairs to grab a book to read to them. It had been raining, and somehow it failed to occur to me that the stairs would be slippery...

Yes, I know, I am a KLUTZ!!! I fell on my knees (which still hurt), much to the concern and delight of Mindy. As soon as she knew that "Teacher" was okay, she couldn't stop laughing. I thought it was rather funny, too, actually. Mindy immediately told Cate, who, ironically, was in the process of making signs warning people about the slippery floors. We all had a good laugh about that. By the end of the day, kids were telling me to be careful every time I stood up! Word really gets out fast in our hagwon!

Then, this morning, when I got to school, Mark (Cate's husband, who speaks next to no English) greeted me with "Good Morning. Slow, slow!" Apparently he had also heard about my misadventures with the stairs!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Moon over Korea

"This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars."

~Walt Whitman, A Clear Midnight

Alligator Fingers and Communism

I am convinced that the creators of our kindergarten curriculum have never actually seen a real, live kindergartner. If they had, they would not have created the idiotic projects suggested in the books! They are almost always so complicated that I, a native English speaker, have to read the directions more than once just to figure them out. How do they expect three-year-olds to do these projects?!

Today was another example of this stupidity regarding projects, so once again, I had to change the project to make it something my kindies would be able to do. The book wanted them to cut out and create little green cones and then fold in the bottoms of them so they could glue the cones to a picture of an alligator in the book. Three problems with that:
1. Getting the kids to cut the stuff out is enough of a feat, but getting them to make cones, using glue??? As if!
2. The texture of the paper on the cutouts makes it resistant to glue - apparently the creators of the book didn't think of that.
3. Assuming they had managed to do the project, they would not have been able to close their books, owing to little cones sticking off a page. Then again, the cones would probably have fallen off right away.

Since the point of the project was to reinforce the concept of "cone" (they're learning shapes right now), I had the kids do the cutting, and then I made the cones (using tape instead of glue). I made sure that they realized that each of them now had four little green cones. Then, I had them put the cones on their fingers and - voila! - alligator fingers! The kids had a blast pretending to be alligators.

In a different class, I got into a very interesting discussion the other day with one of my very best students. Normally I avoid any discussions about politics, or anything controversial, but she brought this conversation up. I have tried to recall word for word what was said, and I think I've gotten most of it down. I thought it was very enlightening to get a child's perspective on Communism:

Gina: "Teacher, you live in a free country, right?"
Me: (wondering where the heck this is going) "Y-es, I do..."
Gina: "And Korea is free, too."
Me: "Uh huh."
Gina: "And I think UK is free. But China and North Korea - they is not free [sic]."
Me: "No, they're Communist."
Gina: "The people there can't do what they want. But we can do what we want."
Me: "Yes, we can."
Gina: "Teacher, why North Korea is not free?"
Me: "Well--"
Gina: "Teacher, don't the people want to be free? Why they is not free?"
Me: (completely at a loss as to how to explain this) "Well...why do you think they aren't free?"
Gina: (thinking about it for a moment) "Teacher, I think one day bad men trick the people. They tell lies. And the people think they is good men. The people is not careful. And now the people is not free and the people is scared of government."

I think ten-year-olds can be pretty insightful!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Bike Ride in the Country

I took a long bike ride this afternoon, since the weather was cool and absolutely perfect for riding. About fifteen minutes from my apartment it starts getting rural, so I thought that would be an ideal spot to ride about in, as well as a great chance to try out my new camera. Here are some pictures from my ride:

As I watched two white cranes soaring gracefully over the rice paddies, with the mountains beckoning from behind them, I fell in love with Korea for the eight millionth time.

New Camera! At Last!

I am so stoked! I have been talking about getting a new camera for about a month now (as I have sadly watched the degenerating condition of my not-so-old one), but I've kept putting it off. I finally started researching online a few weeks ago, in order to figure out which camera would be the best for me. Today, armed with sufficient research, I marched into Hi-Mart and bought a brand new, fantastic digital camera.

Since I was so happy with my previous Sony Cybershot (until it died), I decided to stick with the same brand. My new camera has a 5x zoom, 10.1 mega pixels (for those who don't know, it means sharper images, especially when I choose to blow up an image or crop and expand part of it), and a smile shutter. The smile shutter is a really cool new feature - when set, it waits until the moment someone smiles and then snaps the picture. My camera also has several other features that I didn't have before and can't wait to try out. One of my favorite features on this one is that it tells you what every button and setting does when you push them, rather than forcing you to sift through a manual (which always seem to be written first in a foreign language and then badly translated into English).

