The Brave, Little Ninja Teaches in South Korea Round 1: March 2018

This is a recap of my month of trial-run teaching before I had to go back to the US for visa reasons.


Thursday March 8th I moved to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). It’s just a little outside of Seoul, but there’s a subway station super close by so I don’t have to worry about transportation. The busses outside of Seoul are different, so at some point when I go back, I’ll have to work up the courage to try to ride one.

Before I moved, I got to spend some time with Monica. We ate at Bonjuk and went to coin noraebang and had a blast! I’m going to miss being her roommate.

 

Anyway, Lisa helped me a whole lot on moving day. She drove me to the MTC, helped get my teaching schedule sorted with the missionaries, and even took me to the grocery store. I’m so thankful for her caring heart.

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Nom nom

Friday I met with the same lady who I’ve been meeting with to practice Korean and English together. After that, I went to the OMS prayer meeting. It was a little funny going back there after I had just moved out.

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Bibimbap

Saturday, Sydney, and Luke, and I went to Dairy Queen for Luke’s birthday. We met up with two of our Korean friends who we met during AIE. After lunch, we went to an arcade. There was one particular game that Sydney and I really enjoyed playing so much that we ended up on the leader board. Go big or go home, I guess.

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Here’s the cake we got for Luke. Apparently we like to be unique when we cut cakes.

 

As we were on our way back to the subway station from the arcade, Luke found a credit card on the ground, so we took it to the police station. I’ve never been inside a police station in any country so it was a little intimidating, but they were really friendly. I was technically the one who gave the card to the officer because I could explain in Korean what happened. Then they asked me to write my name and phone number for their records. Shortly after leaving, I got a text from the station saying that my report had been filed. Then a few days later, I got another text saying that the card had been returned to its owner, so I guess everything worked out well.

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This was a funny bench we found near the arcade.

Monday was my first day teaching at the MTC.

I had four classes, and each class was an hour. The first class was two high schoolers (A), the second and third group were elementary/middle schoolers (B and C), and the last was a group of the missionary moms who were on furlough (D). So if you ask what age I teach, the answer is everything but preschool, university, and the elderly.

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This was my usual schedule:

  • Mondays: D, tutoring call over the phone, B
  • Tuesdays: A, D, C
  • Wednesdays: accountability meeting with Lisa
  • Thursdays: A, D, B
  • Fridays: D, met with my tutor for Korean and English, prayer meeting
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This was this super aesthetic restaurant we ate at on Sunday.

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Tasty

On the 18th, I went to the church that Sydney and I attend, and then I went to a chuch that two of the missionaries attend. On of them runs the young elementary school Sunday school, and they had just started a new session where they were going to start doing it in bilingual English and Korean. Because of this, they asked if I would come and give a little powerpoint and talk about the United States seeing as many of these kids had never seen or interacted with a foreigner before in real life.

I tried my best to speak what little Korean I could, but there were other staff members helping out there that could help translate some of the things I couldn’t. The kids took a little while, but eventually they warmed up to me and started asking me questions.

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After the service, the pastor and other staff members who were helping out with the Sunday school invited me out to lunch with them. Here is an example of another difference between American and Korean culture. We went to a restaurant, but the restaurant gave kind of small portions, so the group decided they would go to another restaurant and eat another course there. Another common thing to do that we didn’t actually end up doing is after going to a restaurant, going to a coffeeshop too. At least where I grew up, if you went to a restaurant, spent two hours there socializing and eating, even if the portions were not enough to make you full, you wouldn’t even be thinking about going to a completely different restaurant for round 2. You would just go home and eat a snack or something. So there’s another fun cultural fact for you.

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Eating home-cooked samgyeopsal and watching a kdrama with the ninja.

On Monday, I was on day two of spring allergies. However, I had a headache as well, so I looked it up online to see if the over-the-counter allergy medicine I was taking would be okay with taking some ibuprofen. All the sites I checked said that it would probably be okay, but I started feeling nauseous a little while after. Before lunch I ended up having stomach issues and throwing up once. Needless to say, I’m not doing that again.

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This was my friend’s pork cutlet. The white stuff is mashed potatoes.

Early Tuesday morning, I woke up to a horrible yet familiar pain in my left side—I had another kidney stone. I had one two years ago which I had to go to the hospital for twice and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Not only was I in pain, but I was completely unable to function for weeks. So of course I was a little concerned when I realized I had another kidney stone.

So I paced the room and chugged water and prayed. I asked God that he heal me from it because if He was asking me to be there and help the missionaries, I needed to be physically able to do that. After an hour or so of doing that, I was actually able to get some sleep. I woke up a few hours later and repeated the same process, and I could already tell that the stone had moved. Then I went to sleep again, and when I woke up, at about 6am, the stone was gone.

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Where my previous kidney stone left me out of commission for at least a week, I could actually sleep for a few hours and passed the entire kidney stone in less than 24 hours, which is practically unheard of. So all the glory to God on that one.

Not only was I able to do a Skype call that I had scheduled with an OMS rep in the States that morning, I was able to teach that day too with no trouble. That was seriously amazing.

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MTC food is awesome.

On Wednesday, I met my college roommate for dinner. She is currently teaching at an international school in Seoul, and we also attend the same church. She was going to be out of the country for spring break the next weekend, so because I would be leaving the weekend after that, we had to meet sometime before to say goodbye.

