Friday, December 25, 2009

The Merry Christmas Cake

Holidays are different everywhere. Christmas, while celebrating (generally) one event, manages to look and feel very different in different places. This was my first Christmas away from my family - and it was a little difficult.

I had, up until a few weeks ago, a homestay family. I love them very much and always will. They took care of me and are the only Koreans to really make me feel accepted. Language was always a barrier, but we had fun and never got too stressed out about miscommunications. I was excited to spend Christmas with them. And then the family emergency happened and I suddenly had to move out. My homestay father, who is the most gentle and kind man, was sentenced to prison for an old white collar offence. Not only was I losing my beloved family, but a good friend was going to prison. I feel so sad for them. I just feel that they are the nicest people in the world and that this was a tragedy.


Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.


I had to teach on Christmas Eve. It was my final day. Near the end of the day, the Korean teachers gave me a package. It was from my homestay mom. She had made a very nice card and written a letter to me and attached it to the cake. Koreans share a cake with their family on Christmas - it's how they celebrate and it sure is different from our celebrations. I was so moved at the generosity of my homestay mom - to be without her husband on Christmas must be so sad and she unselfishly thought of me - it made my heart grow warm with the Christmas spirit.


Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.


Now, after I moved out of my homestay family's house, I had to be moved somewhere. My school found a hotel that fit every requirement it had - it was cheap! The hotel was the most run down building I have ever seen in Korea. But, perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the hotel was the prostitute in the room next to mine. I imagine that those around me have always known that I would end up living in a shady motel in the room next to a hooker, but I always thought it would at least be my decision. I always tried to smile politely, but not too politely as to look like a potential client. I spoke with her son when he was standing in the hallway waiting for "uncle so-and-so" to leave. I even greeted the Johns. But, I always wished that I could do something to show my neighbors the love of Christ.


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


I really couldn't have eaten the whole cake. I had eaten a large dinner and wasn't even sure if I could polish off one slice. And as I walked down the hallway toward my shabby room, I knew the right thing to do. I knew what I wanted to do, the opportunity God had given me. I knocked on my neighbors door, and handed her the cake. She was so surprised - her face lit up and she said Kamsahabneda (thank you) about a dozen times in quick succession. I finally felt like a real missionary again, the connection with the outcast that has been missing from my life was there again and I was truly happy.


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.


In Korean culture, when one receives a gift it is customary to give something in return. And within a few minutes I heard a knock at my door. I opened it to find her son, standing in front of me with their return gift: a basket of a few hardboiled eggs, some salt, and a few oranges. It was the most wonderful present I have received in a very long time.


Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Goodbye Song

This is the song the kindergarten students sang at the end of every class. Saying goodbye to this bunch was tough! I miss them already.

video

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I was Santa Clause at the kindergarten yesterday. It was a lot of fun, and surprisingly enough, I didn't make a single child cry. HoHoHaHa.

Today is my last day teaching. I'm happy to be finishing on a strong note. It's a little strange to be working on Christmas Eve - especially working at a Christian school!

This Christmas season I would like to thank all of you for your love and support as I move from Korea to Mongolia.

Merry Christmas!
Love, Michael.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The hotel room

In my fifth living situation in six months, my school moved me into a former love-motel. For a quick cultural lesson, all Koreans live with their parents until they get married. Young adults don't bust out on their own ... so, promiscuous young people take advantage of love motels. They are usually nice, clean establishments - suitable for a romantic evening or honeymoon shenanigans.

This was all true about my current room in the late 80s. Now, recently divorced men, and -apparently- English teaching missionaries live here. Here are some pictures so everyone can have a good laugh at my expense.



I can't decide if my bathtub is shaped like lips or a heart. It sure is unique though!



This is where the fire extinguisher should be. "Should" is the operative word of the sentence. This is also my door that doesn't close and my lock that doesn't lock.



Nothing says love like the combination of a poorly done poster of a deer in a field and black mold on the ceiling. Classy.

Someday, I'll look back on this situation and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

The museum

The teachers I loved most always told me that your classroom should feel like an interactive museum.

Posters of famous paintings and political figures hang on every wall. Since my kids were learning about museums - I decided that this would be the perfect time to make an aquarium and dinosaur display. The kids had a great time, and it really stretched their ability to communicate with each other in English.



Each student made one sea animal for the aquarium window.



Each student was responsible for one part of the dinosaur fossil.

Sitting Buddha

The largest sitting Buddha in Asia is less than a mile from my friends' house. The other day I hiked up to see it. It was bigger than the one I saw in Thailand, which also claimed to be the biggest sitting Buddha in Asia. It's a really beautiful statue, and an active Buddhist holy site. It was much more beautiful than any other Buddhist site I have been to; so remote and peaceful. Here are the pictures.












