A b.f.f. from Australia came to visit me this past week. Our friendship was born in the mountains of Switzerland 3 years ago and like many L'Abri friends, he is a friend for life.
What is it that makes someone a friend for life?
This is a question I asked myself with eyes full of tears as I said goodbye to him and boarded the bus to work. Why do I love him so much? Why is his friendship so meaningful that it changes who I am? What is it that sets this friendship apart from so many others?
It must be Christ.
As I cherish the special people in my life, I realize just how much the Lord uses people to express his love to me. In other words, we---that means YOU, are all connected. We matter to God, and we matter to each other. And I think when we finally understand what (or who) it is that we live for, we will also understand how much we together can represent the purpose of God.
Maybe that's an awful deep thought for a silly little post about my friend's visit. But think about it will you?
And while you're thinking about it, enjoy these fun pictures.
A b.f.f. from Australia came to visit me this past week. Our friendship was born in the mountains of Switzerland 3 years ago and like many L'Abri friends, he is a friend for life.
I've downloaded 11 different versions of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and I've listened to the playlist 4 times now. I think my favorites are Sarah Groves, Diana Krall, Coldplay, and James Taylor.
at 6:00 AM
Culture shock is to be expected when you travel a lot. Sometimes differences are small and just make you smile. Other times you can't help but be baffled that people can live so differently from what you think is normal.
For the most part, I've really tried to dive in to life in Seoul. I'm trying to learn pieces of their language, I'm trying to live with their styles of dress, their habits of liesure, and even their styles of food. And while trying to be as open-minded as possible, there are still some things early to which I firmly stated "NO FREAKING WAY!!!"
Today I joined most of my coworkers for a night at the fish market, featuring Sannakji, i.e. live octopus. Sannakji is a sort of delicacy here in Korea. You choose your prey, and then they chop it into little pieces and put it on a platter for you. The pieces are still squirming on the plate. Even though chopped up, the octopus (or nakji) squirms for hours and the suction cups are still active. You are warned to chew well because the suction cups can stick to your throat and make you choke and die. No problem!
But wait, let me take you to Noryangjin Fish Market.
Here you choose your fish. They pull it out of the tank and kill it right in front of you.
It's not very often you get to watch dinner killed right in front of you. I almost felt the need to thank it before watching the guy knock it's brains out.
Then we watched as this guy prepared the fish. (i.e. slice, skin, chop, filet...get all the guts out...)
This woman helped us choose the perfect crab.
...and some other things.
After everything was chosen and purchased, we made our way to the restaurant. And this is where I bring you to some dinner entertainment videos.
Here is a picture of the Sannakji (octopus).
It really was squirming around. Check out this video!
My dad used to tease us when we were kids. He would eat gross sea creatures and pretend that they were squirming down his throat and inside his stomach. This was like a nightmare version of those memories.
And here...what I swore I'd NEVER do...
Since the pieces are still sort of alive, you have to shock them in soy sauce and wasabi. That's what's in the little dish in front of me.
And when it's inside your mouth, the suction cups try to stick to your teeth, and to the insides of your cheek.
It's a weird feeling, and all in all, I felt like I was eating a worm.
(enjoy the video!)
I'll have you know I was nervous about this all day.
I was distracted and anxious and at the dinner table I was even shaking.
Okay, so the rest of the fish, the parts that we didn't eat, were dumped into this pot which we called "Fish Head Soup" because the head and the tail were floating around simmering in the brothy goodness.
And here's a nice overhead view of the market. It's a great place, full of color, excitement, and new adventures for foreigners like me :-)
at 9:28 AM
I think every day should be 'Tis the Season.
I think we'd smile more often.
Below you will find various pictures of recent moments that have made me smile.
It snowed while I was home. As you can see, I was working really hard to help my mom scrape off the car.
I can't even find the right words to describe the Thanksgiving feast. I had 3 meals of leftovers before I had to come back to Korea.
Here's a picture of beondegi. Yum! right?
I don't think she liked it.
