Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I just bought a café mocha at Holly’s Coffee down the street from my apartment building. Though my regular is a caramel macchiato anywhere I go, I chose the café mocha tonight. Perhaps I wanted to go down a familiar road—one that certainly lead my head and heart back to my last year or two at Juniata.

Perhaps it was the café mocha, perhaps it is simply the knowledge that everyone is currently cramming and stressing out over due dates and requirements—what I know for certain is that I wish I was right back in that atmosphere again. Walking home along my noisy, dirty, night-lit city street, I actually placed my mind back to my beloved Juniata College campus. There was many a night when I would walk home from our tiny Jitters coffee shop armed with my café mocha in preparation for a long night of studying. It would usually be around 11pm when I would finish some activity like swing dancing, or some group project meeting, and I would have a whole evening’s worth of homework left to do before the next morning. My mind pictured the Juniata quad—beautiful, serene, and lightly lit by lanterns around the lawn. Sometimes, I’d even be barefooted, so I’d intentionally stay off the sidewalks in order to feel the cool, moist grass beneath my feet. Oh—I wouldn’t dare remove my shoes for my walk home tonight… but I suppose I can dream and remember those days when I lived in that tiny little world called Juniata…

Some of you may think I’m crazy right now for actually wanting to be back there—in the midst of Juniatians cramming for finals. Would you believe I even uttered the words to myself, “I wanna go back to school.”? I certainly did, and I certainly do. All in due time. For now, I reminisce.

I’m worlds away from what I once knew as home and family, yet I also know this world is actually quite small and it gets smaller day by day. Last week, a former Juniata history professor of mine (Prof. Doug Stiffler) was here in Seoul. We didn’t get a chance to meet, but he “facebook-friended” me and he was very interested in what living in Seoul is like for a Juniatian. I loved replying to his message, because I feel that my college did an excellent job in preparing me for making the most of my experiences abroad and growing the most out of it. In that respect, I’m sure he loved reading my reply. In a few weeks, another Juniatian will join our group of 5+ former Juniatians here in the Seoul metropolitan area. Perhaps part of the reason why I’m longing for Juniata once again is from these small reminders of my memories and friends from college.

I’m in a transition time again here in South Korea. Chronologically speaking, I am officially moving past my half-way point here. My weekly pattern is regular, somewhat predictable, and comfortable. Mondays through Fridays, I teach from 10am to 6pm. I come home, eat something, maybe go grocery shopping, watch tv, relax, and hang out online for the rest of the night. Sometimes, I study Korean and a bit of Spanish. Tuesday nights are different, because I have worship team practice for church on Sundays. Friday nights, I usually just want to relax, especially considering all my friends have later work schedules than me. Every other Saturday, I wake up at 8am to prepare for Global Generation, a volunteer English Bible-teaching program through my church. That’s over at noon, so I usually hang out with friends locally after that. Sometimes, I visit my brother in Ilsan on Saturdays. Sunday is my Korean lesson, then church, then dinner with church friends, to our favorite coffee shop, then back home to start all over again with Monday.
This regular thing is not good anymore. I will tell you why. Since I arrived here, a lot of stuff has been quite easy for me. My number one first goal: to find a church. Check that off the list after 2 weeks, since a co-worker of mine tagged me along to the English service at her 8,000 member church on my 2nd Sunday after arrival. I mentioned there that I like to sing, so presto chango, it didn’t take long for word to get around that I was joining the worship team (‘twas news to me). Membership on the worship team=instant Korean and foreigner friends. By the way, did I mention the fact that my older brother has been here for three years? He and his Korean fiancée were automatically an established support group as I entered this country. EVERYTHING was easy. Even getting here was easy. Nothing really came with difficulty or effort (except the Korean I choose to study every once in a while :().