Apparently, Smokey the bear has an Asian cousin. I love that the eyes are just a little bit more narrow than the Smokey I grew up with.



This picture is a little small, and you might not be able to see it, but ... the swastika is a sign of peace and serenity and there was a very large swastika on one of the buildings.

This was our first snow storm, and the sun had just come up to melt the snow away. I could have spent the whole day taking pictures. The architecture combined with the mountains was stunning.





Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mongolia here I come ...

I hope you enjoyed the guessing game!

On January 6th I will fly from Seoul, Korea to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

The United Methodist church planted it's first church in Mongolia within the last decade, and currently has 3 churches. The new work in Mongolia is very exciting and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Read this Hallelujah Moment for an inside look at what's going on.

I will be joining two mission interns, Erin Eidenshink and Holli Vining , as well as a wonderful community of General Board of Global Ministries missionaries.

I will be joining the missionary community in a number of really exciting ministries. They work with children, the elderly, and everything in between. I will be teaching English, visiting hospice care patients, doing outreach and evangelism, and working with people at a detention center.

I look forward to an exciting few months with new friends in Mongolia.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clue 3

I'll be visiting an old teammate,
mission intern, Erin Eidenshink,
January 6th is the fast approaching date!
Any guesses, yet? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guessing Game

I'm going on an adventure,
As some of you must know.
The first clue is called a ger,
The second clue is snow.



Have you guessed it yet?
More clues, soon. Please dont' fret.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Farewell Letter

As you can see, I haven't posted in quite some time. I apologize for that. It isn't for lack of interesting events.

I have resigned from my position at Wesley Mission Language School.

This may seem like a sudden decision, but it is one that has been prayed over for many months.

I have had great moments over the last 6 months, and have really enjoyed spending time with the children and the Korean Methodist church.

I feel that the specifics of my departure should not be aired for everyone in cyberspace to read, but I would love to have a one-on-one e-mail conversation with anyone who would like more information. mairgood (at) tfc.edu

Briefly:I tried very hard to make a difficult situation work, but ultimately decided that my time in Korea had come to an end and that I would be better off in a different environment.

I will be leaving Korea in early January. I will not be going to America. I have plans made, but until I recieve final comfirmation and buy my plane ticket I will keep everyone in suspense as to the nature of my next move.

Thank you for your prayers and support during this difficult time. I covet your prayers over the next few weeks as I finish out my time here and move on with my life. It has been truly amazing to see God throw open doors in these last few days for my next step in ministry.

Love, Michael.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



Thanksgiving worhsip at Chung Dong Methodist Church. The oldest Protestant church in Korea. I try and fit at least one worship service per month at this historic church into my schedule.



This is Dr. Fish. You soak your feet in a tub of warm water and tiny fish who EAT THE DEAD SKIN FROM YOUR FEET!




My kids are putting on little plays. It's a lot of fun to see who the natural leaders are in the group. Apparently, fishermen wear purple scarves.



So much fun.



Lunch.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Telling the story

I enjoy telling a good story. I always have. In Korea, meals are eaten in silence. It’s perhaps the most unnerving experience for this red-blooded American. I’m so accustomed to the American way of doing things. Growing up, meals were a primary story sharing time. Winter morning bowls were filled with oatmeal, the table filled with the sharing of the THE story – as my sister and I devoured our brown-sugared oatmeal, our mother taught us to devour God’s word. Lunch at school was always a chance for students to talk with other students. After being shushed all day, at lunch we were given the freedom to talk. Dinner with the family was the chance to talk about the day, to share fears and concerns, and to laugh together.

I think it’s important to share stories. And in Korea, at non-meal times, I’m never shy to tell a story. I blog stories from my life(perhaps less than I should) at michaelairgood.blogspot.com , I read stories to my kindergarten kids every morning, I share stories of missteps and outright fails with my American friends one town over, I teach my older students Bible verses – sometimes acting them out to make sure that everyone gets the point – and try to work stories I learned around the kitchen table into my lessons, and I share the events of the day with my homestay-family in Korea and my parents at home in the states(via Skype.com).

So I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my story with you. When you read my stories – the adventures and mishaps of a young missionary spending his first full year overseas, the hopes and dreams of a future General Board of Global Ministries missionary, and the tales of a student just trying to make sense of his surroundings – please remember that YOU are part of my story. If you’re reading this, you have contributed to my life and my calling. You have shared your story with me, you have lived the resurrection before my eyes and helped teach me how to serve the savior.

