School's Here!

Last evening we celebrated the annual ‘eephakshik’ or opening ceremony for the new school year. All the first-year students and their families came dressed in lovely traditional clothing, and one at a time they introduced themselves to the rest of the students, families, and teachers. Many of the incoming students shared a special talent, too. Last night their talents ranged from playing ocarina and piano to singing in Russian to—this was the most unique—making a pen that could shoot rubberbands. The prudent craftsman was leery to demonstrate, insisting that it was “very dangerous,” but fortunately the rubberband fired straight up at the ceiling without causing bodily harm. :-)

Today I was busy with level tests, giving short interviews to the seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders, grading their written exams, and sorting the students into their respective English conversation classes. It’s always a long process, and I loathe the subjective scoring that the interviews require, but it was sure fun to see all the students again. I was especially excited to talk with the incoming seventh-graders for the first time. Three of the thirteen speak English fluently, as they’ve lived overseas a good part of their young lives. Judging from their level tests, language immersion is the single most important factor in developing native-like fluency. So it begs the question, “WHY CAN’T I SPEAK KOREAN?!?” I know, I know… I’m not giving myself enough credit, I haven’t been here long enough, I spend my days teaching English, and I’m not talkative enough to practice much conversation. But alas, I have morphed into quite the study bug in the past week! Granted, not even “studious” by the typical Korean standard, but a “nerd if there ever was one” by American standards. And I’m American, so we’ll go with that. :-)

Speaking of American, one of the new students was actually born in the U.S. though his parents are Korean. When he introduced himself last night I learned that he had lived in Russia for most of his life and his father was still there as a missionary. Immediately I felt a kinship with his mother, and after the service hurried to find and greet her. I was more than a little surprised when she came toward me with her arms wide open and gave me a bear hug like we were old friends. I can still feel the warmth and comfort of that embrace, for it had been a long week and I’d been lamenting (whether consciously or in retrospect, I can’t remember) the complete lack of hugs around here. God knows us, doesn’t He? He knows just what we need and when.

For those of you who have Facebook, you know He saw me on Friday, too. (Flashback to Hagar running away miserable in the desert, when God’s angel comes to her and Hagar comes up with a new title for God: “You are the God who sees me” (Gen.17:7-14)). I woke up feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, when out of the blue I got a text message from my Korean teacher. All it said was (and I translate): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)! Victory in Christ!” How cool is that?! The right word at the right time. Pastor Mike at Crossroads Church gave a sermon about that once. About how good it is to give the right word at the right time. As we’ve all experienced at one time, it sure is a blessing to the one who receives it.

Tomorrow morning I will join the students on the opening trip of the school year. I’m glad that my friend Jisun is living and teaching here (and going on trips with us) for the semester, not only because I enjoy her great sense of humor, but because her English is as smooth as the wax on a grand piano, as natural as a monkey swinging from the treetops. (I told her she’d be featured here, haha.) Anyway, we’ll be teamed up for the trip, so please pray for our group of students to endure our antics well; I doubt most of their insurance plans cover post-field trip professional counseling. A-hem, I’m getting goofy now… time to sign off. Please note that I am meeting (and even surpassing!) my new goal of a bi-weekly blog. Till next time!

Pics of Jisun and me at a fun art exhibit: