Friday, August 1, 2014

서래마을 - Seorae Maeul, Seoul's French Village

Pain au chocolat. I have not seen one in years. La France me manque...
My previous long-term experience abroad, a semester in France, is now three years in my past, but I still get nostalgic when I think about the amazing time I had. I wish I could go back! But since that's an impossibility at the moment, I suppose I could settle for Korea's only French enclave, the Seorae Village in Seoul!

I don't want to hype it up too much. It's a small neighborhood in Banpo-dong, south of the Han River, where several hundred French people live. The Lycée Français de Séoul is located here, and the cultural influence is pretty visible. Many of the cafes and shops have a French or European theme, and some signs are written in Korean and in French.
The awesome mural on the side of the French School in Seorae Maeul. Bonjour! 봉주르!
Quick vocab: 서래 is prononced "seo-rae". 마을 ("ma-eul") means "village" in Korean. France is transliterated into Korean as 프랑스, or "ph-rang-ss".

So last Monday, I visited Seorae Maeul with Monica. I wasn't sure what to expect, maybe picturesque streets and some French people walking around? To be honest, we were slightly disappointed because there didn't seem to be that much to see or do. I took a lot of pictures, and we walked around the neighborhood and the local park, aptly named Montmartre, as it's on the top of a hill. We didn't see or hear any French! I'd really hoped that I'd run into somebody to chat with. And even though it's supposed to evoke Paris, there's more of an international village vibe than a "Little Paris" one: we passed lots of Japanese restaurants and a few American bars. Hélas... At least it was a nice day for walking.
Monica doing her modeling thang in the park.
There were quite a few wine shops in the neighborhood; this was a restaurant that kept all its empty bottles on display outside...
The highlight might have been the pain au chocolat and drinks we got at the local Paris Croissant. Paris Croissant is a Korean chain of bakeries. They are generally of a higher quality than the ubiquitous and related Paris Baguette chain; in fact, this Paris Croissant is said to import its flour directly from France. The breads and pastries were fantastic. I haven't had such good bread in ages! The basement of this Paris Croissant also sells French chocolates, macarons, wine, AND CHEESE. Du fromage français! En Corée! And not in a Costco! Of course, it was expensive, but it was still a delightful find. Monica and I bought some to take home with us, and we feasted later that evening.
The bakery section of this huge Paris Croissant. Une boulangerie français en Corée!
Des croissants! La patisserie était parfaitement friable!
Des petites tartines chocolates avec d'or?! Gold leaf on a chocolate tart?!
Macaron towers! Trop beaux, trop élégant!
Jus de kiwi et d'orange et du thé de pamplemousse et fruits rouges!
Gga-mang-be-reu Chi-jeu. Du camembert! J'en ai acheté une meule. :)
Et, bien sur, du pain! Une vrai baguette...!
So that's about it for Seorae Village: cute cafes, a park, and an amazing bakery! I don't know what I might have missed, but there just wasn't much there to begin with, I think. It's a nice place to spend an afternoon, but not really worth putting on your bucket list.

To get to Seorae Village, you can take the subway to the Express Bus Terminal Station (lines 3, 7, and 9), and go out of exit #5. Head down the tree-lined path by the stream for about ten minutes, until you reach a pedestrian walkway that crosses above the road on your left. Then follow the signs in English for Seorae Village. You'll know you're in it when you see the Paris Croissant or see signs written in French. You can also take 마을 bus #13 directly to the bottom of the street.

Amusez-vous bien à Seorae Maeul! A plus!
Au revoir! Merci pour avoir lu mon blog! Commentez, s'il vous plaît! Etes-vous allé à Seorae Maeul, ou les autres quartiers français dans les autres pays? Comment avez-vous les trouvé? Have you ever been to Seorae Maeul or other French neighborhoods in other countries? What'd you think?
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Vacation