For those of you who care, did you notice that there isn’t any mention of God or Jesus in, like, any of this entry? Take a look at my weekly schedule paragraph. Nada. Nothing. Sure, there’s ‘worship team this’ and ‘church’ that, but God is absent from my weekly schedule. Where has the passion gone? I am at a standstill. I am stagnant and comfortable, when I do not think about Jesus. Even if I remember Him, I pay attention for maybe two days, but then, it’s back to the grindstone without a care. My heart is changing. I am moving away from Him and not really caring about much. I mention to friends that I will pray for them, but all I do is stick their name up on my wall—to give the appearance that I’m actually fulfilling my promises. How did my heart become so lifeless and cold? I can’t fake it anymore.

I have chased after the wind. I have had my time of seeking knowledge, beauty, wealth, pride, and physical pleasure. Everything is meaningless. Everything leaves me empty. Everything reminds me that my heart is seeking more. And this thing that I am seeking is constantly seeking me out. Jesus. It is time for a change. It is time for a change in me that will begin with my heart and stem out from there. It is time for resurrection. I cannot ignore Him any longer. He has promised me—He has actually promised ME that He will never let me go. He will never give up on me. I constantly let go of Him. I have watched several people let go of Him, but more than it grieves my heart to watch them turn, it grieves His heart to watch His Creation turn away. This Man—this Jesus—is the only Person who has never left me. This Jesus is the One who simply whispered “My child” one night while I was wailing on my bed because of my parent’s divorce. I feared and I was alone. He spoke and comforted me. This Jesus is the only One who walks home from church with me on the shady, unlit back-street. I have joy and I sing to Him. This Jesus is MY Jesus, and my God’s a BIG God.

There will be change. There will be love. There will be spontaneity. There will be life and new growth once again. The branches will no longer be tossed away to be used as firewood, but they will be green and bear fruit once again. I am coming back. Switchfoot has a really lame song that probably never made it to their top 10 or whatever, but it’s always been one of my favorites of theirs, “24.” The song is about how the guy sees his life as he’s getting older…how regular and normal his life had become. I will not settle.

I wanna see miracles To see the world change Wrestled the angel for more than a name For more than a feeling For more than a cause I'm singing 'Spirit, take me up in arms with You'And You're raising the dead in me

God is God and I am not. There will be change.

Mr. Rogers

“I am beginning to feel like Mr. Rogers,” I realized upon entering my home earlier this evening. As I remembered my dear old TV friend from long ago, retracing the steps to his song as he came home each episode, somehow, tears welled up in my eyes. That emotion caused a chuckle at myself, and has now spurred this blog entry to you lovely folk.

Why Mr. Rogers? Well, I entered, took off my coat, hung it in the closet (a task of which all of my family know I am quite challenged), put on my house slippers, and continued on with my normal after-work routine. (It was the hanging up of the coat that sparked my memory.) Sometimes, I even change into more comfortable clothes, just as Mr. Rogers put on his house coat after hanging up his jacket in the closet. J I’m sure that was intriguing for you. I tell you this mundane story just because it is something mundane. I have mundane here in Korea. I have a routine. What’s more, I can laugh at myself because of it. For some reason, though, the thought of Mr. Rogers and this mundane-ness brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps it was the thought of connecting to something of my past. Perhaps the tears were caused by a realization that I have something like home here—something like routine and stability. *Smile.* Perhaps I cried simply at the fact that I hung my coat up two times in a row.

Either way, I suppose I can tell you a little more of the life I live here, now that it’s been 5+ months. The other day, I forgot how old I am in America…for the 2nd time. Now, I need to spare you all the details (and me all the effort) of explaining exactly what this means…but I’ll simply state that Korean ages are not the same as American ages. I think I have it down now: I am 22 in America, but 24 in Korea. I know my Korean age for sure, so, Mom, please correct me if I’m off on the American one. Seriously, though, I just had to laugh at myself TWICE after this ridiculous mistake. The first time, I was signing up online for this traveler thing called “couch surfers.” As I entered my birthday, it said I was 23 in age. I looked really hard at it and thought, “I’m not 23, AM I? .. How old AM I in America??” I determined that the website was wrong and I really was, in fact, 22 in America. May 9, 1986. AAAND the second time I got confused was talking to my college friend Nikki who just arrived here last week to teach English. I’m so glad I can laugh about all of this, because it really is something people don’t forget at such a young age.