Thank you for all of your support, your kind words and affirmation, and your daily prayers. Together we can all share the story we’re meant to tell.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Things I miss

The other day I bought a carton of milk. Usually I buy plastic bottles, but this week I bought a cardboard carton.

Now, Korean food utilizes A LOT of garlic. Well, I must have left my carton of milk open just a tiny little bit, because the milk absorbed the strong garlic smell that possesses our fridge.

I finished about half of the glass of garlic flavored milk before realizing what was wrong. It was definitely a GROSS experience.

I love being here - but, living overseas always provides experiences that make me miss the things of home.

So, with that backdrop; I introduce my list of things I miss.

Reeses Cups
Vanilla flavoring
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Friends who would die or kill for me (depending on the situation)[OK, I still have these friends - it's just that they're far away!]
Driving
Midnight Burger King runs
Mexican food
My family (This is a stream of consciousness list - I probably miss my family more than Mexican food ... but there's no order to this list)
My cat, Vassya
Goodwill & Salvation Army shopping
Stove-top stuffing
Casseroles
Ovens
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
My house
The train tracks behind my house
Dinner parties
Libraries
Newsweek
Dr. Smith and our weekly meeting
Church in English
Hymns in English
Mangos
Large African-American women
Giving big hugs to good friends


I like this list. I've enjoyed taking this moment to think about the things of home. I've been in Korea for over 5 months, and there are things I will miss when I leave this place, too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I'm taking more pictures to convince myself I don't need a new camera.


My older kids are TERRIFIED of cameras. This photo shows one of my older kids hiding under a desk. This is what you get when you hide from the camera.


This is one of my favorite kindergarten students. His last name (and, of course, his nick name) is Quwock. Just say it once, it's really a lot of fun to say.



Obama is watching you.



And, last but certainly not least, I finally convinced my wonderful homestay family to gather together for a picture. My little sister, Moon Sing Oo, is NOT happy about getting her picture taken. Don't they just look wonderful?

Monday, November 2, 2009

More Pictures


So, part of my job is that I occasionally get to give an English name to a new Kindergarten student. These are the three students I've named so far. On the left (the girl with the face you can't see) is Becky, named after my dearly loved sister, Rebecca, of course. To her right is Graham, named after Jonathan Graham Pound (there are WAY too many Koreans named John - and I only got to name one boy this class). And the boy on the right is Ricky, named after Ricky Zambrowicz.



So, little Ricky is my buddy. Everything he does is super cute. The book we are reading has the phrase "I am angry" at which point all the kids put up little devil horns ... these are Ricky's devil horns. I really think that this kid is going to change the world some day.




"Swine Flu: The Musical"




This is the bus that picks me up every day for Kindergarten, and in the background is Onyang Oncheon Methodist Church. The church has just unveiled the blue prints for its new multi-million dollar building program. The new church, high on a mountain, will be a little bigger than a regulation sized soccer field. "Mission Central" will also include the international school, home for the elderly, sports complex, kindergarten, soccer field, and amphitheatre. I will come back and visit in 10 years just to see everything completed.



This is actually a picture of a picture. The kindergarten teacher gave me the print, but I didn't have any other way of uploading it - but it might just be the cutest picture ever ... so I'm putting it up like this. These are 4 of my guys - dressed in their traditional Korean garb. This is why I'm here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

They made crowns out of leaves

My Mission Tree

I can't help but view missionary service as a tree. It's a living, breathing, growing thing - I wanted to outline a few verses that shape my understanding of missions.

The Roots:

I love reading the Old Testament through the eyes of a 21st century missionary.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.


Isaiah 58: 6-8

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.


Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.


I can't see myself in any ministry that doesn't involve the proclamation of the word of God through humble service, social justice, and "coffee conversation." I love the roots, the spindly things of scripture that point to the coming mission and redemption of the world.



The Trunk:

The trunk of my mission tree is the beatitudes (Matthew 5), the rest of the sermon on the mount(Matthew 5-7), and the 5 times the Great Commission is recorded(Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21-23, Acts 1:8).

Jesus turns the world on its head with his teaching of the Upsidedown Kingdom. And, in all the splendor of his resurrection he gives his disciples the communal call to "go and tell the others." To move beyond the four walls of their hiding place. 10 of the 12 disciples were murdered for proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom where the slave is a brother and a king.

The Branches and Leaves:

These are verses that help "flesh out" the great commission. They help give me a concrete understanding of daily life as a missionary.

Acts 8:26-40
In this passage Phillip shares the faith with a Eunuch, a person that the Old Testament VERY CLEARLY speaks out against. Phillip tears down any remaining wall with signs that read "No __________ allowed." All bets are off - ALL may enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.