I was sad to leave home so soon. I would have liked some more time to relax, visit, take walks, and be with my family.
at 7:22 AM
Thankful. As I write, I'm sitting in cozy pajamas, watching the Macy's parade, drinking coffee, eating cinnamon rolls, sausage biscuits, and enjoying the company of my family. It's nice to be home.
I've had a fun week with friends, too much shopping, and GREAT food! So my post today is mixed with fun and reasons to be thankful.
I give thanks for friends with whom I can laugh and act...well... "normal".
I'm thankful for home, even homes made of gingerbread and frosting.
I'm thankful for reasons to work together with all people in the world.
I'm thankful for Kermit the Frog (random I know...but he's singing on TV right now).
I'm thankful for creativity and how everyone works together to add color and beauty to this world.
I'm thankful for things that last, like love and memories and laughter.
And I'm thankful for chances to try again, and the fact that God is good even when I feel like I'm falling apart.
And I thankful that my life is held together by something stronger than frosting.
I'm thankful that beauty in life is found in our being and living and dreaming, rather than our decorated selfs.
at 11:31 AM
Okay, who am I kidding? I haven't even left Korea and I'm already blogging about my trip home. So that statement in my last post "don't hold your breath for updates this week"...whatever....
I got a whoppin' 2 1/2 hours of sleep last night. I just couldn't rest. I felt like I was forgetting something and then once I finally forced myself into bed I was afraid I'd sleep through my alarm. Just when I was finally into a good dream, I had to wake up.
I trekked to the bus stop while it was still dark outside. I had to stand there for about 20 minutes before the bus arrived. When it did, a cranky old Korean man got off and shoved me aside and grabbed my bag and slung it under the bus. "Well....good morning to you too Mr. Cranky Pants! Gamsahamnida!"
I only know one swear word in Korean and I heard the bus driver use it more than 15 times. Let me reenact it for you.
I'm dozing off... HONK! HONK!--"Shit!" And April wakes up again.
5 minutes later... HONK! --"Shit!"---HONK! And again, there goes my nap.
Seconds later... HONK! HONK! "Shit, Shit, Shit!"
My bus driver was not a happy camper. Maybe he ate some bad kimchi or something.
But I was also not quite a happy camper. My stomach was churning with hunger and I was imagining golden cups of coffee...hoping that I'd find a little coffee cafe once I passed through security. To my angst, I could only find duty free shops.
I love you Incheon International Airport!
I also thought this was a peculiar combination for a duty free shop. But hey, something for everyone I guess!
at 7:17 PM
It's 2 a.m. I've spent the past few hours packing and organizing. Of course I'm also listening to Christmas music, washing some dishes, cleaning up my apartment, and chatting online...
I'm catching a bus in a few hours which will take me to the airport. From there I go to Japan, then to Houston, then to Milwaukee...and I'll be greeted by my darling parents.
If you're lucky, I may post a quick thing or two while I'm home but don't hold your breath. Until next time, enjoy the season, bundle up, and be thankful!
at 11:00 AM
--I suffered through Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (not to be confused with Hoof and Mouth Disease). It was hideously terrible and miserable and gross. I had blistery hives all over my hands and feet, in between my toes, up my legs, and my tongue was covered in blister uclers. One of my tongue blisters was the size of a dime. When my boss found out I was sick she said "There's a numbing mouth spray you can get at the pharmacy, but it's for babies." I said in a whining voice "I'm a baby..." I couldn't eat anything solid or spicy or citric without my eyes filling with tears. I couldn't talk because my tongue would rub against my teeth. And to make things worse, I still had to teach all my little kids all week which required lots of energy and screaming. So...I'm fully recovered thanks to time, rest, and lots of love and prayers from people.
--It's the last week of term. My students are restless and they don't care about anything. You should see their test scores, they are embarrassing.
--I'm going home this Friday! I'm so excited to see my family and to be home for Thanksgiving. Tonight in my class I asked my students "What kinds of authentic Korean treats should I bring home to my family?" One boy said "Teacher take me! I'm authentically Korean!" It was funny.
