Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jan 1st

The first day of the new year! I look forward to 2014. I have high expectations for what this year will bring. I really didn't have any set goals that needed completing by the end of 2013 with the exception of one: Get to the 400 word mark on Memrise. Which I successfully did, squeezing in the last few new words an hour before midnight last night. You can see the proof here: www.memrise.com/user/jibroni

So what else did I accomplish this year? Well, since this blog has become mainly a journal for myself rather than anything I write for the benefit/enjoyment of others, I will indulge in some of things I consider successes of 2013.

I can now do 80 pushups in a row. My goal this year is to get to 100. I also installed a pullup bar. I have a calendar plan to reach 20 this year (I can barely eek one out, but in 6 weeks I plan to do 20, yikes!)

I got my K-vocab up to almost 600 words. That, to me, is a huge triumph. I learn a little bit more about Korean and Korea each day. Slowly but surely.

I moved to Korea and have lived here for four months. Actually, it seems longer than that! Life here is pretty cool, tiny apartment and all!

I remodeled an attic into a third floor living space. That was a big deal as I have very little skill in carpentry. From gutting to the bare walls, to insulating, wiring, sheetrock, mudding, tongue and groove, carpet, built in bookshelves, and a sweet drop ceiling section, I learned a lot about what I am capable of and the importance of having good networking skills. The network of connections helped me to get the angles sheetrocked, the windows installed, the chimney removed, the roof repaired, and the trim installed. What a project! I look forward to completing it some day, Lord willing. It's 80% finished. Just need to install the remaining portion of tongue and groove and install the closet at the base of the steps.

I got new life injected into my unfinished novel which is just enough to push me to finally complete it. Which has now become a goal for 2014: finish the book! And get started on the next one!

What are my remaining goals? Well, my goals for Korea come into play, as there is a good chance I will be leaving here this year. If I depart, it will be in August which means I must complete these before then. However, these goals are not necessarily tangible with the exception of one. Here they are in no particular order:

Build Relationships
Study the Culture
Learn the Language
Become Debt Free

I cannot truly determine the successful completion of any of these except the last one. Lord willing, I will pay off my financial aid debt by the time I leave here.

More important than any of these things is my desire for the Lord to change me into His image. The only goal that really matters is to know Him. That goal will continue on every year until I die. Yet, I ask the Lord for specific things to work on in me that he has shown me I lack in. I desire to be less selfish, to have a better understanding of what I want and need, and finally, to be diligent and pursue these things and my destiny as well.

There is one more goal I have but I am too excited at the possibility of it so I'm not going to post it on here. When the day comes, if it does, I will let people know. For now, it's my only secret goal.
Happy New Year!

The First King of Israel Part 2

I finally finished I Samuel and I am a few chapters into II Samuel. I had a personal revelation while finishing I Samuel. I realized the significance of the last verses of the Old Testament:

Malachi 4:5-6
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

I had mentioned in the last post on I Samuel about how Samuel was a great man of God and prophet and yet his own sons were called evil. It's hard for me to think that Samuel could let this happen, but this isn't an uncommon thing in the world we live in. However, then I see Saul, who wasn't the best example of a father (trying to kill David, ect...) and look how well Jonathan turned out.

The OT is replete with these situations of fathers and sons relationships going wrong. So the final words of the OT wring clear with a greater importance for me now: Christ came to restore the broken relationships. The most messed up relationship of all messed up relationship is the one between father and child. I think this is because its such an important relationship. A father has power to break the generational curses in his family just as he has the power to bring curses on his family. A son has a choice to obey or rebel, just as his father did before him. Sometimes a son follows in his fathers footsteps and does evil. Sometimes, like Jonathan, a son will choose a different path.

Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learner Teacher

As I continue to study the Korean language every day, I think I should begin to pray God would send me some students I can teach Korean to.

The best way to instill something you are studying is by using/practicing/teaching it. I like teaching, so I think it would be great to teach the things I am studying as I study them.

I can sound and write 한글. I have a vocab of about 500 words. I understand a good deal of grammar. I can have a basic conversation.

토요일에 거예요? What are you going to do on Saturday?
토요일 부산에 거예요. I am going to go to Busan on Saturday.
내일은 입을 거예요? What are you going to wear?
양복을 입을 거예요. I am going to wear a suit.
친구를 만날 거예요? Are you going to meet your friends?
네, 만날 거예요. Yes, I'm going to meet them.
어디에서 친구를 만날 거예요? Where are you going to meet your friends?
친구 울산에서 만날 거예요. I am going to meet my friends in Ulsan.

These are just practice sentences I did tonight as I study the future tense. I enjoy studying. I just wish I could teach it too!