This verse helps me to understand that we all play an important role. Even if we never get the chance to "convert heathen" every moment of every day counts for something.

I hope this gives you a better view of my thoughts on missions.

Michael.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Did I mention ...

Oh, and I also had a root canal last week. I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. The dentist took one look and sent me to get x-rays. Within 15 minutes my face was numbed up and surgery was underway. All in all it took about 45 minutes. It was a relatively pleasant experience. I had a computer screen infront of me that showed a TV show of my choice and that could be used to show me picture of my teeth.

The best part, (as if I wasn't already gushing at the pain free experience) was the cost. $34. I had a root canal for $34. Isn't that amazing? I'm already recommending to my friends that they fly to Korea and visit me to get dental work done!

Apology and General Update

Ok, I know it has been FOREVER since I've posted. And I apologize for that.

Everything is going well.

I've been too afraid to write this, for fear of jinxing myself ... but, here goes:

I haven't had any major problems in any of my classes this quarter.

I've had a few little mishaps and a couple of ill behaved children, but all in all my classes are MUCH better this quarter than last quarter.

Perhaps next quarter's classes will be even better.

I've made a great group of English speaking friends one town over. It's been really comforting to spend time with other Americans, to just hang out and enjoy the evenings. We play billiards, cards, or any silly game we can think of. It's funny how enjoyable it is to spend time with other people who enjoy the same sports, politics, and movies/TV as you.

My Korean is starting to fall into place. I'm starting to string sentences together. I'm understanding more and more. Sadly, my speaking skills are very limited. Because few Koreans know a non-native Korean speaker, most people aren't very good at understanding Korean with a thick American accent! I had the same problem in Russia and I'll get over it. Sometimes it's easier to just speak in English and gestures ... but I know that ultimately it will be better if I use the Korean that I know.

My homestay family situation is working out well. I'm really happy with them and I've been told that they're happy with me, too.

In the last month or so I've met a number of American who went to Christian colleges. It's always good to have other people who understand your background.

The Korean teachers that I work with tell me that I look much happier ... which in turn makes me feel even happier.

I'm trying to discern the next steps in my life. I'm still in the application process with the General Board of Global Ministries to be a career missionary, but I honestly have no time line. I'm just praying that something will open up eventually and enjoying the time I have now.

I think that I will try and do a missionary internship over the summer; visiting one or two of our United Methodist missionaries. Perhaps next school year I will look into an English teaching position at a Seminary or Methodist University here in Korea or I will look into an English teaching job in the middle east.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Drop me an e-mail at mairgood@tfc.edu

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Some photos.


Heidi and I went to the same college. Here we are touring Gyeongbeok Palace. We intentionally take a day here and there to forget all of our cultural sensitivity training and we become AMERICAN TOURISTS!!! We talk loudly, we take pictures of everything, and we complain! It's a lot of fun and a great stress reliever.


Autin Kurth and I went to an Italian restaurant in Cheonon for dinner one night. Here I am smiling over the "appetizers." They gave us a plate of pickles, an empty bowl(for what? the pickle bones?) and an empty bread bowl with a napkin in it. Just like the old country.


This is a picture of the subway in Seoul. One odd feature of riding the subway is that no one touches anyone else, ever. No elbows brush against each other, no one bumps into anyone else. It's the weirdest sensation to have so many people in such a small place and to never be brushed up against. (I'm really bad at this, considering I'm 3X the size of a normal Korean.)


This is my homestay mom. She won't let me take pictures of her. This is the best I could do. She's obviously trying to run from my camera. She's very pretty, and one day I will get a good picture. I also can't get a picture of her daughter or husband. Maybe we will go and get Christmas photos taken together.


This is where I live. My homestay family and I live on the second floor of the creative arts school they run. It has a piano conservatory, an art room, and English classrooms. It's really beautiful. My bedroom window is directly above the main door. My bathroom window is to the small window to the left of my bedroom window.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chusok

I had to fight back tears when I entered the sanctuary. It's been 4 long months since I've seen a pipe organ.

Chusok is the Korean thanksgiving. It's a time of family, friends, and culture. The English sermon, one of a handful I've heard these many weeks, naturally surrounded the holiday: naturally focused on family, friends, and culture.

These are touchy subjects for me. While a four month absence from my family is routine like crest on my toothbrush every morning, (I haven't been with my family for more than a month stretch at a time since I turned 18.) and I've played the leaving behind friends game too often to count; this has been a difficult transition.

So as I worshipped at the first protestant church in Korea, my heart was heavy and my eyes were damp.

Still no word from my friends in the Philippines. We read from Job in worship. We sang Jesu, Jesu .

"Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love,
show us how to serve
the neighbors we have from you.

Loving puts us on our knees,
serving as though we are slaves;
this is the way we should live with you.

Kneel at the feet of our friends,
silently washing their feet;
this is the way we should live with you."


I'm still processing a friend's suicide. It happened months ago now; but it still stings when I hear his name. I've never felt such a void when it comes to people in whom to confide. I don't have anyone here to really help me process and deal with things.

The sermon was about the brevity of Christ's earthly ministry. I'm reminded of
John Piper's quote, "Don't waste your life on the American dream of retirement, live dangerously for the One who died for you in his thirties." I was overwhelmed to worship in the church Henry Appenzeller died to plant. So many missionaries sacrificed so much to get us where we are now.

We shared in communion. Breaking bread together is becoming a growing part of my personal theology. Hearing the words from the United Methodist liturgy was refreshing.

"We have failed to love others with our full hearts."

We finished by singing Here I Am, Lord. I haven't made it through the chorus of that song since my senior year in high school when I got very sick in Russia. When my body had been ravaged by dysentery and I honestly didn't know if I would wake up in the morning, When I really thought I might die in Russia.

I knew I was all in.

The chorus is the cry of my heart, but when I try to sing it the words can't wrestle their way out.

If you lead Lord, I will follow. The words twist with tremendous weight and pain; but the pain explodes into the deepest sense of joy I've ever imagined.

I imagine I'll die doing this - probably not here in Korea, but somewhere - that I'll die following Jesus. With tremendous weight and pain; but the pain will explode into the deepest sense of joy I'll ever experience.

I always end up mouthing the words, my throat caught with bitter joy my vision blurred by the tears or reality.

Here I am Lord, send me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I've known for years that I was called to be a missionary.

I fought against my call for a long time. When I couldn't stand because my body was being ravaged by dysentery, thousands of miles away from my loving family when I was an exchange student in Russia, I calmly, politely, and firmly told God to remove my name from the list of future missionaries.

I've come up with dozens of lists explaining why I'm not "missionary material."

I don't end every sentence with, "praise the Lord!"
I'm awkward.
I'm painfully bad at foreign language.
I don't look good in any hat, let alone a pith helmet.
I'm obedient primarily when it's convenient.
I don't pray long wingbag prayers.
I like talking to drunk athiests more than sober Christians.
I'm not comfortable "converting people" from a religion that gives them joy and inner peace.
My theology wavers back and forth depending on the week.
I sin every day and I have since I became a Christian.

Usually the lists are much longer, more detailed, and more painful.

God continues the call. Every fact I throw at God gets a quick response ... "So?"

God calls us to mission as a body, as a people, as God's people. We are called to go to the ends of the earth. I wonder some days, how close I've come to "the ends of the earth." How much further do I have to go before I find the end!?!?

Some days I'm glad to be called to missionary service. Some days I'm terrified. Most days I can rejoice in the call.

God,
You call all of us in separate directions. You place a vision in our hearts and throw the wind behind us. You don't guarantee "success" (whatever that means), a safe voyage, or a long, healthy life. You promise your faithfullness, and I pray that we may each feel that promise in our lives this day.
Amen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

School Pictures


This is Wesley Mission Language School. It looks a little like a Frat


Just look at how excited we are to learn!



In celebration of Swine Flu Awareness Month we do hourly temperature checks and anti-bacterial hand washes.




All my older kids refuse to have their photgraph taken, so enjoy these pictures of my little kids. Aren't they adorable?


This is my classroom. It's a good learning environment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“Anyone can count the seeds in a melon. It takes vision to count the melons in a seed.” –Unknown*

Anyone can count the seeds in a melon. It takes vision to count the melons in a seed. That's what I do - it's my job. I count melons in seeds. I teach with the hope that some day in the distant future my work here will produce missionaries.

Because I had people who counted the melons in the seeds in my life.

When I was young I had terrible speech problems. From my recollection I had difficulty saying my S,Sh,Ch,R,L,&G sounds. Susan Anderson was my speech therapist for years. She worked diligently with a very stubborn little boy who didn't really have much desire to learn, and she worked until his speech was clear and distinct. I slur my Ss when I'm really sleepy; but that is the only remnant of a debilitating speech impairment. I doubt Susan Anderson would have believed it if she had been told that I would end up sharing my faith in Jesus Christ in Russian. I can wrap my tongue around harsh Russian trilled Rs with the same efficiancy as a soft Korean mock R sound. Susan Anderson could count melons.

Anytime I have an "opportunity student" (read: problem student) I just pray, "He's the one, isn't he? He's the one who will lead the mission revolution one day." I spend my time counting melons in seeds.

