Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For

It's Thanksgiving once again! Last year, I was thankful for friends, family, Fulbright, food, faith, and a lot of other things, not all of which begin with the letter F.

This year, I didn't think about Thanksgiving very much, in part due to being so busy these past few weeks. I don't get to work this little tidbit of American culture into any of my lessons, since most of my students are doing their speech tests now, and I spend every extra minute of every day correcting drafts or journals.

But it's only appropriate that I take some time now and list at least a few of the very many things for which I am grateful this year.

1. A healthy and active body. I'm thankful that I'm surviving (so far) a winter in Korea without unlimited heating. (On that note, it snowed in Changwon today! But it didn't stick.) I'm happy to be doing taekgyeon to keep myself fit even though I bake cookies and eat them all by myself every weekend... Here's a photo of my taekgyeon performance in Seoul during Fulbright Thanksgiving the weekend before last.
I'm performing with 장봉, but it's moving too fast for you to really see ;) Photo taken by Vinnie Flores.
2. I'm thankful for all of my friends, new and old. I love Skyping home to chat with people after going months or even years without seeing them. I'm also lucky that folks in Changwon are really friendly, so even though I'm basically a hermit, I have friends here in my city. Last Sunday, I ran into Nadia, a friend I met at church but hadn't seen in a few months. Ever the hospitable host, Nadia promptly invited me to dinner at her place that night, where she and some of her friends were celebrating an early Thanksgiving. She had gone to the army base in Jinhae to get all the proper food: an enormous turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and even candied yams with marshmallows, roasted in a 된장찌개 pot! My second Thanksgiving this year was very spontaneous and simply fantastic.
Romi and part of our Thanksgiving feast, prepared by Nadia. Look at that turkey! I helped carve it. :)
New friends who live in Jangyu/Gimhae, which means I don't know how often I'll get to see them, but they're awesome all the same!
3. I'm thankful for my family, even though I haven't seen them for a while and won't for an even longer while. My parents went on a vacation to New Zealand recently, so that put them in the same hemisphere as me, but they were actually 600 miles farther away from Seoul than the Bay Area is. Also, my cousin Johanna got engaged last weekend! Congratulations, Johanna! I know you're reading this. I love my family and I love that it keeps getting bigger literally every year.

As many of you know, my grandfather passed away a few months ago. I miss him, but I'm also thankful that this event was able to bring my large family and my even larger church family together in September. I could clearly see how God used him to bless hundreds, of not thousands, of people in his long and well-lived life.
My grandparents, with A-kong sporting some killer snorkel gear, in a video hangout last year.
4. I'm thankful for my job and for the excellent Fulbright community. I'm lucky to be a part of it! My fellow teachers inspire me; they make me laugh; they keep me sane; they take my money to fund amazing progressive educational initiatives. I would be a lost and lonely 외국인 in Korea if it weren't for them.
Fulbright at the 2013 Thanksgiving dinner with the US Embassy in Seoul. I'm the one in the shirt. Taken by Vinnie Flores.
5. Last, but not least (maybe even most), I'm thankful for my students. I love 'em, and though sometimes they bring me grief, most of the time they make my life complete. I don't spend twelve hours at school every day because I like my desk, folks.

And sometimes, I find out that my students are thankful for me, too, and that just makes me melt.
A student's answer to the last journal question of the semester: What have you learned in my class?
So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy your turducken and your parade, while I enjoy an endless feast of blessings from above. 추수감사절 축하합니다!

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