Where did July go? It's hard for me to look at the calendar and see August 7th coming up in just one week. That's when I fly home. But for the past few days, I've been just chilling, meeting up with old friends, and generally not thinking about endings. This has been my summer vacation! Two weeks spent bumming around Seoul and northern parts of the country (followed soon by two weeks of lazing around California). Okay, get ready for a lot of selfies!
Lauren and me after reaching the "peak" of a local mountain in Sanbon!
After I left Cheonan last Thursday, I went to Sanbon (산본), one of Seoul's many suburbs in Gyeonggi-do, to stay with a friend from college, Lauren. I literally hadn't seen her since I graduated two years ago, so it was wonderful to spend so much time with her and her family. We went hiking, jammed together, and caught up on each other's lives. Lauren, who like me studied linguistics at Swat, also helped with translations for the Jeju dictionary.
With friends new and old in Seoul!
On Saturday, I went up to Seoul and spent the next few days meeting up with old friends, many of whom are soon leaving Korea (or have by now already left). It was bittersweet; I've grown so close to them over the past two years, and even though we're all headed back to the US, they'll be going to different parts of the country, and meeting up won't be as simple as a two- or three-hour bus ride anymore. Before Jake left, we got chicken and beer. Before Andrew M. left, we played tons of Settlers of Catan and mahjong. Before Hana left, we ate the best of food in the restaurants and cafes around Seoul's Garosugil.
Mahjong with Andrew and Monica, and also Monica's mom!
Despite goodbyes, I was also saying a lot of hellos by reconnecting with old friends who are in Seoul for the summer, like Terrance and Rachel, whom I met at church and haven't seen for two years, or Hae-in, a close college friend who first introduced me to the Korean language and who also visited my school in Changwon once! When I hung out with Terrance and Rachel in Hongdae, we had a haircut date, and all three of us went to Punk Shalom. The only problem was that it was closed, so we went to another salon down the street. I wanted to do something a little bit crazy (don't freak out, Mom and Dad!) so I decided to dye my hair silver! Well, gray. Well, first, yellow. In order for black hair to become "ash" color, it has to be bleached three times. And then dyed. Boy, my scalp was burning by the end! And this is what my head looks like now!
Newly silver-coiffed me in the middle, with Terrance and Rachel!
Other Seoul adventures included a trip to the French village and the War Memorial of Korea. I'll make separate posts about those shortly.

Right now I'm writing this from Jungwon University in Goesan, where Fulbright Orientation is held every year. Today, I gave a few workshops for the new BETAs ("Baby" English Teaching Assistants!) and also sat in to watch their Placement Ceremony. My own Placement Ceremony was two whole years ago... Good memories! This time around, it was fun to see the new ETAs find out where they are going to teach for one year. Some were stony-faced; others couldn't hide their happiness.

And, well, placement... you know what that means! I met the ETA who is going to my old school, Changwon Science High School. Her name is Courtney, and she's great! With a background in engineering and a ton of enthusiasm for the ways she can connect with her students, I'm already really confident that she'll be successful. Tomorrow we'll meet up again, and I'm looking forward to giving her the letters our students wrote for their new teacher!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Drim School English Camp

Teachers and volunteers for the Drim School's first English camp! Left to right: Debbie, Hannah, Carolyn, Leslie, Min, me, Alanna, Dianna, and Nikki.
Hello from Cheonan! I have spent the past two days teaching at an English camp for the Drim School (드림학교). This school is a 대안학교 (alternative school) for teenagers and young adults who are North Korean defectors (탈북청소년). They study in order to catch up on years of lost or insufficient education, become more adjusted to life in South Korea, and eventually take Korean primary and secondary school exit exams so that they can apply to university.

The Drim School, founded in 2003, is affiliated with the Korea Theological Seminary (고려신학대학원) in Cheonan and has been working with Fulbright Korea for about five years. Fulbright ETAs teach volunteer English classes there weekly. This English camp, however, was the first of its kind at the school. The volunteers wanted to provide something similar to the summer camps that the Drim School students can't normally afford. We prepared a program with English classes, cultural activities, games, and lots of time to make new friends and build strong relationships.

I was assigned to teach the lowest-level English students, which means lessons on recognizing letters and the basics of English phonics. This was surprising for me at first, since I teach fairly high-level students at my regular school. However, I learned that the reason I was given the low-level students was that I can speak and understand at least some Mandarin Chinese. The students who cannot speak English are mostly those who have only very recently arrived in South Korea, usually from China. Since they have spent years living in China (and may even consider themselves Chinese rather than Korean), they are completely fluent in Mandarin but have little to no grasp of English. A handful are not even conversational in Korean, so even the regular Drim School teachers have some trouble communicating or connecting with them.