Here are the sites (with links to my pages) I use on a daily basis for studying:

Memrise (http://www.memrise.com/user/jibroni/) - vocab flashcards
Lang-8 (http://lang-8.com/724842) - writing corrections
www.TalktomeinKorean.com - grammar lessons

Good night!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



If I had a dollar for each time I heard this greeting I would be a rich man. Yet, somehow it never gets old.

I recently obtained a new hair style. It was time for something different. I let my hair grow out and then got the sides cut short with the top still long. I think it looks nice and the reactions from co-workers has been great. I also obtained a new necktie, one given to me from 행님 at a teachers dinner last Friday evening. He might have had a little too much to drink. Being his friendly self, at one point during the night he sat across from me and we had a great conversation via our English speaking teacher friends. I told him his tie was really awesome and the next thing I know he's taking it off and telling me to have it. This tie really is awesome. I mean, it's the coolest tie I've ever owned. I gave him a tangerine.

The next day was Saturday. I had a meeting with a lady from the local Presbyterian 교회 (church) at noon thirty. We had lunch at 교회 thanks to a wedding reception (no, I didn't know the couple). Then we met for a while talking about her Sunday school program. They want a native English speaker to help them. I'll write more about that in my next post. After the meeting a got my hair cut. Here I got to speak a little Korean I know as my hair stylist knows no English or refuses to speak it (not sure which though she is very nice to me). She got the job done perfectly. I felt so good with my new hairstyle, I walked down to the Dunkin Donuts and treated myself to a jelly filled cake donut with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. 

Okay, now you're thinking, "He's lost his mind." New hairstyles? Stealing ties from drunk guys? Jelly filled cake donuts with vanilla frosting and sprinkles??"


So after a near-media free Sunday spent in the company of some friendly Presbyterians and at my apartment hot-compressing a stye, it was Monday and time to look good. What could go better with a new hairdo and tie than my suit? Oh man, what a day.

Reactions from my co-teachers were my fantastic, but the students had quite the time figuring me out...
"Teacher, why?" they asked. "For you!" I answered. The girls liked that answer, the boys....not so much. But, boy oh boy, did I feel great. It's fun to switch things up now and then.

Today, I didn't wear a suit. Reactions on the hairdo are still coming in though. I like to keep things interesting at work. A few times a week I do something off the wall when I walk into the office, like greet each of my office mates (all women, mind you) with the most polite of Korean greetings, 안녕하십니까! while bowing each time. I love their reactions. I'm practicing my moonwalk. At the end of this week, I'll moonwalk into the room.

Getting reactions out of students is a huge reason I love this job. A foreign teacher posted on facebook the other day: "Beat a male student at rock paper scissors. Now go slit his dog's throat in front of him. His reaction will be the same." It's true, they just go nuts. Show em a funny video and they don't just laugh. They writhe on the floor as if possessed. It's the same scene you see at those charismatic slain in the spirit services where people are barking like dogs and behaving like serpents. The reactions are priceless. 

So I continue to come up with ways to keep people on their toes. All because I want to see the classic reactions I have come to love. Whether it's a teacher swooning over me in a fancy suit or students hardly able to breathe because they just saw "the funniest video in the world," I just can't get enough. 

This entire post really is nonsense. I just finished my nightly Korean study and now my head is pounding and I need to shut off my screen. I just wanted to share with you the nature of things here. The littlest thing hardly goes unnoticed in this country. So when it's a bigger thing, like a guy who wears the same hairdo and wardrobe every day suddenly changes both, it feels like the end of the world. In a good way.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Prayer Closet

I have been working on a list I call "Things to ask in the closet of prayer" for quite some time. Whenever a new one is revealed to me I write it in my notebook. Here is the list so far. I am posting it for the benefit of those who seek God every day. I would also like feedback for more prayers and any verses that would fit with each one. Thank you. First, a prayer upon entering this time with Him:

Let me be in the place your glory dwells. Let me behold your glory.

And then the following:

Remove the wicked way in me. Psalm 139:23-24
Immerse me in your Spirit.
Let me function in the gifts...especially prophecy. I Corinthians 14
Let me dream dreams and see visions. Acts 2:17
Give me a heart of repentance. Psalm 51:10
Reveal to me what you are calling me out of today. I Peter 2:9
Reveal what you are calling me into.

For many these might seem like "one-time" prayers, but they are prayers to pray every day. God called us out of darkness once, but He is continually calling us out of sin even today. Don't stop asking God to function in the gifts even after you believe you are functioning in them. Ask and keep asking. Knock and keep knocking. Seek and keep seeking. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Monday

The purpose of this post is two-fold. The first, and less important, is to introduce you to one of my favorite musicians, Devin Townsend. The second is to tell you about my Monday(s) and ask you for prayer.

