Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Beginnings

My birthday was this past Tuesday (Jan 17) and I had a good last half of the day. The 1st part of the day I was at work. Since it's my 1st teaching job, I figured it'd be bad form to take a day off on the 1st week of work in the 2nd semester. And we had a meeting that day too...

Later that night I went out to dinner with some friends from work and church. We went to a restaurant where they serve shabe shabe, which is where they boil water in a wok at the table and bring you a big plate of vegetables and noodles to put in it. The vegetables are delicious at this place: mushrooms, cabbage, and onions mostly. They also have a good red sauce that goes with it. I got 2 gifts: 3 pairs of socks, which was great, and my very own extra cake to take home (with candles included, which I used that very night:)

And the next part was a bit of an ordeal. They sang Happy Birthday to me in Korean 1st, then in English. :) Then I blew out the candles. Then they wanted me to tell them what I wished for but I said it was a secret. Then they wanted me to make a speech. So I did. I stood up and said thank you to everybody and I love the church I go to and I love Korea! I thought it would be over then, but then this guy started asking people loudly what nice things they wanted to say about me. It was so loud in there you couldn't really hear and it was embarrassing. Then I finally told him that that's not the American style, but he said "But it's the Korean style," so I gave up. Then he wanted me to tell everybody my prayer request, so I just said to have God's favor. Then the restaurant owner played a song over the speakers for me, and several different people told me that it means I was born to be loved. Finally, after all that, the guy from church sat back down and ate his cake. I tried to smile the whole time and be nice, but it was really embarrassing and not my thing to be in the middle of that kind of fuss, but it was kinda funny so I'm glad it all happened.

That night I went home and called Mom and Dad so they could wish me a happy birthday. Haha. In case you're wondering, I'm 24 in American age, and 25 in Korean age. (I joke that I don't want to be 25 because now I have to round up to 30, but at 24 I can still round down to 20.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Christmas and New Year's was really great. I had 2 1/2 weeks off from school, the first time I've ever taken a break this long from a job and not gone broke. :) Last year I had this much time off, but I had to quit my job to get it and then find a new job after Christmas was over. (But I got to see Granny so it was worth it.)

The first week was really busy and crazy because Mom and a friend/coworker came to visit. I felt really guilty when they arrived because they lost some of their luggage but all my Christmas gifts came. They had 2 carry-ons, 2 suitcases with stuff for me, and 2 suitcases with their essentials. Mom had received the very insightful advice to put all her necessities in her carry-on in case her luggage got lost, so she did that. However, the lady working at the airport decided to measure her carry-on and found it to be too long, so they had to check it. And then the airline lost it. On top of that, the other lady's suitcase with her stuff in it got lost. So they both arrived with all my presents but without any of their own most important belongings. They still insisted that I go ahead and open all the gifts that night, so I did.

This Christmas I got the motherload. There's no way I can take all this stuff back with me to the states. I have at least 5 suitcases worth of stuff now, but I'm so glad to have it all here. I have everything I need and more. Thank you to my several Santa Clauses! The best gifts I got were blankets, so now I can get warm a lot faster at night in this 15 degree weather than before. Until now, I had to wait until the heating in the floor carried up through my mattresses (they're sitting directly on the floor).

We had a good time together and traveled into Seoul for 2 of the days. One day we went to a large market (Insadong) and to see a replica of an Korean temple, and the other day we went to a traditional Korean restaurant and to see a modern Buddhist temple. One day we went to see the Traditional Korean Village, where everything from the old days was remade. We found some really good old rice candy there, and found out about pigs that are fed special food so their meat tastes different (but it's a bit inappropriate so I can't mention it here.)

Mom was very impressed at how nice everyone was. All I can say is, I'm glad she had a good experience. It always helps to speak a little Korean, and I was very impressed at both of their efforts to say "Kamsahamnida" or "Thank you" everywhere we went. Saying that is usually met by a smile here, and it doesn't matter whether it is said with mediocre or perfect pronunciation.  You can see a Korean visibly relax when you speak a word or 2 in their language. (By the way, I can say small sentences now, and more Koreans burst into a full sermon at me sometimes when I say the right thing. I just smile and nod or say, "I'm sorry but I don't understand.")

Belated Happy New Year everyone!