Sunday, January 31, 2010

KNU decided to try something with the new batch of teachers that i came in with by assigning each of us to a local nazarene church. everybody was pretty unsure about it (and some still are), just because we are still most comfortable in a group, rather than venturing out individually. we were able to meet our pastors just once (as noted in a previous blog post) before they came to pick us up this morning for service. so alot of people had jittery nerves to start today out.

fortunately, i have felt so comfortable with my pastor & congregation ever since i first met them on thursday. the pastor speaks and understands minimal english, and there are 2 attendees who speak english very fluently. they came and picked me up this morning and we had great conversation on the 20 min drive over to asan, a neighboring city. service started as soon as we arrived and i knew i was going to love it. koreans really know how to do hospitality here. they went out of their way to make sure i felt comfortable. they were sure to translate the order of service in the bulletin to english for my sole benefit. they had a hymnbook with both korean & english lyrics for me to use, and the pastor sang the last verse of every song in english...just for me! this was the most touching gesture because many koreans are shy to use the english they know, and that was definitely a way for the pastor to step out of his comfort zone to meet me in the middle. there was a part in the order of service titled "intercessory prayer," and hye won (one of the english speakers) leaned over to tell me that the pastor was praying just for me, as well as the whole rest of the congregation. it was overwhelming. everyone at the church was so kind! they also typed out a basic outline of the sermon so i would know what the pastor was preaching about.

after the service, everyone came up to me and spoke basic english greetings - 'hi, nice to see you!' or 'nice to meet you!' again, this meant so much to me! then it was time to eat...bibimbap. they know the way to my heart! hahaha. it was so delicious. after we ate, we pushed all of the tables together for coffee & tea so we were sitting in a circle shape, and we had formal introductions. i was so impressed with their english! they told me their names and ages and other family members who were also in attendance. (it is not rude in korea to ask someone their age or other personal information. one of their first questions was - 'you have boyfriend?!' and they were so sad when i said i didn't. hahaha) then they wanted me to introduce myself. hye won is so fantastic and translated like a pro for me. the whole church was so interested in every aspect of my life and wanted to know all about me. i was so flattered by their genuine interest in getting to know me. after introductions, we took family pictures! hahaha. i loved it!

with my awesome translators, hye won & david...

with pastor jo & wife, who doubles as our pianist...

with most of the congregation...

alot of hilarious things happened in the course of conversation. first i tried to repeat a phrase they were teaching me which means "please give me a discount" when you are out shopping. and when i said it the whole church started cracking up. i had no idea what happened and they told me that i had said "give me a snack now." hahahaha. how appropriate, right?! i do love treats. then i tried to say another korean word and i totally screwed it up and they all just laughed. hahaha. they know i am trying hard to learn what i can, but they also understand that korean is very different from english and that it will take time. we also noticed that when the pastor translated the order of service into english for me, he wrote "apostles greed" instead of apostles creed. hahaha. everybody got a big kick out of that. i had so much fun with the whole congregation!

before i could leave, they packed me up this big bag of stuff to bring home with me. a blanket, a coffee mug, and a calendar with bible verses in both korean & english, so i can practice. they told me that next week they will prepare a song in english for me. i was so flattered and am really looking forward to it! when we went to get in the church van to leave, everyone came out on the front step to wave at me as we drove by. i felt like i was leaving my family...i am really excited to get to spend a few hours with them again next week!

most of the other teachers had decent experiences at their churches this morning, but i really felt so blessed to have such a great experience at mine. i came back and spoke so highly of it...i think one of my friends is actually going to come with me next week! hahaha. i can't wait for him to meet them and see how gracious they are to us. i am so glad to have a great church family really makes all the difference!

Friday, January 29, 2010

i had my first really intense shopping experience in korea. here, they have big stores that are like walmarts on steroids. they have like 5 floors full of groceries, electronics, clothes, shoes...anything you might ever need. and on every aisle they have a salesperson who will stand there and push you to buy something or give suggestions on other things you might want to buy. i was holding a coat that i was thinking of buying when i accidentally made eye contact with the saleslady. i instantly knew i had made a mistake and in my head, i was thinking "no, no, please God, don't let her come over!" but sure enough, she ran to me and started speaking korean so fast. about 5 of the other new teachers were standing there with me and nobody could help me try to talk to her. i had no idea how to say "i don't want it" or "i am still deciding" and i kind of panicked! so i pulled out the "joesonghamnida, hangukmal mot haeyo" or "i'm sorry, i can't speak korean." but i still didn't know how to tell her about the coat. i probably would have bought it if she hadn't come over but i was so stressed by that point, that i just wanted to get out! i couldn't say "no i don't think i will buy it" so instead i settled on "anieyo" or "no." i gave her the coat and all but ran the other direction. hahaha. i hope i didn't offend her but i was about to have an anxiety attack!