My Mondays consist of teaching five 6 grade classes and not a whole lot else. I really don't know what 6 grade classrooms are like in the US. In Korea, they can be the ulcer-causing, head-ache inducing, chaotic nightmares. I really have no intentions of explaining what it's like further, so if you want to know, go ahead and message me. I'm just telling you because I'm scared....and it's not of the kids. I'm scared of myself.

Few things make me really mad. It turns out misbehaving Korean 6 graders are one of those things. I don't like to get angry, but nearly every Monday, I do. I shout (or maybe you would say scream?) and I lecture and pound the whiteboard with my fist. Today I took one of the students books and smashed it loudly on his desk. I HATE doing these things. Yet, I wonder, what else can I do? Twice since the semester began I simply gave up: I made everyone put their heads on their desks and we sat in silence for near twenty minutes.

I don't want to be the one who punishes bad behavior. I am a good teacher and I reward good behavior. I scare myself when I get angry at the kids. What scares me even more is the thought I had after classes today. What will I be like as a father who must discipline his children? I worry about that...

I can recall some memories of my dad getting angry with me and my siblings. There were times when I was very scared of my dad. I see my brothers discipline their children. Sometimes it scares me. I don't want to have to punish...but I know it comes with the job of being a father.

The look in the eyes of a child who is being punished has made me weep. I see the anger in the eyes of the punisher and the fear in the eyes of them being punished. I don't like it at all. Please pray for me as I deal with these things. Pray for my 6 graders.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The First King of Israel

The First King of Israel

Is this the title of a book or movie? Because it should be. I am studying the life and times of King Saul who was Israel's first king. I started reading I Samuel about 2 weeks ago and just wanted to share a few things on here about what I've been reading. First some thoughts regarding Samuel and some questions I have raised. 

Chapter 8 of I Samuel
One thing that startled me here is Samuel's family. The prophet Samuel had sons who "walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgement."(v.3) All the elders of Israel even knew this: "...they sons walk not in thy ways..."(v.5). Yet, still Samuel appointed them judges over Israel. Firstly, why did Samuel's sons not walk in his ways? Secondly, if Samuel knew they didn't, why did he appoint them judges over Israel?

According to verse 5, the aforementioned rebelliousness of Samuel's sons is part of the reason the elders asked for a king to judge them. Obviously, this request was not entirely a reflection of Samuel's failures. Had this been the case, they would have simply cast out Samuel completely and appointed their own king. They must have had some respect for Samuel to bother asking him. The Lord spoke to Samuel and said "they have not rejected thee..."(v.7) although it may have seen like rejection to Samuel.

They wanted a king because all the other nations had one. They did not hide their reasons: "...like all the nations."(v.20). So Samuel told all the people who had asked for a king the words the Lord had spoken to him on the matter (v.10). The people's response is found in verse 19-20: "...we will have a king over us; that we may also be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles."

It seems that Israel is a reflection of the heart of people everywhere. Even Samuel, who was quite obedient to the Lord, yet failed at teaching his sons to do the same, was imperfect. And so the people of Israel had no mortal leader at this time, saw that all the other nations did, and wanted that for themselves. They were God's chosen people, but rejected what could have been in favor of their selfish desires. In essence:

They wanted someone to do for them what they didn't believe they could do themselves.

Yet, so is it in the church today. Yet, so is it in my life today. We want another to go out before us and fight our battles. So we elect our spiritual leaders and have them tell us what we should do and how to live. We have them preach to us over and over again because we can't read the Word for ourselves. We want a king, but not the one that pierces our hearts, convicts us, causes repentance and then makes us holy. That sort of king has no business meddling in my personal affairs. I want a king that is like me. One that suits my needs.

God help us.

Hear the Word of the Lord spoken to Israel through Samuel in verse 18: "And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day."

For me, the Lord is saying: There is a true King that wishes to rule in your hearts and change you into His image. Will you take the king made in your image? Or the King which will make you into his?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Feels like the Beginning (Part 2 - Beyond Busan)

Part 2

What a beautiful place Geojedo is! It is the second largest island in Korea, after one of Korea's most famous places, Jejudo. Just beyond Busan at the southern tip of Korea. We arrived at our hotel right next to the sea and checked in. We went to dinner shortly after. The atmosphere was relaxed and I felt, for the first time in a long time, at ease. It was this night that my attitude changed. What was uncomfortable became enjoyable and, though I'll never be one, I felt Korean.

For me, this trip was about taking a step of faith. Once I took that first step, the boldness began to flow. One of the teachers at another table sent me a text message during dinner: "Im worried about that you could be bored." I replied, "Bored right now or bored after work?" "both" she responded, "I feel sorry for that. i wanna talk to you everytime dont hesitate to talk to me." Beautiful 은, so sweet to think about that. I told her not to worry and that I was having a good time. 은 invited me to have dinner with her on Tuesday. (I can't Romanize her name because it's too difficult)

So dinner was a spectacle of merrymaking. Everyone jovial and lively and though most of the teachers speak little to no Korea they were not afraid (for some, thanks to the alcohol) to speak to me what they could. And me, with my ever-expanding Korean vocabulary, held one or two word dialogues with them. I learned so much from my table of English-teaching coworkers about what they thought of me when I first arrived and answered so many questions they seemed as though they had been dying to ask me for a long time.

