Greetings from Daejeon, South Korea!
(And a special greeting to you guys who are copying and pasting that in Google Maps to find out exactly where that is… haha)
So I’ve been in Korea about a month, and it’s been a whirlwind of new languages, new people, different cultures, public buses, pantomimed conversations, and lots and lots of rice. Since there’s no possible way I could explain every colorful, lovely, confusing God-filled moment, I’ll just give an overview now and hopefully post some specific stories later. Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section, or shoot me a message. 🙂
As I write this, I’m sitting on on our couch in the living room of our beautiful house on Hannam University, a Christian University in Daejeon that’s affiliated with the YAV program. It’s quite the city life here – there’s the hustle and bustle of students running to and fro, and an endless supply of inexpensive ‘college budget’ restaurants super close to our house. Concrete replaces grass in most places, and the lights in the city let me know there’s always something open for business.
I live with four other American YAV’s, and we have quickly become one weird, quirky, eclectic family. We met each other for the first time about a week before moving to Korea for a year, and are all practicing the idea of the beloved community every day. From left to right in the picture, we’re Alexis, Emily, our friend Hanbyeol, Me, Alyson, and Will. Alexis and Emily are both Floridians, Will is from Arkansas, Alyson is Asian-American, and I’m first generation German-American. And yeah, sometimes this beloved community isn’t as smooth as I just made it sound. Believe me. But sometimes I come home and there are freshly baked scones on the table up for grabs, or I find my laundry hung up. Sometimes we can’t agree on anything, and our personality differences/communication styles make things tricky. We go on night runs on the nearby track and trade turns crying on each others shoulders when things get overwhelming. This community is definitely one of the hardest and most rewarding aspects of this new life so far.
What do I do here?
I wear many hats. I’m a teacher, a student, a friend, a YAV family member, a band member in our local church, and a co-teacher for Sunday School. Every weekday we all have Korean language class (taught entirely in Korean, by the way) for four hours. The class itself is wild – there are students from all over, including Mongolia, China, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Indonesia. Our common language is body language and pictures, and sometimes the ever helpful but frequently wrong ‘Google translate’ app. Since coming here I regret ever complaining about any language classes taught in the states, where the teacher speaks and understands the same language I understand. It’s pretty beautiful – about 5 different nationalities, languages, and cultures unite to all tackle speaking, writing, and reading in Korean! And yes, we all help each other out when someone (mostly me) doesn’t understand.
After 4 hours, we walk back home for lunch and then go to our respective work sites in the city. I’m an English teacher at Saenaru Gong Dong Che, a soup kitchen and homeless shelter that also acts as a children’s center for low-income families. This community center is my main focus for my year in South Korea, so I’ve dedicated a separate blog post for details about my work here. It’s worth the read, if I do say so myself.
What are the hard parts?
Blessed will be the day when I learn to love others perfectly, the way love has been shown to me. But, until that day, I fail and get upset and frustrated. I want to love my housemates better, I want to love my kids at Saenaru Gong Dong Che better, and I want to fall asleep on my Korean class textbook to let osmosis do its work. I struggle with living a live closely embedded with Jesus’s life, as a beloved daughter who’s Father is the creator of everything. Plainly said, I want to love God more, and love the new people my life has put me in community with better. So, if you’re reading, and you feel inclined to pray, please know your prayers are important and downright necessary. This is an opportunity to take part in what God’s doing in South Korea, so jump on board, friend.
What are the good parts?
Meeting new people and striking up thought-provoking conversations! I adore strangers, so every change to engage with someone new and interesting always gives me energy. Thankfully, I’ve had many encounters with strangers here, on trains, on walks, friends of friends, classmates, and curious individuals who approach me while I’m playing guitar to ask about my music.
God has shown himself to me as faithful, present, and councilor. He brings sweet memories to my mind and shows Himself through swaying trees and random acts of kindness through kids at my site. He uncomfortably pokes my heart when I’m straying into selfish or judgmental thoughts, letting me know He loves me too much to sit back and watch me walk in these ways.
(For more stories on what God is specifically doing here in Daejeon, be on the lookout for a separate link on the side, leading to a page with individual stories of this nature. If I’m not careful, I’ll fill up an entire blog post with nothing else, so they get their own space.)
Toodles from South Korea.