This quote is taken from Chris Kindle's Facebook wall.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


One of my Kindergarten classes.


The kids lined up for "gym class."


Mothers out for a walk.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Things have been going really well with my host family. I get up a little earlier than I used to, so I can join in on the breakfasting. In most Korean homes, breakfast is the biggest meal of the day.

Eat like a King for breakfast, a Prince for lunch, and a Pauper for dinner. So, if I sleep through breakfast I don't get much food! My family consumes significantly more bread and milk and less (much, much less) Kimchi than Korean Standard. This makes me happy. My parents keep a really clean house and I have to make my bed EVERY DAY! To a young adult this is kin to a torture chamber.

Also, I finally have an internet hookup for my laptop. I've been using the office computer in my house for the last week. My room finally feels complete - I'm just waiting for my parents to wake up so I can Skype (free video call) them so they can see my new digs. I will post pictures here in the next few days. I don't want to alienate my family by making them feel like they are on display at the zoo.

My classes are all going well. My Kindergarten kids are learning English words for games they know. So we play Rock, Paper, Scissors and Hide & Seek every day. It's so much fun. My youngest Kindergarten students are only 2&3 American Years* and they already know so much English. At the after school program, my kids are doing pretty well. I've only had one "opportunity student" (read: behavior problem!) this quarter. The biggest problem I have is that when my opportunity student makes a joke, it's usually genuinely funny ... so I'm trapped between wanting to laugh and trying to keep control of my class.

*When speaking Korean it is extremely important to know if someone is older or younger than you. Instead of basing this on months and days they base it entirely on birth year. When a baby is born he or she is considered 1 year old at birth. This keeps things pretty simple. Also, (this is my understanding - and I could be wrong) everyone's age increases at the new year. So, theoretically, if you had a baby at Christmas it would be 2 years old in Korea before it would be 2 weeks old in America. Isn't that crazy!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My host family

I'm all moved in with my host family. I had to move out of my apartment and had two options: I could live with a host family or live in one of the classrooms at the school. So, I'm with my host family.

I was an exchange student in High School, so I'm pretty excited to re-live my younger days and live this out again.

My family has three members. A dad, a mom, and a sister. I hate trying to describe Korean people. My host dad is short. He has short, black, straight hair. He wears glasses. He keeps an abacus on his desk. I still can't pick him out of a crowd. My mom has a unique look, she's very pretty. They are in their 40s I've been told. My little sister is 8. She's shy. I don't know their names. No one has told me yet. I just call them mom and dad. My Korean is getting a little better everyday.

My new house is really quite fantastic. It's a three story school with an emphasis on creative arts. We live on half of the second floor. The outside is purple and beige and there is a sculpture in front of the school. The first floor is creative arts. There are about a dozen pianos on one end of the building and a huge art workshop on the other. The third floor is for English classes.

Our apartment is very big by Korean standards. The living room is large and the kitchen has everything an American kitchen would have. They even have a toaster!
My bedroom obviously belonged to the little girl before I moved in. Even the bathroom is Pretty Pretty Princess themed. I have a large bed, a reading nook, a TV, a dresser, a spot to hang up clothes, and my own bathroom - so I could basically just survive in my room forever. I also kind of have my own kitchen. There's a kitchen on the third floor that the staff uses; but since I work the same hours the school operates, I'll never see anyone in there. My fridge vacuum seals!

We never close the door to our apartment, so it feels like the whole school is just an extension of the apartment - like our house is so big that we choose to just live in one section of it. It's pretty great. There are big paintings everywhere and the staircase is old pine (it creaks and moans as you go up it- so there is NO sneaking in late!)

My family is really cool. We have some communication issues. (My host father teaches English grammar, but a lot of English teachers here just know grammar rules and really couldn't hold down a conversation. I think if there was an emergency I could write down what I want to say and he could diagram it and figure out what I want pretty quickly.) But they have really bent over backwards to make me feel welcome.

And I'm working like a trooper to make it work. I ate chicken wings with chopsticks last night! I'm pretty good with chopsticks, but holding up a heavy piece of chicken while trying to tear meat away from the bones was a bit much for me.

All in all I think this will be a really good experience.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pictures from the Philippines


This is a picture of the church and the strip joint next to it. I love the United Methodist Church.


It was Mission and Evangelism Sunday when I visited.


This is the youth group on the way to the park. I love and miss these guys.


I think all of these pictures are fun.


I love the cat in this picture. I'm so glad to have these kids praying for me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Makati United Methodist Church

I had one of the most excellent days of my life this Sunday.