After dinner we moved on to the 노래방 (song room) for karaoke. I know I would be asked (forced) to sing so I grabbed the enormous song book and flipped to the English section. I picked out a classic song and rocked out to a room full of screaming teachers. It was quite the experience. If you want to know the song, you'll have to send me a message. Out of all the embarrassing things I've done since I've been here, this one takes the cake.

So midnight came and we left to walk back to the hotel. Or at least, that's where I thought we were going. We wound up at another restaurant for another meal of seafood. I would have escaped back to the hotel (for as tired as I was) but 행님 would not permit that. He declared himself my older brother that night (he is actually the same age as my oldest brother) and we walked arm in arm or shoulder to shoulder for the rest of the trip. I respect the man's leadership at the school. He planned the trip and, as you know, organizing events is something I love doing as well.

The next morning we were up early for breakfast and the rest of the day was spent sightseeing around the island as well as a boat ride to another smaller island. The day also served as a historical lesson, as many areas we visited were landmarks of past wars. That day I chose to walk with many different teachers. Some were not as courageous to speak with me, but one woman in particular was receptive. She could not speak a lot of English, but she could understand me well. Later that day she asked me, "Do you miss your family?"
I said, yes, of course, but I said that meeting friendly people like her helps me live better here. After dinner that night, she handed me my shoes at the restaurant. It was a very small gesture, but its always the small things I remember.

미란 (Mirahn) is sweetest person to me at school. She is a subject teacher and speaks almost no English. We speak back and forth in simple English and Korean. Enough to squeeze by. We did this a lot on the trip. She is has a strong relationship with God. She is one of those rare people you can see the Light in their eyes. She is thirty six years old. I told her she is my 누나 (Nuna, older sister for man), but she didn't like that. It's not right to use Nuna in many cases. I told her I understand why. Later that day she told me in broken English: "I know why I am your sister." "Because Jesus" was my simple reply. It's always the small things...

Which brings me to my last passage. The bus ride home was a time for many to catch up on sleep. My bus buddy this time was 미주 (Miju). I always have a great time with Miju. She loves to laugh and is always smiling through her bright eyes. She is my 누나  but only by two years. She fell asleep soon after we left. I was left to think about the trip and thank God for pushing me to go. I told Him I was sorry for the times I ignore His voice when I want to be comfortable. I thanked him for new friends. I asked him for one thing. I miss my family and friends back home because, when I see them, I can hug them. It's sissy stuff for a man to admit this, but I did in a moment of reflection and prayer. Miju nuna's head gently rested on my shoulder. I thanked God for my Korean sister. I will always remember that moment, because it was a small thing. I thank God for those small things. I'm learning to be more bold, thankful, and appreciative of the small things.
Miju, Mirahn, Soongmin, and Yunmi (the right two are co-teachers) on 
the boat ride to 지심도.

Feels like the Beginning - Part 1

This weekend I went on a trip to 거제도 (Geoje Island) with about 30 teachers and staff from my school including the Principle and VP. Everyone from my office came except my sixth grade co-teacher. Up until we departed, I had no idea what the trip's itinerary was. Nothing new there! I rarely know whats going on or what's going to happen next. Such is how life is here.

Initially, I did not want to go on this trip. I had plenty of reservations about going and even after I committed to going, I nearly backed out....with good reason! I developed acute tonsillitis this past week and had to take a trip to the doctors office (which is another post in itself!). By Thursday I felt much better and by the end of the day I decided to suck it up and go on the trip. You might be curious why the reservations. Though I've been here two months, I would hardly call the teachers I've met acquaintances, let alone friends! So it would be like going on a tour with a bunch of strangers. On top of that, Korea has a notorious workplace drinking culture - I'm not much of a drinker! In any other case, I would've said no to this trip. Something inside said "go."

Several weeks ago Yun-mi, my fourth grade coteacher and the eldest in our office, told me "It will be a good experience for you." Those simple words stuck with me. It will be a completely uncomfortable experience for me -this is what I kept thinking. Then I remember my good friend Tim Halverson once said, "God is more concerned with the message you bear than the comfort of your setting." So, as I said, I sucked it up and went.

Flash forward to now. I am 100% the heck glad I did.