Me with some "star"* students during the scavenger hunt!
One such student was OH. He arrived in South Korea no more than one month ago and speaks only Mandarin and very basic Korean. It wasn't hard to figure out why he looked so lost and lonely all the time; while he could talk to most of the other students in Mandarin, every other exchange in his life was conducted in rapid Korean. Even though he is Korean, he was just as confused as any non-Korean is when they first get here.

OH was in my class, and at our first meeting I told all my students straight off the bat, in Mandarin, that if they ever had any questions or problems and wanted to ask me, they could do so in whatever language they felt most comfortable with. Since I was the only volunteer in the camp who could speak it, many students chose to chat with me in Mandarin (or in a mix of Mandarin and Korean). Even though I'm well out of practice, not having studied it for three years, I welcomed the opportunity to practice and, more importantly, to connect with kids who may have gone months or even years without a teacher who can understand them in what they consider their native language. It was so wonderful to see how OH opened up, not just to me, but to his peers as well, over the course of the camp. I don't really know what his performance was like during the past semester, but he certainly proved to be a diligent student, taking notes in my class and asking me questions, volunteering for every game, and putting in a genuine effort to memorize the numbers from one to twenty.

Besides English classes, I also co-led an extracurricular class on guitar and songwriting with my friend Alanna. At first, we had no sign-ups, but eventually we had too many students in the classroom to keep the class under control! It was very loud and very fun; we just taught two simple chords and a strumming pattern and wrote a simple song about love. (It tastes like sweet chocolate and feels like the warm sun.) I think that more than anything, the students learned that learning how to play the guitar isn't easy! I'd forgotten how much it hurts your fingers when you first start out. But I think they all enjoyed it, anyway.

Hannah and me with the 동그라미 (circle) group!
There were other cultural activities, like t-shirt tie-dyeing, baking, and a Konglish photo scavenger hunt, that were quite enjoyable. I'm really impressed with how much effort the other volunteers put into their classes and activities. I myself was scrambling to throw together my lessons right up until the start of camp, because I literally moved out of my apartment the day before it opened and had been very busy and just a bit frazzled. Though like any camp, it had its hectic moments, unexpected snafus, and last-minute schedule changes, overall, I think it went splendidly. It was only two days, but that was enough for me to get close with my students and show them some love.

The vice principal of the school mentioned in her closing ceremony speech tonight that she was grateful that through our camp, the kids could experience some of God's love. And it hadn't occurred to me before, but I guess it's true. The Drim School, along with the majority of non-governmental South Korean-led initiatives to help North Korean defectors and achieve peninsular reunification, is an evangelical Christian mission. I have to admit I rather admire the passion that the Korean church has for reunification (this is despite my personal misgivings about its actual possibility in the near future), and I am grateful for the way their devotion to God has translated into tangible good works for those in need.

My father, who just finished a missionary English camp of his own in Taiwan, asked me recently if I had used my time in South Korea to share the Gospel with my students or others in my community. The simple answer is no, unfortunately, but now I wonder if there can be such a thing as "passive witnessing," wherein my students know that I am a Christian and can observe how I live and act in light of this information, or else I volunteer with the Drim School and reinforce the school's teaching that all good things are a blessing from God, including fun foreign teachers who speak Chinese.

I also admitted to a friend a while back that I'd sort of marked the last two years in South Korea as a spiritual lost cause -- this was mostly in reference to my frustration with church before I started attending Redeemer -- but on the other hand, I might be looking at things overly pessimistically. No one is a lost cause to God. He isn't in the habit of giving up on people, so I won't give up, either.

Okay, sorry for the tangent. Anyway, I am very happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to help with the Drim School's very first English camp, and I wish my students all the best in the years to come. I'll surely visit them when I return to Korea in the future.

- - -
* I'm covering my North Korean defector students' faces with stickers in my photos, because I am not allowed to show them anywhere online for security reasons.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scattered Thoughts

Me with friends at El Loco!
Well, I got hit by a car while riding a bike today. It was bound to happen, I think. I'm lucky, though: the guy was waiting to make a right, and he inched forward just as I was passing in front of him, so he only clipped my back wheel. I regained balance quickly and kept going after throwing him a dirty look.

Twelve hours until I vacate my apartment and leave Changwon for good. Time to start packing.

I've had a great weekend. Even I'm meeting people to say goodbye, it's not so much sad as it is fondly reminiscent. I finally went to El Loco, Changwon's rave-reviewed Mexican restaurant. Not bad! Portions kind of small, margaritas very very strong. Said my goodbyes to Soo, Eunjin, and Yeongbin.

