It's Been Forever!!

Wow, I think a month and a half is the longest I’ve gone without blogging and I sincerely apologize, first to cousin and site provider and maintainer John Einselen, and then to all of you neglected readers who for some reason keep coming back. Thanks for putting up with me.

Well, my last 3 articles have been about Mozambique, but now Africa seems like a lifetime ago. Though, fortunately, I’m still in touch (from time to time) with the other visitors I met there. I’m soooo excited that Hannah from Australia will be visiting me for a week in September!! Wahoo!!!! Who would’ve guessed that a friend from Australia whom I met in Mozambique would visit me in Korea on her way back from a festival in England?! God is good!

And that reminds me of the most recent holiday, which of course was Easter! Easter here is treated way differently from in the U.S. Here I didn’t see a single Easter bunny or colored Easter egg, nor any jelly beans or anything at all commercialized for the occasion. It’s a religious holiday which hasn’t spilled into the secular world yet. The church here also commemorates it differently from what I grew up with. For the 40 days leading up to Easter, we were encouraged to meditate on the suffering of Christ, but there was no suggestion of giving something up as many Christians in the U.S. are inclined to do. Here the focus is on having a sincere and contrite heart before the Lord. During the 2 weeks before Easter, we had a 24-hour prayer relay in which each person was supposed to sign up for a 3-hour block to pray. My first year here, I couldn’t believe we were expected to pray for 3 hours—sometimes 10 minutes feels like a long time! But the pastors make a really detailed prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and worship outline that leaves you with just about an hour and a half to pray after you’ve sung all the hymns and pondered all the questions and Bible readings laid out for you. Anyway, then during the final week before Easter we had a (more strongly encouraged than usual) 6am daily prayer meeting. On that Sunday there were no kids singing “Hosanna!” and waving palm branches—it was just another Sunday to meditate on the Passion of Christ. On Wednesday and Thursday, we were encouraged to fast breakfasts, on Friday all meals, and all week to abstain from eating meat. Saturday was supposedly a day of silence, though it was the annual church-wide spring cleaning day so I think everyone probably talked more (not less) than usual that day. Anyway, I didn’t completely follow all the suggested guidelines, but enough of them that—I’ll be honest—I was pretty thrilled when Easter came at last. I understand commemorating and humbling ourselves in appreciation of the suffering Christ endured on our behalf, but I don’t think it necessary to mourn like we don’t know the rest of the story. Christ is risen! Easter day we had a regular morning service, a special lunch with meat and rice cake, and an evening cantata in which every small group sang a song and then prizes were awarded based on the unity, participation, and attitude of the groups. I sang part of our group’s selection as a solo, a first in my life!

In addition to church stuff, school started last month and I’ve been happy to be teaching again! There is such a thing as a too-long vacation, believe it or not. :) The 2010 school year started off with a trip to Seorak Mountain, the most famous in Korea. That week we got the most snow of the season, so we enjoyed a snowball fight and snowman-building contest as well as a handball tournament on a snowy turf. It was hilarious to watch the students and teachers try to clear the field by rolling gigantic balls of snow to the sidelines. I couldn’t believe they were serious. :) As far as classes go, my load is way decreased this year. The theory is, if class quantity decreases then quality will increase, so all the teachers have far fewer classes now and the schedule is changed a bit from last year. They also made all the English classes ability-based instead of age-based, and I’m only teaching the highest level for conversation and grammar. I love that group of students and that I can challenge them so much more, but I’m sad I don’t see much of the other students. I need to push myself to participate in their afternoon activities. I’m still teaching a couple classes at the elementary school as well as a weekly song class in the Kindergarten.

In my free time, I’ve been hiking quite a bit and hanging out with my close friend here, keeping in touch with the fam, stalking friends on facebook, beating myself up over time wasted and goals unmet, and wondering how to re-motivate myself to study Korean and do other constructive things. Like writing this blog article, for instance. I will try really hard to write again in the next two weeks!! That would be amazing. I’m also still meeting with the neighbor ladies about once a week to practice Korean and English and Western and Korean culinary skills. Last week I learned how to make Pajeon, which consisted (in our case) of green onions galore, squid, clams, oysters, and shimp, fried in an egg and flour batter the size of a small pizza. It was quite delicious really.

I hope you all are doing well. It’s always great to hear from you. Take care, and check back in a couple weeks for a not-so-generic update. :)