Wednesday, August 29, 2007

South Korean Freedom

The Taliban has agreed to release the remaining 19 S. Korean hostages. However, Seoul had to promise to withdraw Korean military from Afghanistan and cease missionary efforts (or some degree of that). Even though I can't understand the newscasts here on my TV, the whole nation is celebrating. When the entire country is the size of Indiana, news like this is enormous. Praise the Lord for the release of these individuals! It's a happy day in South Korea...

I've had the blessing of conversing spiritual matters with several of the dorm students. There are so many here who are searching so hard for something that's right in front of them! I've talked to a student who just can't accept the concept of an all-powerful God. Tonight I talked to another student who believes that Jesus is the Son of God but hasn't been able to accept His saving grace yet...too many things in life have gone wrong for this student to reach out and trust. My heart cries for them. I find myself praying each day that my words would be seasoned with salt and will proclaim truth. I get to defend the Gospel every day here, something very different from the bubble of IWU but something so refreshing and energizing. I feel like I'm living a life of purpose.

On a lighter side, yesterday I ate a Korean dish called chicken mayo. I'm discovering that it's better 1. to not ask questions and 2. to just dive right in. So...I did. The dish consisted of rice, egg, chicken, soy sauce, seaweed and mayonnaise. It was surprisingly amazing.


Sandwiches are basically an American food. Apparently, Koreans think that most sandwiches have egg in them. I thought it was a one-time thing the other day. But, everywhere I've gone for a sandwich gives me one with egg. So, if you go to one of the sandwich shops or even to a nicer restaurant that happens to serve a few sandwiches, chances are you'll get an egg, cooked over-hard on your sandwich.

It's completely normal to walk down the street and come across someone peeing on a wall. It's not illegal to relieve oneself in public. While it's much more common to see children enjoying the liberty, once in a while you'll see an adult as well.

While Koreans enjoy spicy food to no end, they don't care for Mexican food. There is not a single Taco Bell in this entire city nor is there an other Mexican's going to be a rough 2 years.

Here's some irony...Korean baked sweets (especially cakes) look absolutely amazing. The corner bakery by my apartment has some of the prettiest cakes I've ever seen. But if you were to eat them, you'd be disappointed. Korean's don't like too much sugar in their baked desserts. Instead, cakes, cookies and muffins are bland and dry. However, if you go to buy a good cracker, maybe even a wheat cracker, it'll be sprinkled in sugar. The only crackers you can buy that aren't sweetened are saltines. Even the Korean version of Ritz crackers are sweet. Potato chips are also sweet. What we have here is a classic case of sugar displacement. Instead of putting it all in the wheat crackers, just put it in the cakes. C'mon, Korea, how hard can it be to change your taste buds??

Friday, August 24, 2007

Defending the Faith

There's a student in my dorm who is agnostic. This student has soring intellect and loves debating. This student is searching high and low for truth amidst the chaos of this world. The "convenience and hypocrisy of Christianity" (in the words of the student) just doesn't bode well. I've gotten chances to debate and express my beliefs several times with the student. I just pray that these conversations continue and one day, they will see the light.

Living here in the midst of non-Christians has re-ignited a deep passion for my Lord and Savior. Having to defend my faith each day, explaining why I believe in the risen Son has burst me out of the IWU bubble in a big way. I'm one month in and already I'm seeing the world in a very different way. One month in and my students are capturing my heart. One month in and I can't wait for more...

RANDOM KOREAN FACTS (well, stories actually):

The other day, me, Virginia and Allison got into a cab to come back to school after shopping. Virginia (who has been in Korea for 6 years and has a great handle on the language) was talking to the driver. He pulled out his cell phone, called his high school age son and handed the phone to her. He then told her (in Korean) to talk English with his son because he needed practice. We spent that cab ride listening to Virginia talk broken English to a boy we've never met. But hey, we got a discount in the cab ride!