Oh, and Friday night was my last outing with taekgyeon folks. I brought a tub of Baskin Robbins to the bar! We stayed out until around 1:30, and they got really drunk and kept telling me not to go back to America. Aww.
Taekgyeon folks and our two masters (on my right and left)

Today was my last day at church, my third and last time playing keys for the worship band. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have been part of Redeemer, even though it was for a short time. I had a nice sendoff, then a nice meal at Bombay with church folks. I'll miss them.

Moving out is a pain in the neck.

It's been rather amusing coming up with ways to use up all the food left in the pantry. I make my own jjajangmyeon with spaghetti and boxed jjajang. I've been eating cereal with peanut butter because I'm out of milk. Well, actually I've been eating cereal with peanut butter because I love peanut butter and would add it to anything.

Season one of Orphan Black was incredible. Tatiana Maslany is a genius.

I'm going to pierce my ears before I leave Korea. It's an idiosyncrasy of mine to get a piercing after a significant life milestone, and I think two years of teaching can qualify.

And to think I still have lesson plans to finish... Sigh. Okay, but I really must start packing now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Day

“Good morning, UJ!”
“Teacher, last day!”
“Yes, today is my last day…”
Classes were canceled today (but of course) for student performances and the semester closing ceremony. I was disappointed that I couldn't have my last class with my first-years, but I had a lot of other stuff on my plate that I had to take care of, anyway. First on the list was a letter to the new teacher explaining everything about our school. I gave myself a week to finish it, and it ended up being 14 pages long. I also had to clean up the computers and my desk, which felt strange... and I ran around the school giving some teachers and students gifts at the last minute. Students kept coming into my office all day with goodbye letters they'd written for me, and I was very happy and grateful. But I was too busy to let my emotions take over.
"So you're leaving tomorrow?"
"Monday, actually."
"And you're never coming back?"
"No. Uh, I mean... well, I'll probably come back; I just don't know when."
"You know, I always find that on important days, I'm not as emotional as I think I should be. What I mean is, after the day is over, I look back and think that I should have been more happy, or more sad."
"Well, I don't know. I think for me, I just want to act as I normally do. I wouldn't want my emotions to be dictated by my thoughts or expectations."
At the closing ceremony, I watched my students sing and dance for the last time... then awards were handed out, the principal gave a speech, and I gave some final words. Flashback to two years ago, when I looked out at 180 young faces for the first time and said, "안녕하십니까?" Seriously, two years ago?

My speech was short. I reiterated the three points I'd made (up on the spot) when I was interviewed for the school newspaper. What parting advice would I give my students? Number one: please try to get more sleep. Not in class, of course, but in your dormitories. Number two: although you are all bound to be high-achieving, successful people in the future, please remember that your worth, your value as a human being, cannot be measured by your academic performance. Remember that what is most important is not what school you go to or how much you make, but who you are inside. Number three: please keep in touch! Although I am saying goodbye, I prefer to say, "See you later." My eyes became a bit damp at the end, but I held actual tears at bay.
"Teacher, will I see you next semester?"
"No, you won't..."
"Oh, no... really?"
"I'm sorry!"
"Teacher, I almost cried when you talked... what was it? You said, 'remember your value'... I was so... ah... Teacher, I'll miss you!"
"건강하세요. Stay healthy and happy."
After the final bell rang, I paid one last visit to the hallway by the environmental science classroom, accompanied by the earth science teacher who was my gym buddy this past semester. He told me to stay healthy and gave me a hug. I said my goodbyes silently.
"Teacher, can we take a picture?"
"Of course! I love taking pictures!"
"Dear Andrew... I want to tell you something. When you were in this country, you made many people happy. At least the students of this school, could enjoy an english class every week. So, when you go back, you should be happy and proud of yourself that you gave us a big present i love, and a nice memory. I hope whenever you think of Korea, you feel really nice. Thank you for your existance!


That's when I cried. Finally. As I sat on my bed at home with farewell letters all around me and the rain and thunder going nuts outside. I was so touched, so blown away by the affection of people I've only known for a short time. Everyone wants to be able to make a difference in others' lives, and to be validated like this, with such genuine, heartfelt gratitude from a student, was just the thing to get this stoic to shed a tear.

I will miss this... but I won't say goodbye.