Let’s see…next random thing: my apartment Christmas lights are still up. This is Gibson-Weyforth-style, yo, but no, they do not remain up because of any laziness or physical impairment that has disabled me from removing them from my *doorway*. Really take no offense at that—I was part of the lazy crew that was able, but not willing, to remove the lights at home after the holiday season was long gone. I leave my lights up purely as an attempt at an apartment decoration. You see, my dollar-store-equivalent lights have 15 different settings (only one of which I use). The BEST setting is when the bulbs dim from blue to yellow to green to red…slowly fading in and out of color. :D Cooler than any American lights, yo.

OH! I bought an aloe plant finally! Aunt Barb ALWAYS had aloe at her house, which was just the COOLEST thing, so I finally found one small enough for me to nurture. As an added bonus, I bought a rosemary plant, too!! I <3 rosemary in cooking.

Have you heard about the yellow dust in Asia? Well, it’s YELLOW DUST time here! Fine-blown sands and pollutants fly in on the winds that blow the Gobi desert to our doorsteps. These yummy pollutants reach even over the East Sea to Japan! And this, my dear friends and family, is the reason for the characteristic eye and eyelash shape of the Asian people. J This fact came from my big bro Gabe, so if I’m wrong, blame him… but it totally makes sense to me. Over time, the people had to develop physical traits that would protect them from these blowing desert sands…long, thin eyes and eyelashes that basically tilt down (instead of curl up and out like all women [and some men] want them to do). As an added bonus, Korean people developed the tendency toward like zero hair on their body…this plays into the desert scene somehow, but I don’t really remember…
I now have a real, authentic, point card! Yes, hold your applause…it’s just that Koreans have cards for everything and everywhere you go…so much so that it’s nearly a close call to be able to find the correct card in your 2-inch thick card holder in order to receive your 50 cent discount at the movie theater before your movie starts. I now have an awesome Superman point card (from LG Telecom, my hand-uh pone provider), a COSTCO card, a Café Plain Vanilla card, a Bandi & Luni’s Bookstore card, and a Body Shop card—none of which are credit cards. J Yay, I’m turning Korean.

Now that I’ve mentioned Café Plain Vanilla, I shall tell you of a sweet evening I had there alone just last week. I decided to take some work home with me, as I needed to complete my kids’ report cards to hand in the next day. I had been waiting for an excuse to go to Café Plain Vanilla alone, as it became my favorite café after one visit with a fellow foreigner friend a few months back. I took my tote bag with the incomplete reports on the 10-minute walk to this café on the happenin’ Rodeo street this one fine evening and climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor café. Sitting myself down on a cushioned bar stool at a lighted work desk, I ordered a Peach Jasmine Smoothie and began my work. Every once in a while, I looked around me to take in the scene: a group of friends barefoot and enjoying wine over in the pillow and low Korean table area, or to look at the clever way the restaurant owners created a hanging light out of dried flowers wound around what looked like a small strand of Christmas bulbs. The place just makes me smile. It warms, it glows, and the music even soothes the soul. The mix that night was a variety of interesting international songs—some in English, some in Korean, some simple jazz, and one very nice song in French. It is this French song that made my night perfect, instead of a tedious chore of grading. As soon as the first few chords and words fell onto my contemplative ears, I smiled to myself, chuckled, and travelled back in time to the days at Juniata College when I was “studying hard” in the international house with good friends, downloading tons of swing dancing music into my computer, and enjoying life to the fullest in those very moments. The song?

Je ne veux pas travaillerJe ne veux pas déjeunerJe veux seulement oublierEt puis je fume
I don't want to work, I don't want to lunch I only want to forget and so I smoke.
~Pink Martini

The rest of the song is rather dreary, if you ask me, but the meaning of the words in English isn’t what draws me to the song—it’s the memories behind it that matter. If you were part of any of those memories, I hope you can have those times of reliving them, as I did. If you are not, I still hope you can enjoy your times of basking in the memories of yesteryear.

So it seems this email was one about life and not really about work and play. Perhaps I owe you another blog post soon about the updates concerning my school and all that entails.
I love you all. Until next time.