Yesterday, Allison and I went to a local bakery and picked out 3 random baked goods (they are all set out on tables and you just go around and pick up the ones you want, place them on a plate and then buy them (the health codes are very lenient here compared to the U.S.). The ones we picked? A green tea bread filled with cream cheese, a cheese and onion-filled pastry and a peanut butter scone. I was a bit skeptical but man, they were amazing. Who would've thought green tea would be tasty in a pastry?

Today, I went to a sandwich shop for lunch and ordered a ham and cheese grilled sandwich. It came with ham, cheese, an egg patty with corn cooked in it and sweet dressing. It was one of the most random combinations but it was amazing! Korean food as a whole (though very spicy) is wonderful! Shabu shabu, bulgogi, yumyung...all good.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Glimpse of the Dong

"Dong" is the Korean word for neighborhood. Here in Daejeon, I live in O-Jung Dong. So, in order for you to better share in my South Korean experience, I've snapped a few pictures from the Dong...

My apartment's living room.

The city of Deajeon at night (taken from my dorm balcony)

More of the city from my dorm (yes, I get to see mountains when it's not too hazy)

Springer Dorm...where I live on the 5th and 6th floors (I live where the round windows are...pretty sweet, huh?)

The front entrance to the school

The street that runs along side of the school (it's a two-way, believe it or not)

The street right outside of the school. Shops, restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and more are right at my fingertips.

The same street at night.

More city views

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pickle Pizza, Bare feet and Fan Death

God is so good. He amazes me everyday with His kindness and mercy. I'm realizing how amazing it must've been to be face to face friends with Jesus. His words overflowed with peace and encouragement. In John 15, Jesus is telling His disciples about His relationship with the Father, how to love one another and other things. But in the midst, he says, "I am telling you these things so you may be filled with joy." Joy! I think that joy is such an amazing characteristic. It's not an emotion, it's a mindset. We've been freed, we have everlasting life and we have the best teacher and example in the world...we have Jesus! Because I work with many students who don't know the Lord, I'm more conscious than ever of the joy I have. I may not be having the best day, but I need to strive, no matter what, to have the JOY OF CHRIST. If I don't, how will they be able to see the Lord in me?

On a lighter note...I'm still loving Korea and TCIS! Here's some more food for thought:

Random Korean Facts...

In many places, when you order pizza, they will give you pickles or relish to put on top. I don't know why, but Koreans love pickles on their pizza.

In Korea, you take your shoes off when you enter a house, no matter what. Even when I'm walking around the hall ways, I have to take my shoes off before I enter my girls' rooms. But walk around the hallway in bare feet?!? Never. You don't walk around with bare feet because of "all the germs and dirt that will get on them, then you'll track it inside when you take your shoes off." It makes sense, I'm just not used to putting my shoes on to walk a few doors down only to take them off again.

Many people in Korean believe in fan death. Yes, fan death. They believe that if you have a fan on in your room all night while you sleep and you don't have a window open, you'll die. The fan will suck all the air out of the room and you will suffocate. It's been reported on the news, it's in the obituaries, fan death is a serious killer here in Korea. Some of the TCIS dorms have alarms on the windows so they can't be opened in the middle of the night (kids like to sneak out). They were just installed this year. But what wasn't considered was fan death. Students are afraid to use their fans at night since they can't open the windows. Now, not everyone believes in fan death, it's most the older generation. But it still trickles down even to our high school students. Oh gotta love it!