See you later!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

지리산에 비가 오는 날 - Rainy Day at Jirisan

Ghosts hiking Jirisan...
Jirisan (지리산/智異山(1)) is one of South Korea's most famous mountain ranges. It spans three provinces in the south of the peninsula and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. About one hundred of these visitors are students from my school! The second-years have an annual trip to Jirisan, and this time, I went along.

The plan was to walk part of the way up to the mountain -- the peak, being 1915 meters/6283 feet, was definitely not doable -- and visit a temple famous for its 비구니, or Buddhist nuns, a nature/culture educational park, and a museum dedicated to a 16th-century Confucian scholar named 남명 who apparently built a school on the mountain.

Unfortunately, the weather was pretty awful all day. It rained on and off, and everyone was given thin rain coats to wear during the hike. It was like wearing a garbage bag, actually. I got wet from the rain and from the sweat produced because the plastic poncho wasn't breathable. Despite this, I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my students. During the nature walk, I chatted with them and mostly ignored the tour guide, admitting to my students that although I can understand some Korean, a full-on lecture was beyond me. But he talked about some of the special flora and fauna of the mountain, including Korean kiwis and some kind of tiger, and also showed us a mud house that was built decades ago when people still lived deep in the forest.

After the hike and a lunch of mountain herbs bibimbap, a bunch of students jumped into the river and had a massive water fight -- in the rain, no less! That was a lot of fun to watch; I would have joined in, too, but I hadn't brought a change of clothes...
Water fight!
The museum was boring, not gonna lie. And after that, we visited Jirisan High School, Korea's only completely free private school, for a short (and somewhat awkward) educational exchange. Their school is very interesting: it's extremely small, with a student body of about 50, and their educational focus is on service and building citizenship. The students are extremely well-mannered! I'll admit it: when they did their 인사, or bowing greeting, in perfect unison, our students seemed pretty 촌스럽다(2) in comparison... On the other hand, this school's shoestring budget is funded only by monthly private donations and receives very little support from the Gyeongnam Provincial Office of Education, whereas CSHS is like this giant magnet for scholarships and corporate sponsorship and all that. I felt awkward when I watched our school's introduction video because it flaunted just how well-funded we are and made Jirisan High School look, well, pretty 촌스럽다 in comparison.

And that was that! I had a good day, despite not being able to see the full beauty of Jirisan and not really learning too much from what was supposed to be an educational field trip. The good thing was that I got some photos with my students. I'll try to take more tomorrow, which is the last day of school!
Me with one of the second-year classes. They are all 찝찝해(3) and kind of miserable, but somehow look somewhat happy!
- - -
(1) 지리산 means something along the lines of "Mountain of Strange/Secret/Alternative Wisdom". The vice principal tried to explain to me exactly what it meant, but I never really understand what he is saying to me. I figured out, though, that the students go on this trip annually so that they can find some sort of wisdom and build character. Haha.
(2) 촌스럽다 describes things that are humble and perhaps uncivilized because they're out in the countryside; rustic, unsophisticated, provincial.
(3) 찝찝해 -- I don't know if I spelled that right -- means drenched or uncomfortably wet.

P.S. Today was my last day of taekgyeon training... I think 사범님 was actually tearing up as we finished. I kept thinking, "This is the last time I'll do X," X being whatever stretching, kicking, or sparring skill we went through. And when we ended with 명상, or meditation, I let my mind wander back to the very first day of taekgyeon, sixteen months ago... And the very last day will be tomorrow, when instead of training, we're just going out for drinks and stuff.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Going, going...

A few letters from students, including a gorgeous poster from my third-years!
Should I have made a bigger deal out of my leaving? I've been downplaying my imminent departure so much that I wonder if my students have really digested the reality of it all. I know I haven't, not really. This has been the week of "last classes", and they have mostly looked like this: I pass out class awards, tell the students via riddle or just straight up that I'm going back to the States for grad school, and then show Video Game High School or play Mafia. Then the bell rings, the students leave, and I sit at my desk and wonder if I should be, like, emotional or anything. I think one thing I am going to regret is that I haven't set aside any time to take class photos with my students.

Tomorrow, the second-years are going on a field trip to Jirisan, and I will join them, so there's a good opportunity to "catch up," so to speak. All the photos I take will end up on Facebook, and now that my contract is officially over, I think I can start adding my students as friends. In this way, at least, goodbye isn't really goodbye, since we can easily keep in touch online. Still, what I'll miss the most is physically being with my students, and no social network can replace that.