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More MTC food.

On Friday, I had the last meeting with my tutor. She gave me some beautiful traditional Korean hair accessories as goodbye gifts. I really enjoyed her willingness to be patient with me both in teaching me Korean and in dealing with my unrefined teaching methods. I hope I am able to meet with her when I return.

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Even more MTC food.

Saturday, my friend who I would always go visit in Japan was finally able to come and experience Korea for a few days. Unfortunately, Korea didn’t exactly put on the best impression as the pollution suddenly spiked. We had to wear pollution masks the entire time she was there.

Anyway, Luke was kind enough to drive us to the airport to pick her up and then drive us all the way to Lotte World afterward. We met Sydney there after we finally got a parking spot, but unfortunately we had a mix-up with the language barrier when trying to buy tickets. Online, it says that if you purchase a general admission ticket after 7pm, the price is reduced significantly. However, according to Lotte World, “general admission” means that you gain entrance to the park but you don’t ride any rides. So this ticket is basically for adults who have to go chaperone their kids, but don’t actually want to ride any of the rides. In general, Lotte World’s English is not that great, but that was a really big translation error because the park closes at 11.

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However, another fun culture fact, when something in Korea gives a closing time, that’s not the time that the customers must leave. That’s the time that the employees go home. So while the park closes at 11, everything shuts down at 10:30 so that the employees can close their stations and be out of there by 11. And in that 3.5 hours span of time, we were able to ride 4 rides and we were forced to buy tickets at 44,000W, which is a little over $40. Yeah, so I guess that was my fault for not doing good enough research. I feel bad about making my friends waste their money like that.

After that, we went back to Sydney’s apartment where she was gracious enough to let me and my friend stay because 1) it is much closer to Lotte world than the MTC and 2) we were going to go to church the next day and it’s much closer to church too.

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While I was showing my friend around, we kept running into things that were related to Japan. For example, at church the people who sat in front of us were teachers visiting from Japan, and the guest speaker at church was a Korean missionary who had been living in Japan for over 20 years. I really think that was God watching out for my friend who absolutely loves Japan and might have needed some familiarity amongst the culture shock she was going through.

After we had lunch with Sydney, my friend and I went to the Hyundai department store in Sinchon (near my language school) to go shopping. It has a section in the store where they sell clothes that are reasonably priced but also have changing rooms—something that is very important when you are a foreigner. After that, we walked through Hongdae and saw some of the street dancers perform. Then we decided to head back because we were really tired. We ate some mandu (that I accidentally burned) and watched Netflix.

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The next day, we met up with Monica and had seolleongtan (not pictured) soup. I really like eating there because the soup is really good but also because you can add your own salt, so I can get my salt fix there. After that, we went to a coin noraebang and jammed out for way too long. Then we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace and explored some of the grounds that I hadn’t seen before. These palaces are usually so big that you can’t really see the whole thing in one day, so there’s even some that after going there that time that I still haven’t seen. After that, we ate at On the Border, which is a Tex-Mex restaurant that we have in the States too.

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Wednesday, we went to Insadong, which is famous for having lots of souvenirs. We had juk (Korean porridge) for lunch and bingsu for dessert—the latter of which she had never had before. After Alletha got some souvenirs and gifts to bring back, we took her to the airport. I had a really fun time showing her around although I wish that the pollution wasn’t as bad.

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Juk

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Bingsu: before

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After

Because I had a friend over for Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday-Friday, I had all my classes that I would have normally had crammed into those last three days. It was fine, and I’m so glad the MTC was flexible with me.

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Koreans don’t like touching their food, so whenever there’s “finger food,” it’s common to have wetnaps/gloves given out too.

Friday, we had our prayer meeting at the Han River. We had a picnic and talked for a little while. Another fun culture thing, you can easily spot the foreigners in areas like that. Not just because of their appearance, but because Koreans don’t sunbathe. The only ones you see laying down in the sun are foreigners trying to tan.

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When we were there, it was just the very beginning of cherry blossom season, so everyone who was at the Han River that day tried to take a picture of the only three trees that were blooming.

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Saturday was my day to fly out. Susan took me to the airport, and Lisa met us there. They sent me off, and after saying goodbye, I boarded my flight.

The long flight from Seoul to Toronto went fine with no problems although I didn’t sleep much. I was able to watch lots of movies of course. I watched The Greatest Showman, Coco, and the new Jumanji. The little flight from Toronto to Indy was delayed about 20 minutes, but it was okay. When I landed a little after midnight, I was able to see my family for the first time since Christmas. We went home and then all of us went promptly to sleep.

So what’s the plan?

  • I will be back in the US for at least 4 months trying to become a missionary with OMS and raise support so I can get back to Korea and teach the missionaries I had been working with. My goal is to get through the application and raise all my money by July 9th that way I can get back to Korea by the beginning of August.
  • If I don’t raise my support by then, I will try to go back late February/early March so that I can be back to start teaching with the next group of missionaries.
  • When I do get back to Korea, I’ll be there for 1 year, then I have to return and decide my next step.
  • I will try to do one blog post a month during the time I’m in the US to give you updates about fundraising.
  • I’ll add all those blog posts to Round 1 as well.

Prayer Requests

  • That the application process goes quickly
  • that I’m able to raise the funds in time
  • that I am at peace with working with God’s timing, not my own

Thank you for reading!

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