The Black Eyes Peas were in Seoul today...all the Korean news stations covered their press conference- top story. Just another hint of how much influence (whether good or bad) the states have around the world.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh Life

Today was the first day of school. My initial thoughts? I get paid to do this?!? In every other job I've had (except for those in college), I've had to "look busy". If I didn't have anything to do, I had to find something to do. What did I do today? Monday is the Springer's day to wake up the students, so I slept in until 10. At 11:30, the dorm team went out to an "American" Restaurant for lunch. It's amazing what they deem "American". Nevertheless, it was good food. We did some shopping for the dorm and came back in time for the students to come home from school. I then just had to keep tabs my girls. If they were going somewhere, they had to tell me or call me or text me. So, from 3 until 6, I played chess, chatted, watched Nanny 911 (one of the random American shows that is shown here) and just hung out. We went to dinner, and came back to watch some more American television. The show? So You Think You Can of my favorite shows.
It doesn't matter that they show it one season behind and I already know who's still a great show. Now it's study hall. Therefore, the girls have to be doing homework or reading for 1.5 hours. At 9:30, we'll have snack followed by devos and eventually, lights out. That's my job. Now, granted, Tuesdays are filled up with chapel and Mondays are with staff meetings and chapel practice, but it's still not too shabby. Thursdays are my days off and I get to hang out with the other RAs. I feel definitely blessed to be in this ministry! These high schoolers are pretty amazing and I can't wait to get to know them even better.

Random Korean Facts:

You can go to the eye doctor and buy a pair of glasses for around 20-30 insurance needed. Because of this, Koreans treat their glasses like shoes...they wear ones that match their outfits.

There is a juice here called Aloe juice. Yup, it's juice made from the plant. It's green and has chewy Aloe pieces in it. It's hard to explain, but it's actually kinda good.

As previously written in my blogs, American food products are crazy expensive here. But I didn't realize how much until I looked closer at the grocery store today. How much would you expect to pay for Hidden Valley salad dressing?? How about 9 bucks? What about Heinz Mustard? 4 Bucks? What about Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade?? 12 dollars. Looks like Sarah will be eating a lot of Korean food for the next few years.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dinner and a Movie

I feel as though my blogs as of late haven't been particularly deep in any way. But that's just where I am in life right now. I'm at the surface in a new part of my life, just biding my time until I can truly dive in deep. But for now, I'll just write about new and exciting things I discover here in Korea.

Last night, the dorm staff and our few new students (the returning students come today) went out to dinner and movie. We walked to a Japanese restaurant just down the street and I once again discovered the inexpensive cuisine offered here in Korea. For 6,000 Won (around 6 bucks) I got a huge portion of fish along with soup, cabbage, corn, rice, kimchi, and other veggies. Let's just say I couldn't quite conquer it. From there, we went to Say Department store. In Daejeon, we don't have malls, we have department stores. Inside, there are tons of restaurants and sub-stores so it looks just like a mall (but instead of taking up a lot of land, it has tons of floors). Well, we went to a movie in this department store (there's a theater in it too). What movie?? Transformers. It was shown in English with Korean subtitles. Seats at Korean movie theaters are assigned. You'd think that this means you wouldn't have to buy the tickets early. BUT, Koreans love their movies. You're best off buying online a few days in advance and then showing up to the theater 20 minutes early (at least on weekends). At the movie, the audience was mainly Korean except for a couple of our students and the 4 dorm staff members. As a result, there were times when we were laughing at jokes in the movie but the rest of the audience didn't understand them. So much of our humor doesn't translate or gets lost in the subtitles. Let's just say we got a lot of looks.

So, that was my first night out with the dorm. The rest of the students come today and school starts tomorrow. I'm excited to finally feel a sense of routine and discover what this whole RA thing is all about. Thanks for the replies and prayers. I miss you all!!

Random Korean Fact:

Even though several places and stores have English names, they are "Konglish" instead of straight up English. If I were to get into a taxi and say "HomePlus" (a Walmart-ish store), the driver wouldn't really understand me. However, if I said "hom-u plus-a", they would get it.

DVD Bangs are stores where you can rent a movie and then also a room to watch it in. There are different size rooms and different size TVs to watch the movies on, but you go with your friends, pick out a movie and then watch it right then and there.

There are parts of the city that look so advanced. The movie theater looks very futuristic as do some of the buildings and cars. But the streets are still narrow, there is garbage everywhere and some of the buildings look very old. It's almost like I'm living in two different time periods.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


We're in the middle of Breakaway student orientation. Springer dorm (where I am an RA) has only 2 new dorm students here and a few OCK's (Out of Country Kids...their parents are either missionaries or just live in another country). We've had activities, games, skits, rule sessions, worship, hang out time and mini-messages from some of our dorm dads. Today we went up to Suwon to our sister school and hung out there. For one of the games, they (being two of the RAs) asked for a volunteer from each dorm staff. Well, I had to go. The game? I had to chug a blended mixture of bananas, grapefruit juice, canned beats and shrimp fries (a snack here in Korea). Let's just say after two big gulps, I was done for. On the way back from Suwon, we stopped for dinner at an amazing Thai place and then walked around. We happened to be right next to the U.S. Military base so there were tons of American soldiers around (as well as families). The people in the shops spoke English, there were tons of knock-off stores (one of the RAs bought the movie Hairspray on DVD...hmm, isn't that still in theaters in the states??) but along with the great shopping, there were plenty of sad sights. It made me ashamed to be an American when I heard of what goes on around the base. We had to warn our high school boys that if a woman tries to talk to them that they need to get away from her as fast as possible beause she's probably a prostitute. How sad that the perimeter of a U.S. Military base is filled with filthly bars, night clubs and pimp houses...while I appreciate all they do for our country, many still need Jesus.

I've always like being busy. In college I thrived on activities. That being the case, God sure knew what He was doing. I hang out with kids all day, making sure they get from place to place and on top of that, I'm the co-leader for the middle and high school praise teams. I've helped to lead worship already this weekend and tomorrow will be time #2. I'm hanging out with kids in a foreign country and leading worship for my, God knew what He was doing. While I'm just begining to realize what it means to live in a place where few speak my language and values are so different, I'm holding fast to my calling and looking foward to an amazing (yet challenging) year here in South Korea!

Random Korean Facts:

Hierarchy is so important here. If you're in line at the store, an older person can just come in front of you, cutting you off. This isn't rude or inconsiderate, it's just accepted in the Korean culture for elders to have the right of way.

Koreans LOVE golf. When driving on a Korean highway, if you look to the left or right, chances are you'll see a big green net and frame. There are driving ranges everywhere. From the roof of supermarkets to the top of parking garages. They are everywhere. Koreans love their golf.

If you want to keep the mosquitos away, you buy a Mogi machine (mogi is the Korean word for mosquito). You put mogi oil in it and plug it into the wall. It emits a kind of bug spray in the air to kill and detract the bugs. Everyone seems to have one....

The legal drinking age in Korean is pretty insignificant. Kids as young as 13 can go into stores and cages (the Korean word for convenience store) and buy alcohol. Because of the large alcohol consumption (and the view of women in Korean society) domestic violence is a HUGE problem.

This is less of a fact and more of a funny story. I was in the store the other day and the song "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne came on the speakers. I started singing along with the first chorus but once the verses started, the singer and language changed to Korean. I obiously couldn't sing along. But once the chorus came on again, there was Avril, singing in English. I wonder how that Korean girl got that gig...Avril's Korean voice double.

Last random Korean fact for today?? I really love this country!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Good Ole' City Life

Surprisingly, the biggest adjustment I've been dealing with the past few days is not the fact that I'm living in a country with an unknown language but the fact that I'm living in a huge city. Daejeon is a city of 1.5 million, the majority living in high rise apartments. As previously stated, the school's front gate is just off a very busy (and neon lighted) street. In fact, my apartment is in a building outside of campus so it lies directly on a busy street. Tonight, Allison and I (the other new RA) ventured down the main street outside of the school and discoverd that city life is so crazy! We caught a cab with Angela, my dorm's mom and took it to downtown Daejeon. Now, if you've ever seen Times Square in NYC, multiply that by about 5 and you'll get the feeling for downtown. The streets are closed to cars and neon lights are EVERYWHERE! We were there are 9Pm and I could've worn sunglasses! What's crazy is that just a few blocks away from downtown is Old Downtown where during the day you can buy fresh fish and other goods from huts in typical old-school Asian style. But once the sun goes down, the huts are closed and the lights are turned on.