I'm having my first-year students write letters to the new Fulbright teacher who will replace me this fall. The letters are very cute, and so far they give good insight into the students' personalities. Some students surprised me by writing very thoughtful letters or by writing more than I expected of them. Other students surprised me by writing me a letter instead of focusing on the assignment I gave them. Well, I'm not going to take issue with that. :) I've gotten a few other letters from students, which I will cherish. I'm really touched when students take the time to show me that I've made some sort of impact on their lives, as brief as my time here has been. So yes, even the sheet of paper that says nothing but, "I love you, Teacher! Forever," and a bunch of hearts is going in my keepsakes box.

All of my third-years wrote something in a large card they gave me today. Since it was our last class, and since I like them enough to hand them twenty bucks and permission to go to the corner convenience store, I treated them to ice cream! And we blogged, of course. Ah, these are the students I taught for four semesters. I'll miss them a lot.

Oh! Unrelated: our school cohir had a mini-concert today. One of the songs they performed was called "Flying Free"; it was very beautiful. The other was "Hava Nagila", and I thought it was strange to hear Hebrew being sung from my Korean students' mouths... but my Asian church choir has sung in plenty of different languages before, so I guess I shouldn't make a big deal out of it! I really enjoyed their performance! Check out the videos below.

So... really. I'm looking at nothing but a day trip with students tomorrow, and then Friday, which is just a half-day. The last day. But it still hasn't registered yet.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

작별 인사 스피치 - Farewell Speech

Today, I went to the community center Korean class for the last time, sat down to write a short essay for the last time, asked the Korean tutors to check my work for the last time... and gave a speech for the last time. I haven't been going to the class regularly this semester due to busyness, but it was an integral part of my life in Changwon for my first year and a half. I'm very thankful for the 창원한글학당 (Changwon Korean Class) because it helped keep me motivated to study Korean. Anyway, here's the speech I wrote, with the translations beneath.

시간이 너무 빨리 지나갔죠? 다음 주 월요일에 저는 창원을 떠날겁니다. 그 때 이 주일 반 후에 한국을 떠날겁니다. 저는 달력을 보다가 걱정하거나 멘붕 와야 한다고 생각하는데, 실제로는 아주 침착합니다. 대개 저는 감정적인 성격이 아니거든요. 제 친구들중에도 한국을 떠나는 선생님들이 많습니다. 그들은 마지막 수업 할 때 많이 웁니다. 그러나 저는 오늘 학교에서 작별 인사 스피치를 했을 때도 눈물 하나도 없었습니다.

Time's really flown, hasn't it? Next Monday, I'm going to leave Changwon. Two and a half weeks after that, I'm going to leave Korea. I ought to be looking at my calendar and worrying or freaking out, but actually, I'm calm. I'm usually not a very emotional person, you see. Many of my friends are also teachers who are about to leave Korea. They've been doing a lot of crying in their last classes lately. But as for me, even though I gave a farewell speech at school* today, I didn't shed a tear.

제가 안 울고 있는데, 그 이유가 떠나는게 안 섭섭해서가 아닙니다. 저는 진짜 아쉽습니다. 약간 가고 싶지 않습니다. 그렇지만, 이제 저는 앞으로 나가기 위해 준비되었습니다. 이년 동안 한국에서 굉장히 즐거웠습니다. 매우 축복받은 사람이라고 생각합니다.

So I'm not crying. But it's not because I'm not sad about leaving. In fact, I feel really sorry to go! I kind of don't want to leave. But I think I'm ready to move on now. I have really, really enjoyed my two years in Korea. I feel very blessed.

저는 미국에 돌아가서 캘리포니아 버클리 대학교에서 언어학 박사학위를 시작합니다. 저는 진짜 신나고 여기서 받은 경험이 저를 도와 줄 것 같습니다. 특히 여기 창원 한글학당의 선생님들에게 감사 드립니다. 선생님들은 저를 격려하셨고 한국어를 잘 가르쳐주셨고... 창원에서 살고 있는 외국인들에게 매우 귀중한 단체입니다. 써니 쌤 열심히 지도하셔서, 또 나미 쌤 참을성있게 가르쳐주셔거, 그리고 여러분 모두 사심없이 도와주셔서 감사 드립니다.