We boarded the bus Friday at 3 in the afternoon. Normally I would have a 3oclock class, but the entire school scrunched all the classes into the morning so that the teachers could leave early. To heck with the kids, right? Well, I'm sure the principle going on this trip had something to do with it. So after some delicious birthday cake after lunch (a gift from one of my 5th grade students) I got on the bus, took a seat by myself, and prepared for a boring three hour ride down beyond Busan to an island I had never heard of until a few days before. After about 20 minutes into the ride, Mr 홍, who I will now and forever refer to as 행님(hang nim) which means older brother, got on the PA and told us (in Korean of course) we would now switch seats. We all drew cards and had to listen for our match.

This is when I met Sunny. Her real name is 순미. She is a 4th grade home room teacher. We are the same age and she can speak English very well. I recall seeing her maybe once or twice before this time. In Korean, I asked her name. That began a conversation that lasted the rest of the trip to our destination. It was the only real conversation I had with Sunny for the whole trip, but as soon as we arrived, I felt better about my decision to come.

To be continued....

Friday, October 11, 2013

Learning to Live with Less

The title of this post is something I have talked about with many people over many years. I've always wanted to be able to live with less. I feel like I'm always in the struggle to get rid of things I don't need. Living in a tiny apartment in Korea makes the process of living with less more interesting. Less space means you don't have room for things anyways! Also, putting 75% of your paycheck towards your student loans means you don't have much money to spend.

So I'm learning to be very resourceful. I hope this post is helpful to others, whether you live in a tiny Korean apartment or a big house in the West, these are things I do and have done to get the most out of the cash I earn. I fail in many areas with my finances, but I have never been more serious about getting serious financially than I am right now.

I've always been one to recycle, but now I take full advantage of the fact that recycling is free. The more I can recycle, the less trash I produce, which ultimately leads to buying fewer garbage bags! I keep a bag for paper and a bag for bottles and recycle every week to keep the kitchen less cluttered. I reuse the bags I use for recycling items.

I shop at the dollar stores. A lower price does not always equal a better deal. In other words, just because its at the dollar store doesn't mean its a better deal than at the mega department store right in front of the tiny dollar store. You shouldn't always sacrifice quantity over quality, but if you take extra time to compare prices, you could save in the long run. I shop at Daiso (a big chain of dollar stores popular in Korea and Japan) and the locally owned dollar store near the train station.

I get a ridiculous amount of junk mail in Korea. It all ends up in the recycling bag. However, a lot of these ads (the menu ones for local restaurants) come magnetized to my metal apartment door. I strip the big magnets off the back and I use these to hang stuff on my fridge. All you need is some tape. My fridge is decked out with cards and photos from home thanks to these magnets!

I always make lists of things I need and things I want. It takes me a while to buy things off these lists (unless they are necessity items) as I give time to research best prices. I go through these lists periodically and review them, asking myself a very important question about each item: Will this item benefit either spiritually or financially? 
I know that seems like a ridiculous question, but think about it from a business standpoint: What do you gain from purchasing an item if it doesn't profit you spiritually (help bring you closer to God in some way) or financially (help generate more income in some way)?

These are a few ways to live a little more simply. I like simplifying my life. It's almost become a hobby in a way. If you have any more tips or suggestions for me, let me know. I welcome ideas on this topic. I will probably make another post like this in the near future as I find more ways to live more simple.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stark Contrast #1

Unless you live in one of those mega-apartment complexes, which it seems few foreigners actually do, you likely live in a small "block-like" building consisting of not more than 4 or 5 floors. This building is likely nestled in a neighborhood of other block-like buildings, most of which have stores on the first floor accessible from the street.

That is what my apartment building is like, which leads me to my first stark contrast post. In Ulsan, Korea, (again, unless you live in one of those mega-apartment complexes that tower above any other surrounding buildings and are essentially their own neighborhood) there is no such thing as a residential area. In the Twin Ports, USA, there are residential areas divided by commercial zones (or perhaps you could say it vice versa). The lack of real residential areas means much more noise, traffic, and smells coming from all around you at almost all times the day (mornings are fairly quiet if its before 7 and there's no construction work happening!)

I realize now that I took residential areas in the Twin Ports for granted. It seems most foreigners don't have the privilege of living in those mega-complexes as they are too expensive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about where I live, I'm only stating a contrast that exists between where I live now and where I last lived. However, I'm sure you can guess which one I prefer! Often in the States, just a little bit of noise outside was a bother. Now, here in Ulsan, if I shut my eyes and just listen, I can make out more than 8 sounds all happening at once: dishes clanging together in the restaurant down below, car horns honking, cars passing by, people talking and shouting, cars starting, kids screaming (taekwondo academy next door), and above it all, the hum of electricity power these places. There are neon lights right outside my apartment for the restaurants and studios. There are various smells wafting through the air at given points (good food smells!).