I should first begin by explaining that I have the uncanny ability of finding the red light district no matter where I go. In Thailand we stayed at The Christian Missionary Guest House and it was smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District. I booked a nicer hotel (with a pool) that I found at a really good rate for my trip to Manila. It was just a few feet away from the Korean Embassy, the only place I had to be the whole time I was in Manila. Well, the street of my hotel was the red light district.

Also, anywhere I go I try and find a United Methodist church to worship with on Sunday. I asked at the front desk. They had never heard of the "Oobited Betherdust Church. Only Catholic." So, I went on-line. I found the address of a United Methodist church in Makati. I asked the girl working at the counter (a different girl than before) how to get to the address. She immediately recognized the address and the church and began to explain to me how to get there. This is the actual conversation:

Her: “Do you know where the bar Ringside is?”
Me: Is that the one where “ladies” box every night and they have midget fight Monday?
Her: Yes. And then next to that is High Heels, it’s the third and fourth gender strip club.
Me: Ok.
Her: And then down the street is a Korean butcher.
Me: Yes, I saw the sign for that.
Her: Good, the church is right in between the strip joint and the butchers.
Me: Good. Thank You.

Thus began my adventure at Makati UMC. I showed up around 10. I didn’t actually know when the service began, but I figured 10 was a safe bet. I arrived, noticeably late, and was directed to a pew. It was Mission and Evangelism Sunday. The District Superintendent was preaching.

Ta-golog is the native language in the Philippines. But, everyone speaks English perfectly well. People just swap back and forth from one to the other – using whichever brings more clarity to the situation. So, the DS used a little bit more English to accommodate me. It was pleasant. He preached a sermon I’m all too familiar with. Going to the ends of the earth is kind of my forte.

They had me stand up and recognized me as a visitor, which felt awkward, because – I mean – who didn’t know that I was a visitor? The average height in the Philippines is 5’1”, so I’m like Big Bird to these people.

At the end of the service we sang two songs. Here Am I was predictably powerful. Go Now in Peace (the song I sang at my sister’s wedding) was a real shock to hear. I was so surprised to hear one of my favorite songs being sung thousands of miles away from home.

After the service everyone was very cordial. After I met the pastors and the lay leaders I almost left. Almost. But, I wanted to look at the youth group’s bulletin board. In the Philippines a youth group goes to age 24, so I could still qualify! I was looking at the board when I heard a chorus of friendly hellos. The youth and young adults from the youth group had surrounded me. They held out a leaflet with a schedule and asked if I would like to join them for the days activities.

And did we ever have fun. We went to a park and played games and did Bible studies. I was very impressed by the depth of their understanding of the Christian faith. They were really challenged by their leader, 21 year old Hannah (the pastor insisted that Hannah and I get married. We are of the same age and the same mind. It was a very awkward conversation. I really felt like he might start pulling out a marriage certificate for us to sign. But, he didn’t and we’re both still happily single!) and they also really challenged back. Their names are all just terrific. Pow, Gold, Jaja, Resty, Guillermo-Patrick; just to name a few. Their faith is vibrant and bright.

They were enthralled by my call to missions and had many questions for me. Filipinos are very open and generous and they expect the same. I answered some questions that Americans would never dare to ask, and it was very liberating.

After we finished I was planning on going to the movie theatre. At $3 a ticket it’s a super cheap way to spend some time – but still prohibitively expensive for Filipino people. I felt stupid leaving my new friends to go sit by myself in a theatre. So, since I had lived within budget and still had money left over for my trip; I decided to treat my friends to a movie. Eight of us were free for a movie and we had a blast. We watched UP. After the movie they walked me to the taxi stand and we said our goodbyes. It was a perfect end to a great week.

I really fell in love with the Philippines while I was there. And, I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I think I'm a little sick. I'm having a very relaxing time in the Philippines. I went for a walk, went to the library, and read a lot today. I ate at McDonald's today (I wasn't feeling well and MickyD's is the closest I could find to comfort food. :-( -this is surely my first emoticon use ever)I had Chinese for dinner, it didn't taste like American Chinese. But, enough complaining.

I really love it here. I think that if I was in a smaller town in the Philippines I would be super happy here. I'm such a small town kid!

I miss everyone back in the states and can't wait to get back to Korea and start the new quarter.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Love from the Philippines.

I pretty much love the Philippines. I arrived early in the morning on Wednesday. I had to be at the Korean Embassy at 9, so I didn't want to go to a motel, spend a lot of money, sleep for a few hours, and wake up groggy (or oversleep and miss my chance at a visa) so I decided to stay up all night. I know, I'm such a college kid.