When I go back to the United States, I'm going to start working on a PhD in Linguistics at UC Berkeley. I'm really excited, and I think my experiences here will help me. I especially want to thank the teachers at the Changwon Korean Class. You teachers have encouraged me and taught me well. The foreigners who live in Changwon have such a valuable resource in you. Sunny, thanks for enthusiastically leading the class; Nami, thanks for patiently teaching me, and to everyone, thank you for all of your self-sacrificial help.

미래에 한국에 돌아오면 다시 뵐 수 있기를 바랍니다.

In the future, I hope that I can come back to Korea and that we can see each other again.
창원한글학당 - Changwon Korean Class. Nami is in yellow, and Sunny is in white on the far right.
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There were not too many people at Korean class today, but the few that I really wanted to thank were there, so that was enough. Nami gave me a small farewell gift, a beautiful keychain. Man, I really am sorry to go!

*Yes, I also gave a goodbye speech at school today. It was before the end-of-the-year teachers' sports competition, which took the form of a ring-toss tournament this time. Anyway, the speech I wrote (and my co-teacher expertly translated) was a heck of a lot longer than this one. I awkwardly stumbled through it for like five minutes because the level of Korean that I was reading was way beyond me. But my principal really appreciated it, I guess. He kept saying, "아쉽다! 아쉽다!" That means, "It's too bad! It's too bad [that you're leaving]!" Perhaps I will post that speech in its entirety later.

Monday, July 14, 2014

South Carnival (사우스 카니발) - 몬딱 도르라

This is too good not to share! My friend who teaches in Seogwipo on Jeju Island showed me this music video by a Korean ska band called South Carnival. The song is called "몬딱 도르라"*. Not only is this video cute and vibrant, the song is sung in Jeju-eo! The subtitles are written in Standard Korean, but if you listen closely (and can read/understand Hangul), then you can tell that what they're saying doesn't match up with the lyrics. And this is because Jeju-eo is quite different from Standard Korean.

I don't know enough about ska to consider myself a fan of the genre, but this song is currently stuck in my head for sure. Music is such a wonderful way to preserve language and culture!

*몬딱 도르라" (monddak doreura) is Jeju-eo for "함께 달리자" (hamkke dallija), which means "run together". Unfortunately, 도르다 in Standard Korean can also mean "to vomit," so maybe Koreans who are unfamiliar with Jeju-eo will be confused by the song title.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Redeemer International Community Church in Changwon

For the past few months, I have been attending a new church in Changwon called Redeemer International Community Church, or Redeemer for short. Redeemer was founded in Busan; I visited the church when I was in Busan with my parents a few months ago. It was during that time that preparations for a new campus or branch were underway. Just a few weeks after my visit, a small group of Christian expats in Changwon began to meet weekly in various cafes downtown to hold simple Sunday services. And after a few months of this, we finally found a permanent spot for our church, in a Korean church-owned cafe located in the busy downtown area!

I feel very blessed to have found this church. Pastor Dan is a really gifted speaker, and I've learned a lot from his witty yet hard-hitting sermons. The timing is bittersweet, though: because I was becoming increasingly bored/frustrated with my old church, I'm happy to have finally found a better source of spiritual nourishment. But the church launched in its new location at the beginning of July, and I'm going to leave Changwon at the end of July. 아쉽다! It's too bad!

Although my time is limited, I've stepped up to serve where I can: namely, as a part of the worship band. I really miss having music in my life, so I'm thankful that I had this small opportunity to help out. Also, Pastor Dan preached from Hosea 2 today, and one of his points was that we believers -- represented by Hosea's unfaithful wife Gomer -- have received beautiful and lavish gifts from God but too often squander them and, even worse, fail to recognize that they are blessings from God and not from the other lovers we chase. It's important for me to remember that with all that I've been given, I should be giving back even more.

I'm excited about the future of Redeemer Changwon. There's a huge potential for growth, and I think this church can offer the English-speaking community of my city something it really needs. May God bless the efforts of this congregation and allow them to bear fruit!
Pastor Dan delivering the message at the "first launch" service last week.
This photo was taken by a Korean church member, Mr. Ha.
Redeeemer Changwon info
The cafe we meet in is called Cafe Send (카페 센드). Services begin at 4pm and end around 5:30pm.
Korean Address: 경남 창원시 상남동 3 마디미동로 4층
English Address: Gyeongnam Changwon-si Sangnam-dong 3 Madimidong-ro 4F