It has taken some getting used to, but I've been here 5 weeks, so much of the shock has worn off. I definitely miss the quiet of a residential area, but I'll make due with what I've been given here. I appreciate the place I currently call my dwelling place (or just "my apartment" because I cant bring myself to call it "home") and I appreciate the chance to live somewhere completely different.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Inevitable Post

This post was quite inevitable. By this I mean every foreigner who lives in Korea and keeps a blog will at some point publish a post about (what foreigners refer to as) Korean "love motels." I recently stayed in one in Seoul. You can see the outside of it in the picture on your left. It says "hotel" but in reality it was a motel. I assure you that in Korea there is a difference between motel and hotel.

I visited my dear friend Haesung in Seoul last Saturday. At the end of the day we parted ways. My destination was Gangnam (yes, THE Gangnam) and I hopped on the subway and when I exited and returned to the surface I only had to walk two blocks to find this motel. Before I give you the details of my stay, I must first explain one thing.
I mentioned to one of my Korean friends that I would likely stay in a "love motel" when I visited Seoul. This friend politely asked me why I called it a "love motel" and not simply a "motel." I asked her forgiveness as I honestly thought they were called "love motels" by foreigners and Koreans alike. In actuality, they are just called motels and from now on I will only refer to them as such. 

If you really want to know more about why they are called love motels, just ask and I will tell you. Or just figure it out for yourself.

My stay at this motel was a pleasant one except for the slight stench of cigarette in my room (actually in the whole motel). For $60 (cheap for Gangnam!) I got a nice quiet and clean room that came with all the toiletries you need (no need to bring shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, hair gel, ect, ect...). The room also had a mini fridge stocked with two bottles of water, a bottle of gatorade, and a bottle of powerade. Both checkin and checkout was noon. 

I've heard of many motels in Korea that you can get for $40 a night. I believe it too, as my first time was Gangnam, which is 'high end' as far as areas of Seoul go. I will likely never stay in a hostel again (that's a post for another time; or never) as for just ten bucks more you can get your own room and bathroom and well-stocked minifridge (as well as peace and quiet). And motels are everywhere. It wasn't until the next morning when I took a stroll down the street the way I had come the night before that I realized there were several motels closer to where I had exited the subway. Also, it wasn't until the next morning that I realized I had walked into a place called a "hotel" on the outside when it was really just a motel. 

The Korean for motel is 모텔 which sounds like motel when read. Its an English word put into Korean. 
I probably wont stay at Hotel Highland again as I would rather check out the other hotels around, see what I could find for under $60. Part of the fun is opening the door and seeing what sort of goodies are inside. Ha!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fulfilling the Dream

North Korean mountains

Last weekend I had the honor of hosting my good friend Phil in my current country of residence. This being his first time in Korea and me only having been here for 5 weeks we had a very interesting time together. It was great he could be here. I only wish I had more to offer in terms of expertise. Thanks to my sweet Korean friends, Sunyoung and Woojeong, from Wonju, who were able to join us on our tour of the DMZ, we had a great time visiting Seoul.

And yes, by DMZ, I meant the famous (or infamous?) Demilitarized Zone that divides the North from the South.

What a unique experience it was. During the tour I was oft distracted by Phil, Sunyoung, and Woojeong as these are friends I rarely get to see. Phil lives in Japan and we saw each other about two months prior to this time, but only for a few weeks. Prior to that time, I hadnt seen him in over a year. As for the ladies, I had not seen them for three years. It was a great reunion. These are very special people to me. Phil is dear brother in Christ and a former roommate. Sunyoung is my former Korean tutor. Woojeong is a dear friend of Jacinta and mine. Both of these gals I had the privilege of driving to the airport for their flights back to Korea.

All this to tell you that while I was on the tour, I didn't fully realize where I was because I was in the midst of friends I was trying to catch up with. It wasnt until afterwards did I realize how close I was to North Korea and how for many years it was a dream of mine to visit the DMZ. Now that dream is realized.

Phil came back with me to Ulsan after our DMZ adventure. We had many late night conversations and one of the recurring themes was how blessed we are to do what we do and be where we are. I don't often think about this. It's good to take time to reflect. I thank God for where I am and what I am doing. I thank Him for the opportunity to visit the DMZ, but perhaps more importantly, spend time with friends from the other side of the world. I am a man truly blessed.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Through a glass darkly

Beautiful Ilsan Beach in Ulsan, Korea

As I hiked along through pine forest on the edge of the East Sea I couldn't help but take a few pictures of where I had begun this hike. I had started on Ilsan Beach, the sand of which you can see in the picture to the right. I had come a long ways, and, though I wasn't aware of it at the time, I had a long ways to go. I was looking for a bridge I saw in travel guides and online. This bridge would take me to a rocky island at the tip of the peninsula I was currently trekking. I didn't know how long it would take nor did I know if I was even in the right place to find it. All I knew is that it was next to the beach. 