Best of all, I paid $50 less than I would have in the US (plus I didn't have to pay to have it shipped), and, since this is Korea, I got freebies when I bought it. They gave me a really nice portable tripod, a case, and a lens cleaning kit for free! All total, I saved over $100. The salesman also changed the language on the camera from Korean to English, which I greatly appreciated.

I can hardly wait to go take some pictures!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Fantastic Vietnamese Meal

Tonight my friends and I went to Oranee, a Vietnamese restaurant in Sungongdong, Gyeongju. The meal was fantastic! We started by making our own spring rolls, which was both fun, and tasty. First, we dunked the clear, paper-thin outer parts into hot water until they were soft and pliable. Then we spread it out on our boards (plates) and started piling on the fillings. There were cucumbers, seasoned chicken, beef, sweet pickles, pineapple, onions, little white mushrooms, cabbage, green onion, and red peppers. After that, we added some peanut sauce and a second sauce that was salty, and wrapped it all up. Delicious!

After our handmade spring rolls, they brought us fried spring rolls, which were also very good. I especially the red sauce that came with them. Then we had the best fried rice ever. It had pineapple and shrimp in it - my mouth is watering just remembering it!

Last night, I went out to dinner with my coworkers. That meal was good, but not nearly of the same calaber as the one tonight. We had beef and octopus stew, which was tasty, but extremely spicy. The side dishes included a delicate egg dish, kimchi, salad, a really tasty cold noodle soup, and a couple of other dishes. The most notable side dish was the cerith snails (I have no idea what Koreans call them). When I was a kid, I used to find these shells on the beach all the time. I called them "brain-drillers," a name which my family has now adopted for them. Little did I know I would one day eat one!
This is the best picture I could find online to show what a cerith looks like. Obviously, the two in the picture are not the same species that was served last night.

Eating that particular type of snail was an odd experience. The shell is obviously too hard to munch with the snail, and the snail is too small to dig out of the shell. So, you are supposed to suck it out. It took me about half an hour and two shots of soju to work up the nerve to try one! I have always lived with the idea that it is best not to suck strange sea creatures out of their shells and consume them, sight unseen. After doing just that, I decided that I should have stuck to my previous rule! It was disgusting! The body of the creature had a most revolting texture that was mostly squishy with a slight crunch. There was also a bit of sand in it. Not something I plan to ever eat again!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Do They Come up with These Things??

My students truly astound me sometimes. How so much wisdom, cuteness, and craziness can be crammed into such a little person is a mystery. Sometimes, I wonder if they have any idea just how adorable they are.

Yesterday I let E5-A, one of my advanced classes, play with the sticky ball for the last six minutes of class, since they had been really good for their whole lesson. They love the sticky ball! I draw a dartboard on the board with different points for each section, and then the kids throw the ball and try to get the highest total score. For the older classes, like this one, I make things more interesting by adding a "-2" ring to the target.

The kids were happily taking turns, and I went to throw the ball to Meg. I didn't throw it far enough, and it landed at Jake's feet. Now Jake is a charming, precocious child who is always coming up with something cute or clever to say, and yesterday was no exception.

"Teacher, it's my turn!" He claimed.
"No, Jake, give the ball to Meg," I instructed.
"But Teacher," Jake insisted, "it's my turn. God gave me the ball!"

Last week, E5-A was working on a lesson from their Backpack book (I really like that curriculum), when I suddenly noticed that the boys were whispering amongst themselves. I asked them what was going on, and they held up their books to show me the picture that was at the root of their conversation. The picture showed a violin teacher (a man) with his arm around his student (a girl), showing her how to hold her instrument properly.

"Oh, Teacher!" Jake cried. "That music teacher is a very bad man!"

Is it any wonder I leave E5-A laughing every day?

Monday, June 9, 2008

I Am an Accomplished Woman

Tonight I successfully beat my all-time best for the most awkward things carried while on a bicycle. I managed to "safely" transport myself, my bag, a VERY heavy bag of groceries, a huge box of cereal, and a mop all on my bike at the same time. Without falling! Without hitting parked cars or pedestrians! And I was going both downhill and uphill! And I had to cross six lanes of traffic! They're just going to have to make a film about me now!