I met another English teacher in Korea and we stayed up all night at a McDonald's. It was fun. The Korean Embassy was a hot mess. Considering that we are in an English speaking country, one would assume that the workers in the embassy here would speak English well. One would assume wrong.

I checked into my hotel around 11. My hotel was once a very posh 5 star, not it's a little bit sad and seems kind of spooky. But, it's cheap and it has a pool. So, I'm thrilled. I ate lunch at a Filipino chain restaurant and went to bed. I woke up the next morning (18 hours later!) at 6. I watched TV, in English, and then headed out for the day.

My perfect vacation is: unplanned, cheap, educational, a good value, and ritzy. You would think these are non-compatible, but I make it work. I went to a museum which featured a comprehensive history of the Philippines, it's artists, and an entire vault of all the gold found throughout their history. It was very cool and only $6 for about 3 hours of musuemery. I ate lunch at a very upscale restaurant. I ate a 3 course meal for under $10. I attended Catholic mass at a beautiful dome-shaped cathedral in the middle of a lake in the middle of a park. I was nervous about refusing the wine (it is my understanding that non-Catholics may take the bread but not the wine) but they didn't use wine because of the swine flu!)

I watched a movie for $4. I went to a huge bookstore and bought 3 books for $12 (English language books in Korea start at $10 and go up. There are usually 5 different books on sale in English.) I sat in a comfy chair and read an entire book instead of purchasing it. It felt great. I ate ice cream mixed with a Filipino candy bar. I watched TV. I swam in my pool (yes, my pool). It has started to rain since I got back to my hotel. After the rain I will go to the Filipino chain restaurant and eat dinner.

Jollybee's is the McDonald's of my parent's childhood. I've heard them tell stories about it. You can buy a hamburger, a non-obesity-enducing portion of fries, and a cold glass of cola for a dollar. I figured I would buy more to fill me up after I had finished my first serving, but I was surprisingly full. Go figure. Maybe we don't need ginormous servings of food.

I love the English here. It's definitely English, and very understandable, but they write it the way we speak it. Even in newspapers it will say, "...cause I donwannabe ugly nomo..." and things like that. Very funny.

I'm having a wonderful trip and everything is in order for my visa.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bible Boy

I'm teaching one class in the Beka program. Our students are first graders, but their English skills are really advanced and it's a lot of fun to interact with them.

We're reading Aesop's Fables, so every story has a moral lesson and a Bible verse with it. The only problem is that the Bible Verses are in King James Version English. Sometimes it takes me 2 or 3 reads to understand what the verse is supposed to say. So I keep an easier translation Bible on the desk and we find the book, chapter, and verse.

I learned in my CE course to always have the physical Bible in your hands when you are quoting scripture, even if you have it memorized, so that the children know where your words come from. It's also been a really great experience teaching how to find things in the Bible. The think "God Eats Pop Corn" (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) is really funny - but they remember it and can find any of those four books faster than most Americans their age.

One of our students, Thomas, is from a Buddhist background. It makes me really happy that he has taken a special liking to finding the verses in the Bible. Sometimes they fight over who gets to look up the verse; a little lesson in missing the point, which always makes me chuckle.

Thomas proudly declared, "I'm Bible Boy" after he found a passage in Ephesians (Eats). Yes, Thomas, you are. And I hope you always will be.

Kindergarten

I wanted to share a little about my new job at the kindergarten. I love it.

The kindergarten is on the grounds of the church. It's a two-story building with a large fellowship hall and kitchen on the ground floor and a chapel upstairs. Each floor has 3-5 classrooms full of kids. The kids are ridiculously cute.




I start off my day at 9AM getting ready. The bus comes at 9:30 to pick me up. My schedule is different every day of the week. Different classes, different subjects, different times. It's super confusing, but it makes the time go by much quicker than doing the same thing every day!



Basically the Korean teachers just want us to interact with the kids and to let the kids hear English spoken with an American accent. Some of the kids are really smart and will speak English really well some day. The four year old class knows all the countries by their flags! Isn't the just crazy? Four year olds!

I eat lunch at the kindergarten every day. I simply cannot eat enough to make everyone happy. I get so full so quickly on rice that I never manage to finish my whole bowl. The food is always really good, and it's been great to try a variety of Korean foods. I've been in such a rut of eating the same 3 things every week.

The pictures here aren't mine, they were taken by Molly Lowther. I haven't brought my camera to the kindergarten.

I'm going to the Phillipines next Tuesday for 5 days. It's a visa trip, but I will definetly do a little exploring. Hopefully I can find a United Methodist church to worship with on Sunday morning and Wednesday night while I'm there.