yesterday i got to meet my pastor of the church i will attend while i am here. he was so nice and we got to have lunch together. he speaks very minimal broken english, but he was the nicest man. he told me that my korean pronunciation was very good & i was thrilled! he brought with him 2 parishioners, a korean lady who spoke excellent english, and her husband, who was a canadian. so i had 2 translators who were more than willing to help. they were all so sweet and arranged to come pick me up this sunday morning. here in korea, churches spend all sunday together. every week they stay to eat the meal together, and some churches hold meetings or choir practices after the meal. then its time for evening service! but my church is only about a year old and has few attenders - maybe 20 or 30. so we will just have morning service and lunch afterwards. this week: bibimbap. i'm so excited! hahaha. i love it. i told the pastor i will work on my korean so i can understand his sermons and he thought that was hilarious. i'm looking forward to spending the day with them on sunday.

we had a meeting time where all of the new english teachers were supposed to meet our head teachers. but my teacher is out of town so she couldn't come. instead they sent another teacher from the school to meet me. he was so nice and his english was excellent. i kept telling him how good it was and he got so embarrassed. most koreans are very shy to try to use the english that they do know...just like you would be if you tried to come here and speak korean. he kept saying "i so nervous!" and sweating alot. hahahaha. but he helped teach me some basic korean & offered to come next week to walk me through the path i will take every morning to get to school, what bus to take, etc. i am very grateful because he isn't even my teacher so this isn't required of him at all. everyone here is so generous and willing to help.

we start our training for teaching ESL on monday. it will be a looooong 4 weeks. we got our schedule yesterday and they are gonna be working us into the ground to get our certifications completed in time to start school in march. i hope we all make it!

yesterday, i had a meeting with the director of the program here at KNU. everyone has been very concerned about how i will fit into the korean culture. i look like i should speak korean and understand social norms and taboos, but i don't. in terms of knowledge of korea, i am just like all of the other new teachers. everyone has told me that i will have a very difficult time here. so i expected many discussions like the one i had yesterday, telling me how i should react in certain situations, and what to expect emotionally from my time here. the director gave me some constructive criticisms that were pretty difficult to swallow and i cried my first tears here in korea. this is something i will get very used to. fortunately, i have friends here like john and ben who fully understand my situation and are so good to me. they were waiting for me to get out of my meeting so they could give me a hug and reassure me while i cried it out. hahaha. i don't deserve such good friends.

so korea has lots of ups but will also have its downs. i consider everyone who reads this blog to be family, and therefore, i will share both with you. i feel like that is only healthy and it will give you an idea of specific ways you can pray for me if you're so willing. thank you guys for taking this crazy and sometimes difficult journey with me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

i am becoming a little more asian everyday!
i'm proud of the way i have been able to adapt to all of the korean food. the first few times i tried it in the states, i was legitimately concerned about how i would make it a whole year here. but once i got here, i magically developed a taste for it and am getting to the point where i can really begin to enjoy it. today we went out to eat bibimbap for lunch and i slammed it down like a pro. we're talking clean plate club here, folks. some of the other teachers are still a little wary of the i had expected to be. but i am slowly but surely acquiring a taste for it. bibimbap is a really popular korean dish and is basically rice topped with all kinds of vegetables, seasoned meat, spicy pepper paste, and often times, an egg. it comes out looking beautiful, and you mix it all together before you eat it. the first time i tried it, i was not a big fan but i chowed it good!
for dinner tonight, john and i shared some gimbap and omurice. we killed it. everyone is amazed at how much we eat...hahaha. gimbap resembles a sushi roll...rice, vegetables, egg, and a protein wrapped up in seaweed. we had the ham variety and it was so good. omurice is essentially an omelette stuffed with fried rice and covered in a sweeter sauce. it sounds so strange to a westerner but it is so delicious.

again - we were clean platers!

i am slowly but surely learning korean phrases. with the gracious korean hospitality, we are using 'kamsahamnida' or 감사합니다 very often. this means: thank you! everyone here is so nice, so its a very necessary thing to learn. tonight while shopping at home plus, i said my longest korean phrase thus far: hangukmal mot haeyo. or 'i can't speak korean.' hahaha. i picked it up a long time ago from a podcast and was saving it for a rainy day. it seemed to help the cashier really understand that i wasn't stupid, i just didn't know the language. she said 'ahh!' and just smiled at me. and while on the home plus topic, i'll just add that walmart and target have nothing on the korean shops. we're talking like 5 floors...megastores! they are seriously overwhelming, but awesome all at once.

one of the other teachers, david, is an NNU grad who just came back to korea for a 2nd year. he was here then took a break to go back to the states. it's great to have him here since he knows the ropes and is super helpful. he took me to the bank today to exchange my u.s. dollars for korean won. i felt so rich! the current exchange rate is approx 1000 won = 86 cents...awesome!

in conclusion, i learned alot in today's orientation about the city of cheonan and the program we are working with here. but to sum it up, i will say that americans are shamefully lazy, and koreans put us to shame when it comes to taking initiative on the educational front. many korean students will attend a normal school day from 8a-3p before they go to another academy in the afternoon. some attend school til 10 or 11 at night. the thirst for knowledge and education is unbelievable here.