Often I feel more confident in where I am going and not so much in where I am in the moment. I know I will get to where I need to be eventually, but in the moment, I feel lacking, overwhelmed, or confused. Not quite sure what I'm doing here, but I just have to keep going because there is a place I need to be and this current place I'm in is not that place. 

I eventually found the bridge as well as the back door (or what was probably really the front door) into the pine forest. It was a beautiful place, that rock formation overlooking the sea. You can see it in the bottom photo. (You can see the rest of the pictures on my facebook page).

I am confident that one day I will find my real home. One day when I am no longer looking through a glass darkly. In the meantime, I have to continue on, using my time wisely, but stopping to take the occasional picture of where I was as a reminder to keep on.

Monday, September 9, 2013


It's hard to lose a pet. I just found out that Elby passed away. The only information I have is that it happened some time in the last 2 weeks, that she died from a skin disease, and that she was found lying peacfully next to a tree.

Elby, you were a great cat. There were many naysayers, and I was one of them for a while when you were young. I even remember a time when I thought about giving you away because you were so naughty all the time. But thank God I gave you a chance. You turned out to be the best cat that I ever knew. You loved keeping me company. Even though you liked your space, you always wanted to be in the same room as me. You rarely spoke, but when you did it was a pleasant sound. I remember when I would call you from another room, you would make a sound that "what did you say?" 

Your long hair was so soft and your bushy tale was so big. You were definitely the softest cat I ever touched. Your color pattern was unrivaled. You were a queen among cats as far as beauty goes. You loved to play games like fetch. You loved to sit in the window and watch the outside world. When you finally went outside, you were a chicken. But I know living on the ranch fixed that. I bet you had a great time out there. I only wish I could have seen you once more before I left. You died too young, but the suffering you experienced is over, so for that I am glad. I have many good memories, though I am sad there will be no more to be made.

Things happen in life that we cannot control. I had to give you up. Many years ago I had to give up another beloved pet. Her name was Sunny. Sunny was a dog, but funny thing is, she was like you in so many ways. She was sweet but very naughty; at the end of our time together she also had bladder problems!! I had to give her up. 

I hope to never give another animal up again. It is simply too painful. Even if it means never keeping a pet again. Rest in peace.
Elby 2008 - 2013

Elby was only an animal, but good animals are hard to find.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ulsan - For You!

"Ulsan - For you"

This is the slogan for Ulsan. Every city in Korea has an English slogan. For a nicely compiled list, check this guys blog out: http://waegukin.com/english-slogans-korean-cities-the-complete-list.html

Is Ulsan for me? Honestly, no, Ulsan is not for me. But the reasons my answer is no are not legitimate. Ulsan is not for me because I do not have a car. Ulsan is not for me because it is too noisy. Ulsan is not for me because I feel very alone too often.

Yet, it is not fair for me to judge a city I have only lived in for two weeks. My reasons are not legit because I can get used to the noise (though I may always wish for the peace of a small town) and I will meet people as time goes on. I will, however, always miss having a car. Ha!
Perhaps the biggest reason I cannot judge this place is because Ulsan is so large....I may live here a year and never see all of it. It is, like you see in the picture, a global city. 1.1 million people crammed into a not-so-large area. What you see in the picture is actually somewhat of a slogan for the district of Ulsan that I live in called Buk-gu (meaning something like "northern part, as it sits in the northern part of Ulsan).

What I do find interesting is that Bukgu itself is big. Where I live is a good hour bus ride to the downtown part of the city of Ulsan. So I just assume stay in Bukgu. I have no need to go to the busiest part of the city. I have seen it several times already (during orientation and during several "business trips" with my co-teacher to get my cellphone working). I have never been a city kind of person. My Korean friends make fun of me for that. In fact, the other day I told one of my co-teacher's that its tough to live in the city because of the noise and the lights. She laughed and said, essentially, "You don't live in the city. Bukgu is the countryside."
I beg to differ, but I do understand. Our versions of "countryside" are entirely different from each other.

I can grow to love Ulsan. I was only in Beijing for 5 weeks, saw maybe less than 50% of the city, and would go back in a heartbeat (in fact, I plan on arranging a trip there during my vacation). So I'll give Ulsan a chance. Or maybe I should say, I'll give Bukgu a chance, though, as it turns out, I'm heading downtown next weekend...

Thursday, September 5, 2013


The time goes by so quickly here. I should do my best to make the most of it. Here in Korea, everyone, and I do mean everyone, in my social circle is Korean. Some of them speak English incredibly well, others cannot speak a word of it. Most of them fall somewhere in-between. So I find myself speaking classroom English everywhere I go.