This was not my only achievement today. Allow me to strut out my other achievements for the day:

1) I got excellent behavior out of all of my classes (through a creative mixture of threats and rewards).
2) I taught a class of third-graders how to say the word "auditorium" (trust me, it's not an easy word for Korean kids).
3) I managed to fall and scrape up my arm in four places just by walking into the teachers' room at school (that really does take talent).
4) I changed two light bulbs on the ceiling of my apartment without setting anything on fire or falling off the chair I was precariously balancing on.
5) I broke my wooden tongs and my second-to-the-last juice glass - just by picking them up!
6) I fit comfortably into a pair of trousers that have been too small for the past two years!

Yessir, I am indeed a woman of many accomplishments today!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What's with All These Migraines?!

I don't know what has changed recently, but for some reason, I had five days of migraines last week, and I'm starting off this week with one as well. I've been getting plenty of sleep, and I haven't been doing anything that should trigger migraines, so I'm at a loss as to why I'm suddenly getting bombarded by them. Believe me, teaching energetic little kids is REALLY hard when every sound makes you want to bite your tongue in two!

On a happier note, I got to go out for one of my favorites, dak galbi, on Thursday night. I think I've already described it, but for anyone who missed that entry, dak galbi is chicken, lettuce, rice cakes, and very very spicy sauce, which is best when eaten rolled up in lettuce leaves. It is cooked right at your table (in the middle of it, to be specific). My favorite part is the cheesy rice they make afterwards, using more of the sauce and, of course, an egg.

I didn't find out until Wednesday that this was a three-day weekend (Friday was the anniversary of D-Day, which is a holiday here). Thus, I didn't bother to make plans to go away. Since I stayed in Gyeongju, I was able to go to church on Saturday. I like the church I attend, mostly because the Koreans are so friendly. I just wish the English service was at a more convenient time!

Even though I didn't go anywhere, I still had a pleasant weekend. I recently discovered a local bookstore with a very small section of books in English (a rare treat, believe me), so I read two books this weekend, which was wonderful. If I could read books for a living, I would do it in a heartbeat! I also had a chance to call my parents, who are on vacation in Vancouver. I really miss getting to take vacations with my parents. We had our squabbles, and at times I admit I thought separate vacations might suit us better, but the memories are great.

Well, the headache is getting worse, so I'm going to go medicate myself and head for bed. I just hope it's gone before I face my kindergartners tomorrow.

Roses are currently blooming in profusion all over Gyeongju - I love walking past and inhaling the heavenly scent of all the blossoms!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More about the Rabbit

Pixie, my new rabbit, has been keeping me quite amused. I did some research last night and learned that she is a dwarf rabbit, so luckily she is going to stay small and keep this vivacious, curious personality that she has. Of course, I have no actual clue as to her gender, but I wanted a female rabbit, so I'm calling her a girl. She never leaves any droppings outside of her cage or marks territory, so I could be right.

For those who were wondering why a white rabbit's name is Pixie Midnight (sounds a bit like a showgirl name, actually!), allow me to explain. Her name is Pixie because she's little and sprightly like a pixie, and Midnight because I bought her at midnight. Also, I thought naming a white rabbit Midnight would be humorous.

So far, Pixie has shown no interest in chewing the furniture, but she would love a chance to nibble at electrical cords! She has a nice little cage in my laundry/refrigerator room, and I keep the sliding glass door open during the day to make sure it doesn't get too hot in there. When I'm home, I give her about an hour or two each day of unsupervised play time in a barricaded area where she can't get into trouble. There were a few escapes at first, but now I've learned how to outsmart a little rabbit. Her favorite things seem to be sliding on the floor (she gets a running start and slides - it's hilarious), having her ears scratched, and nibbling at asparagus ends (the hard part that you cut off). Today I learned that she loves bananas as well.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Need a Laugh?

Here's a few quotes from the kids today:

Me: "What is your daddy's job?"
Amy: "Sleeping."

Me: "What kind of pet do you have?"
Jake: "I have a very interesting rabbit."

(During an exercise in which the kids were supposed to make sentences about foods they want or don't want)
Kelly: "I don't want any USA steak!"
[For those who aren't up to date on the news out here, Koreans are very concerned right now about the danger of mad cow disease in American beef. There have been a number of protests and many people are now refusing to eat beef out of fear.]