--That's all for now. Just wanted to update you quickly.
at 8:43 AM
I went to the sauna today to get a massage. This sauna was a little more hometown-ish which meant that I was definitely going to be the only white person, and I knew for sure that there'd be no English writing anywhere, nor anyone who could really speak my language. But I figured I was up for the challenge.
I entered the sauna, naked and proud of the fact that I knew what I was doing, and all the eyes in the room turned towards me. In my head I said "These people are thinking one of two things:
1) Oh my god look at that foreigner with her funny looking white body!!!
2) Oh my, she's like a goddess...so beautiful..."
Haha...I'm sure they were thinking the second thought :-)
So anyway, after my ritual scrubbing, some soaking, some looking around to get my bearings...I approached the scrubbing corner to ask the "ajoomma's" for a massage. "Ajoomma" is what they call the old ladies here in Korea. It's kind of like saying "Grandma or Old Miss". There were about 6 of them, old, pudgy, soft skin, and wearing these black netted bra and underwear sets...almost like lingerie only more like a work uniform if you can imagine that.
So I used a few charades, and asked for a massage which in Korean is called "Massajee" so that's pretty easy. She didn't speak a lick of English. But she grinned at me and motioned for me to hop up on her table.
First she scrubbed my entire body for about 40 minutes. It felt like she was using a Scotch-Brite scouring pad and when she was finished it looked as if she had scrubbed an entire layer of skin off of me. Unbelievable really! It's gross, but amazing. So then she rinsed me off and was about ready to begin the massage. I turned my head and saw that she was doing lunges and stretching her legs. Then she cracked her knuckles. Then she started doing push-ups against the table. I thought "what the heck???"
And then she hopped up on the table and started walking up and down my body from my feet to my shoulders. She was digging her toes into me so hard that I started to whimper. No mercy!!! After a minute she looked down at me and asked "a po? a po?" which sort of means "okay? okay?" I just grinned painfully and put two thumbs up.
She had her body so contorted I was amazed. She used her feet, her knees, her elbows, and she hopped up and down off of that table quite a few times. And that was just the beginning.
She coated my face with some sort of thick honey smelling paste, and put cucumbers on my eyes, and wrapped my face and head in a cool towel. Then she worked on all the muscles on the front of my body. I was curling my toes in pain. I had my arms down on the side of the table and I was gripping onto the table legs with great strength but I couldn't say anything because my mouth was covered in thick masking paste and wrapped in a towel. It was like torture, only I knew it was good for me. Oh gosh, I kept praying..."Jesus keep me alive!"
I think entire massage lasted about 90 minutes. It was a big ordeal with lots of flipping over so she could take care ever freaking joint in my body. She pulled my arms and stretched them in yoga contortionist poses. I wanted to say "umm...Ajoomma...that's about as far as my arm will go in that direction..." but I kept my mouth shut.
Finally, she was finished. She removed the sticky slime from my face, lifted me up, smiled at me, and then I turned and saw about 15 other Korean women surrounding me. They all walked over to watch my massage. It was awkward, but amusing, and I'm kind of getting used to the fact that people stare at me. Maybe they saw me writhing in pain. Maybe they were impressed that I had embarked on this adventure in the first place. Maybe the ajoomma was being tough on me on purpose just to get some laughs out of it. Whatever the reason, I walked away with pride like I had just conquered some dare deviling feat. I walked to the showers and rinsed off and realized that indeed she had loosened up my muscles and I felt a million times better though I'm quite sore now. I've been drinking water as if I'm attached to the water fountain. I know that's important after a massage but I already have some bruises on my arms and armpits.
I think it will be awhile before I have the courage to request another "massajee".
at 9:19 AM
Who doesn't love surprise boxes from home?
But this is no ordinary care package. This box is the "cheesiest", most deluxe box of goodness (and random and funny)...I almost can't help but to indulge until I make myself sick... but I won't.
