Sunday, March 21, 2010

hey kiddies! i hope this week finds all of you doing well. i hear the weather back in america has been beautiful this week, so i hope you have gotten a chance to get out and enjoy the fresh air! unfortunately, this is what we saw here in korea all week:
let's just suffice it to say that i was less than amused when i woke up in the morning and saw this out my window. in korea, they don't really plow or ice the roads. so everything just turns into a big slushy, brown mess. thrilling when your morning commute includes 20-30 minutes of walking and a 30-40 minute busride! i have heard great things about korean springtime...ready to judge that for myself. it'd better make this looooong winter worth it!

this week started out pretty tough. things got pretty messy at one of my schools as far as politics and hierarchy within the faculty. a couple of my teachers got into an argument (all in korean, while i was in the room. awkward.) and the vice-principal got involved and it was just disastrous. terrible day. luckily, i have a great church family and my pastor's wife must have sensed that i needed a reprieve that evening! she called me that afternoon and asked me to go to dinner with her family. i was so grateful - and it worked out great, since i just happened to have that evening free - which NEVER happens! we had a pretty hilarious conversation because no matter how fluent their english may be, koreans find phone conversations SO confusing. it's really baffling to me. they can have near perfect english, but if they cant see your lips moving, it's like they forget all of the english that they know. phone conversations with koreans are always really promising - hahaha. anyways, eun-sol called and asked me to dinner and said that they planned to eat samgyupsal. i've mentioned this before - you should google it! its basically a really extremely fatty bacon. its delicious but gross at the same time because there is SO much fat. i told eun-sol that samgyupsal would be fine and asked details about when and where. she responded with "ummm-we should eat samgyupsal because it is windy outside." i paused as my brain tried to process that. when i came up clueless, i said - "just to clarify, we should eat the fatty bacon because the weather outside is windy?" she said - "yes. because of the wind and the dust from china." my brain was about to break by this time...i had no idea what the heck she was talking about. but i didn't want to further confuse the conversation, so i just said - "of course! great! see you tonight!"

i am 100% accustomed to being confused here in korea. there are lots of customs and traditions and things about the country that i don't understand. then you add in the language barrier and it's just the perfect equation for some priceless comedy. i've gotten to the point where i don't even ask questions anymore because sometimes it's just not worth the confusion. but i could not understand the fatty bacon/wind thing. so i asked my head teacher - "ummm. quick question. is there some kind of connection between samgyupsal + some chinese dust + wind?" after she laughed at me, she explained. there is a yellow dust pollutant that originates in the mountains of china. on really windy days, it is blown all over the place - korea being one of the lucky winners. it wreaks all kinds of havoc on your allergies and causes all kinds of sore throats and sickness. koreans have a belief that when you eat the samgyupsal, the fat will kind of absorb all of that nasty dust that you have inhaled and help your body purge it so you can avoid sickness. so, eun-sol was trying to watch out for me and keep me from getting sick by inviting me to eat samgyupsal. it makes alot of sense when it's explained, right? not so much when you're trying to talk to a korean on the phone and all you have to go on is something about eating fatty bacon because it's windy outside. hahaha. i am confused all of the time here, but this one was a doozy. so funny! for more info on the yellow dust, you can check wiki.

partially because of the yellow dust/partially because of exhaustion/partially because of culture shock/partially because of all other sorts of factors, ALOT of the native english teachers have gotten really sick this week. anything from severe allergies to bronchitis to stomach flus to anything you could imagine. it's really terrible! i hate seeing my friends sick. i have managed to stay healthy because i've been taking so many vitamins and drinking so much tea/water/orange juice and getting alot of sleep. fortunately, with our health insurance + korean healthcare, it costs anywhere from 50 cents-2 dollars to see a doctor here. the idea of going to the dr and paying with a coin is really baffling to me. and prescription drugs typically cost somewhere from $3-$10. really crazy and so different from america! but great since alot of the teachers needed it this week - it's so affordable for us! please pray that everyone will be able to kick the sickness this week. it's hard enough trying to adjust to a new place and a new language and a new job without having to deal with illness, too.

john and i decided to take a trip into seoul yesterday to do some shopping. after we bought the train tickets, i checked the weather and saw that it was supposed to be cold/windy/rainy the whole day...and i was instantly grumpy. hahaha. rain is not very compatible with outdoor shopping. luckily, God had mercy on us and gave us a wonderful day! it was cloudy, but that worked to our advantage because it was much less crowded. i never even had to get my umbrella out - i was thrilled! we shopped til we dropped and went to SO many different parts of seoul...which is a HUGE city! here is a subway map to give you a sample: it looks kind of complicated, but is SO easy to navigate. the public transportation here is really superb. so we were hopping subways and switching lines all day. really exhausting! luckily the two of us travel really well together. when thrown into a stressful situation like that and trying to navigate a complicated system that is easy, but still unfamiliar, things can get kind of explosive. i'm sure all of you have been in a situation like that and can understand. :) but john and i got along perfectly well the whole day without even having to yell at each other. hahaha. teamwork is the key. it was wonderful!

on the way back to cheonan, we decided to pitstop in songtan because we had heard rumors of mexican food there. songtan has a main strip that is located right outside of a military base, so there are few koreans in that area. i was NOT prepared for it. i swear - we got on the subway in korea, and got off in the twilight zone. it was like we had been magically transported to some weird american city. there were all of these caucasians and everyone was speaking english. i was so weirded out! i have said for about a month now that i think the culture shock of returning to america will be much harder for me than anything i experienced coming here to korea. last night was proof. yes, returning to american culture is going to be insane. we walked into the mexican restaurant and a korean server greeted us with a "hey, how are you guys? just 2 tonight?" and my eyes just got so big. again, my brain almost broke. so strange! i am so used to giving a slight bow with an "annyeonghaseyo" and a "hana/tul/set/net" for the # of people in our party. the mexican food was definitely worth it -- so delicious! but i was ready to get out of that place and back to korea. one of the weirdest twilight zone-types of experiences i have ever had.

it's 8.30am sunday here so i should probably get ready for church. my wonderful pastor and his wife traveled to costco yesterday and picked up a few groceries for me while they were there. i can't wait to claim my big tub of peanut butter and flour tortillas and salsa! :) i hope you all have a wonderful week...enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures for me!!


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