I've been having many changes at work lately. I had four of my favorite students moved to another class last week, which made me sad, and then two of my sweetest little girls left the school because of another girl picking on them. This week, I got two new students, both boys. Since they didn't have English names yet, I got to name them, which I enjoyed. Thanks to me, we now have a Ben and a Joey at our school. We're getting two more boys, who are identical twins, soon. I'm hoping to get to name them as well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bing Soo and Beach

On Saturday, my friend Nina and I went downtown for a bing soo brunch. We wanted to go to a really attractive restaurant called Nymph, which has excellent coffees as well, but they were closed. So instead, we headed off to Dark Black. On our way there, I spied another place called Can More, which looked promising, so we decided to try it out. Were we glad we did!

The bing soo there was the best I have ever had (and I have had some darn good bing soo). I tried the strawberry bing soo, and Nina had the Can More bing soo, which was like none we have ever seen. It was a pile of melon-flavored ice, surrounded by fruit, with a scoop of ice cream and some chocolate and strawberry sauce. We also each tried a slush, which were gorgeous. Nina had the persimmon and I had the mango. Along with our tasty treats, there was also toast with cream to put on it. Heavenly! The food wasn't the only attraction: we got to sit in swings in front of windows overlooking downtown Gyeongju. It was a very neat way to enjoy a meal.

After our scrumptious brunch, we met up with our friends Lizzi, Tristan, and Jeff and caught the 12:40 train to Haendae Beach, in Busan. We spent a short time with some other friends on that beach, then took a taxi to an even nicer, quieter beach. There more friends joined us, and we had a lovely early dinner of kimbap, wildberries, crisps, and wine. It was a bit cold for swimming, but we did do some wading (Nina and Lizzi opted to swim as well). We also enjoyed frisbee and a rather wild game of dares. I took the 10:30 train back to Gyeongju with two friends, owing to a migraine, but some of the others stayed and camped on the beach. I really wish I could have stayed with them!

New Blog Launched

When I first started this blog, I had no idea how many readers I would wind up with. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends; then I added the goal of assisting others who planned to move abroad, specifically to South Korea. I have readers now who are Asians living in America that like to read about their homeland, people who are just curious about other lands, and even teachers who like to hear about my experiences with the children. It's amazing and wonderful to have so many readers, and I love getting to hear from those of you who post comments or track me down on Facebook.

Since coming here to Korea, I have gained some unique perspectives on the Christian life, which I feel compelled to share. As many of my readers are not Christians, and I do not wish to force my religion on anyone, I decided it would be best to start a second blog to share these thoughts and insights. So, I have now started a second blog: For those who are interested, please feel free to check it out. For those who aren't, I hope you'll continue to enjoy this blog.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Behaving in Canaan

Before I left the USA, my pastor gave me a letter with a Bible verse he thought I should meditate on as I embarked on my great adventure. I have repeatedly had that verse come back to me over the three months that I've been here, and it has actually become the summary of my life here:

"You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes." ~Leviticus 18:3

Many times here (and even back in the US), I have felt somewhat like a relic from a bygone era. It seems sometimes like everyone I meet is living exactly as they choose to, with no thought to God's desires or commands. I've met many professing to be Christians, but honestly, I can't tell them apart from the non-Christians. They talk the same way, party just as hard, and give just as little care to morality. I am in no way perfect, and I'm certainly guilty of plenty of sins, but it feels sometimes like I'm the only one bothered by it, or the only one worrying about morals anymore.

I got really discouraged the other night, convinced that I was an island. I thought back to the verse my pastor had given me, as well as a few others, and it encouraged me. I guess not many Christians follow the nomadic life I'm leading (moving about from place to place), so it's little wonder that I haven't run into any. Many people think the Old Testament is dead and good only for historical study, but I'm learning firsthand just how applicable it is. Canaan is just as real today as it was then, only now it is everywhere. It's not limited to one discernible location.

I'm in Canaan now, but I'm still living the way I'm supposed to. Don't think that I'm bragging here, or setting myself up as more righteous than anyone else. I've just been shown a lot of grace, and it makes it easier for me to do what I know is right and to avoid what I know is wrong. I still have my slip-ups, but I always somehow land either on my feet or on my knees. I miss having the community of other sincere Christians around me for support, but I think this experience of separation is vital to making me stronger. One's Christianity should not be dependant on other Christians, but solely on God. To my fellow believers who follow this blog, please pray that I can keep on doing right.

[Please note: I have met many sincere Korean Christians (who unfortunately speak very little English), so my remarks here are referring only to other foreigners that I have met. I am not in any way calling Korea Canaan, or questioning the sincerity of Korean Christians - although obviously they, like all Christians everywhere in the world, fight the daily battle with sin, and do give in sometimes. I don't want any misunderstandings to arise from this blog entry.]
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"