With all that said, the city life is hitting me hard. I've never been a city girl but I'm sure I'll adapt. Oh, today we went to Costco and they have cheese!!! Yes, this Wisconsin girl can still get her cheese (but it costs 8,000 won, equal to about 8 American dollars). I'm finding many American goods are readily available but cost an arm and a leg as opposed to the Korean goods which are generally dirt cheap. Anyway, enough rambling, not much else happened today. All the other RAs and faculty will be here tomorrow for meetings and convocation. Students come on Thursday....God prepare me! Thanks for your prayers!!

Random Korean Facts:
Cab rides are amazingly cheap....4 bucks is expensive!

Koreans know how to do shopping. Their dollar store (or 1000 Won Store) has stuff you wouldn't believe! Seriously, the quality of goods made my mouth drop and my wallet empty. Stores like HomeEver (Korean version of a Target type store) are HUGE! They all seem to have large food courts inside, several floors, extensive goods and one even had a driving range on the roof. Shopping in Korea = an amazing experience.

There are two different number systems in the Korean language! One set is used for money and the other for items. But once you get more than 20 items, you switch to the money system. I was so excited because I learned 1-10 in the money system and then went to the store. When the clerk asked me (in Korean) how many bags I wanted (you have to pay for every plastic bag you get at the store so you're better off bringing your own), I said "ee" which means 2 but 2 in the money system. I was so excited that I new the right word only to find out later that I was wrong. I should've said "dual"...oh's gonna be a tough language to learn!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Yes... I Live in Korea

For 3 full days now, I've lived in the city of Daejeon, South Korea. The verdict? I LOVE it. The school that I'm working at is right in the middle of the city. Just a few yards from the gate and you're on a very busy street filled with random stores, coffee shops and various other restaurants. Let's just say it's a world away from Marion, IN. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but I'm definately in Asia. The streets are about as wide as alleys, drivers are crazy, rice is sold in dog food bagsand some of the most peculiar things happen. That's why I'll be including "Random Korean Facts" in the blog (see below). My apartment is small but it's home. I live on the 5th and 6th floors of a dorm just off campus (stairs inside my apartment go to my bedroom), my sweet round windows overlook a busy city street and just a few blocks away is a university of around 20,000 students. The staff thus far is absolutely wonderful. The rest of the dorm staff arrives tomorrow and the students get here on Thursday. Now that I'm over jet lag and have my apartment unpacked I can't wait for the students to get here. 32 boys and girls (I'm directly over 16 girls)!!! Everday, I wake up- think "wow, I'm living in Asia, working at a Christian school in student development" and I marvel at how I got here. God is so good and so stinking wise. He knew exactly what I needed and what had to be taken away from me to step out into His plan. I'm living by myself in a foreign land completely out of my comfort zone and I LOVE it. Thank you God for knowing what we need eons before we know it ourselves.

Well, Gilmore Girls is playing on my TV and I have a few more pictures to hang up, so this is the end. Thanks for reading! And an-young-ka-seo (one of the forms of good-bye).

In HomePlus (basically a Korean Walmart Supercenter) every half and hour or so, the employees all stand at the end of their respective isles and sing along with a song played over the loud system. In fact, they have choreography that goes with it. Once the song is done, they bow and go back to work like nothing happened.

When you go to nicer restaurants, you take off your shoes and place them in cubbies by the entrance.

It's completely normal for members of the samesex to hold hands in public. It doesn't mean anything homosexual, it's just an acceptable way that good friends show their affection for each other, male or female.

Churches all have large, red neon crosses on the top of their buildings and since many are just one floor of very tall buildings, these crosses tower above the streets. When you're driving into Seoul or Daejeon, you can see tons of neon crosses lighting up the night sky. It's actually amaszing.