i also learned that the program here between KNU & the city school district is really something special and unique. and it kind of blows my mind to think that my friends and i have the chance to be involved in an opportunity like this. it is of great significance that KNU was chosen by the district to be trusted with such a big task as recruiting english teachers for the entire district, as it is only one of many universities here...and a small one at that! it is also amazing to think of how all of our schedules have coordinated to allow us to be here to serve together this year. this is an opportunity i choose to make the most of & not to take for granted. i guess you could say that i got a glimpse at how big God is. i can't dwell on it too much because it starts to hurt my brain...seriously mind blowing!

bedtime here as most of you are just waking up in the states. i hope you all have a wednesday that is as great as the one i have just completed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

shwew. who knew moving to the other side of the world would be so exhausting?! this is the first second i've had to sit down since arriving in seoul, but i wanted to take time out for a quick blog since i know lots of you have been asking for it.

mom, dad, and i had time for a quick 4am photoshoot before i left columbus. our last family picture for at least a year...we're all super busted from severe sleep deprivation!
the flights (plural:3) were decent overall. aside from bad turbulence above chicago and almost missing my flight in san francisco, my last few hours in the states were enjoyable. :) i got super confused in san fran due to the airport's severe lack of communication, and was trying to figure out what was going on when i heard my name being called over the intercom. i ran the full length of the concourse only to find out they didn't really need to talk to me. as luck would have it, i had also arranged to meet another english teacher (coming from midamerica nazarene) at the gate since we were on the same flight to korea. i was able to introduce myself to him through the sweat that was running down my face and in between gasps for air. i love to make a great first impression! hahaha. my life is always exciting.

the 13 hour flight from california to seoul really wasn't as bad as i had expected. international airlines are so much better than those in the states. i had a personal tv screen in my seat so i was able to watch plenty of 'planet earth' and 'how its made.' i also fit in a few korean films & 'this is it...' which was, by the way, amazing! i was also able to track the progress of our flight, which was helpful.
they fed us about every two hours and the food was so good. aside from it being 13 hours long, the flight was really enjoyable.

once i landed in incheon, i was thrilled to see john & ben waiting for me at the airport with a sign that read 'welcome to korea, ming wang!' they are two of my great friends from college & i am so lucky to have them here with me. we were able to share a meal together with the dozen or so other new english teachers. we chose the very korean KFC. exotic, right?

since landing, we have been busy unpacking and starting orientation. today, we all had to go to the clinic to have our physicals. these are required in order to get our alien registration cards. while at the clinic, i saw alot of confused looks from koreans who kept trying to speak to me in korean. this is a look i will get very used to seeing in the next year or so.

we had a traditional korean meal for lunch today, complete with no shoes, indian-style seating, kimchi, rice cakes, and a gazillion side dishes. it was so good. some of the dishes are really different from what i am used to in the states, but they are mostly delicious. i downed some serious korean cuisine today. john, erica, and i just got back from dinner with our other trevecca friends who have already been in cheonan for a few months. it's been like a little reunion...i love it!

our liaisons here at KNU (korea nazarene university) are awesome and have been so helpful. the teachers who have been here for awhile are all great, too. everybody has been so friendly and willing to assist with anything at all. they don't even laugh when we ask dumb questions. newbies!

i haven't been too jetlagged since arriving, but i have felt the exhaustion starting to settle in this evening. that means it's time to wrap up the blogging and sleep my life away...

i'll end by noting 2 things. one awesome thing about korea is that they heat through the floors rather than through vents. this is fantastic and a method the US should seriously consider adopting. #2 is that korean bathrooms are crazy. they don't really have showers here...more like a shower head somewhere on the wall. no shower curtains or specific shower section of the bathroom. surprisingly, it doesn't soak the rest of the bathroom too badly. still...something to get used to!

i love korea so far and will have lots more to report on soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

i've never been to an airport before it opened...who knew airports even closed?
this morning, the heavens shined upon me and each of my 2 suitcases weighed exactly 50 lbs. miracles do happen.
about to board my flight out of columbus. i'll get to korea about 24 hours later.
so proud of mom & dad for not shedding a single tear as we parted ways at the security gate. i attribute much of that to the ungodly 4.30am departure.
have a great 2010, america!

Friday, January 22, 2010

just a few days left!
things are getting crazy now. so much to pack. so much i can't fit in my suitcase. so many people to see. my mind is spinning and my room is a mess!
alot of people have been asking me for contact info. so here it is:

skype// whcasey514
ichat// koreecase
snail mail//
Whitney Casey
Special District of International Education
Korea Nazarene University (Attn: Jenny Kim)
#117 Faith Hall (Miteumgwan)
456 Ssangyong-dong Seobukgu Cheonan City Choongnam
331 718 South Korea

i will also try to keep up the blog as faithfully as i can, so check back periodically.
here's to a very korean 2010!