- Kraft Mac & Cheese
- Deli Fresh Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Deli Fresh Swiss Cheese
- Cheese & Cracker snack packs
- Pumpkin scented lotion and shower soap
- Hand sanitizer
- Magna-Doodle Pro
- Smiling snowmen
- Glittery pine cones
My dad is the coolest!!!
at 7:44 AM
In September I spent the weekend up north in a place called Seoraksan. You might remember my posts with pictures and stories about watching the sunrise with my new German friend, my celebrity photo-shoot on the mountain, and being adopted by the hiking group and nick-named "Chicago!"... Here are the links back to those posts:
This past weekend, I returned to Seorak Mountain and this time I brought Jane with me. It was a perfect weekend to escape the busy city.
Seorak Mountain is known to have the best autumn colors. We were not disappointed!
But wait...I'm getting ahead of myself...
We arrived on Saturday night and took a nice walk along the fish market pier. It's a bustling place on a Saturday night. We watched as people chose their perfect fish from the tanks, and then the salespeople would take it out of the water, slam it with a metal baseball bat, and then they'd prepare it for cooking. It's not the most delightful scene to watch...
But the atmosphere as a whole is really fun. I wish I enjoyed seafood. They were roasting clams right over the grill, and some of the other plates of food looked intriguing.
We watched this woman gut a few fish for eating. She's not kidding around with that knife! Her movements were quick and perfect, like a perfected art!
Jane and I thought about choosing this fish for our dinner! What do you think? Doesn't he look yummy!???
Next morning we woke at 6:00 to watch the sunrise over the East Sea.
Neither Jane nor I are morning people so it was not so easy to get our butts in gear and to the beach on time.
But it's oh so worth it!
It was actually the most curious sunrise I've ever seen. The sky lightened into morning, but the sun rose as this single little neon dot. It looked fake at times, like someone had painted a dot on a screen backdrop. Perhaps it was the smog that muted the brightness, but you could stare at the sun as it rose.
It was so calming.
After eating some oatmeal and drinking french-pressed coffee at the hostel, we packed our picnic lunch and embarked on our journey into the park.
We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. It was awesome!
Jane has heard all of my stories about people's kindness to me. She laughs at my stories of becoming famous, and about people adopting me on the mountains. We were only about 20 minutes into the hike when we stopped at this camp for a quick drink of water. A woman approached me and said "Excuse me...these men over here think you're very beautiful..." Ha! It was funny! I looked over at a table of old men drinking soju and grinning at me. I think Korea is the best place in the world for my self esteem!
This time I enjoyed taking pictures of random people. While the hiking is amazing, I also really enjoy watching the Koreans in their own little world. They are often dressed to kill in their pristine hiking gear. I am convinced that they iron their hiking clothes before they wear them. And they carry every fancy gadget imaginable from tin cups to collapsible tables, picnic mats, and walking sticks. They are serious hikers!
There was quite a bit of smog which was frustrating, but the views were still breathtaking.
And we made it to the top of Ulsanbawi Rock!
Check out my hair!!! Ya know, I try so hard to get a style like this for every day but it never cooperates. Too bad, cuz it's pretty babe-a-licious isn't it?
These people also made it to the top. I couldn't resist taking their picture. They were so funny!
The best family photo ever! Look at the lady with big black hair and bug-eyed sunglasses. Hot mama!
It was windy and cold at the top.
We packed an awesome picnic lunch. Jane made some rice thingy's, and we had clementines, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatos, and bacon-lettuce wraps. We sat up at the top and relaxed with our lunch before heading down the mountain.
And again...another fantastic hairstyle for April!
...and down we go!
There was a goat! I was so excited! This is the first wildlife I've seen in Korea!
...still going down...
And now for the grand finale of color!
Tired bodies, exhausted bodies, ready-to-be-back-in-Seoul bodies...Jane and I watched the sunset on the Sea, finished our picnic for dinner, and rested while waiting for our bus.
I enjoyed watching these two girls play.
And this concludes our weekend getaway!
at 8:09 PM