Speaking classroom English is not necessarily a bad thing. It's just that I get tired of talking. So I try to say less and listen more. I only talk when I am spoken to and don't often start a conversation. The last time I started a conversation was actually on the way to my apartment after work yesterday. I was a little over the halfway mark of my 40 min trip when I realized another teacher was going in my direction. When we came to the freeway crossing I told her in Korean that my neighborhood was in Hogye and that I was headed that way. As chance would have it, she was going there too. She was on her way to Hogye Elementary School (which is right next to my apartment) to see her boyfriend who is also a teacher.

She asked me to walk with her and we had a nice conversation (in English, of course). Her English is far above average. Our conversation was very pleasant. I am glad I started this conversation. It turns out she is the youngest teacher in the school (there are some 50 teachers at my school). It was nice to have someone to walk home with. The walk seemed very quick. We never actually introduced ourselves that day, but she already knew my name...

...which brings me to an interesting point. All of the teachers in the school know my name. I stand out like a sore thumb and because I am such a novelty here, not just among the students, but the teachers as well, I hear my name being said ALL of the time. I walk down the hall and kids repeat it over and over again; not always to me, but to each other. I walk in a room full of teachers and there it is again.

I played volleyball with the teachers and staff yesterday. It seemed everyone in the stands who were not participating (about 40 or so people) were talking about me. It was quite distracting.
I guess I just have to get used to this. I think that, in time, I will become less of thing to talk about. It gets old hearing your name repeated over and over again. Don't ask me what they are talking about. I don't speak that level of Korean.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to the Blog

I cannot believe one week has gone by since I posted my last message.

Time sure flies when you're having......kimchi all the time. Yes, that's right, kimchi with every meal. Since I arrived in Korea, I have maybe had three meals that did NOT have kimchi on the side. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm just saying it's a thing.

So I could spend an hour writing, catching you up on everything that's happened since last Wed, but I'm simply to tired and there is too much on my mind to do so. However, if you are one of the few that actually reads this (then surely you MUST be one of the ones who asked me to update them as often as I could; this blog is for you after all) then you have my word: If there is anything you want to know just email me and ask; I will answer.

In short, Korea life thus far is lonely. I go to work, I sit at a desk, I go home and clean my filthy apartment.
One of the highlights of my day is driving around with my wonderful co-teacher/mentor-teacher 재옥 to all of our appointments (setting up internet in my apartment for example). She is very kind and has made my experience a good one. The other co-teachers are all very nice.

Though I started work this past Monday, I do not start teaching until this coming Monday. In the meantime I am just preparing lessons and doing research. Nothing too exciting. I try to stay out of the way and let the real teachers do their job. I also try to fit in, though thats never been easy for a guy like me.

Hope to hear from some of you. Pardon the delay in my responses. Take care!

PS. There is much (and I do mean MUCH) I will absolutely not post on here for the same reasons as when I was in China. So please forgive the lack of detail and the sense of bore :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Looking Ahead

Today was the first day I really "explored." I went for a walk/run around the campus after orientation. It didnt last long. The campus being on a hill makes traversing the area quite difficult. Before long I was drenched in sweat. Its hot here. Too hot.

Tomorrow we go to a middle school to practice teach. I have to teach a class for 10 minutes. I wonder what my actual school will be like and how my co-teachers will be. Co-teachers can make or break your experience.

I am really looking forward to settling into my apartment. I have been in limbo since I left my home in Superior to stay with Dad and Mom. That was over one week ago now. By the time I settle into my own place, it will have been two weeks total of "in-between" time. I also look forward to getting my Alien Resident Card which allows me access to many things I cannot have right now, such as a cell phone, my own internet (at my apartment), and other things that seem like essentials. It could take several weeks to get this (after I start my job on Monday). Pray this card comes quickly with no delays.

Some times I feel like I'm back in Beijing in quarantine again. We can't go off campus and we must follow some strict rules. But that all ends soon enough. Thanks for being patient. Ill update info when I get more info!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just a few updates

Today at orientation I found out the name of my school: Nongseo Elementary. It is in the northern part of Ulsan, far from the city center, but in its own area of shops and businesses. Because there are several teachers in orientation who have taught in Ulsan in the past, they were able to give me a little info on the area, and though none of them taught at this particular school, they told me it is a large school. This means one thing for sure:

I will be working lots of overtime. This is a good thing though! One reason I came here is to work. There are many opportunities to teach extra classes and weekend activities. I will be working as much as I can. In other words, I will be working as much as they allow and as much as I can handle without losing my mind.

Which brings me to my last update: This will make studying Korean rather difficult. However, Ulsan University has evening conversational English classes that run almost every night of the week. The cost is $300 and lasts for 10 weeks. Because the next session begins September 2nd, I will have to wait for the session after that one (in November) as I will not have time to apply.

Pray I transition well into my school starting next week. I am looking for ways to bond with the teachers in the school by means other than drinking (as that is very popular here). One of those ways would be through volleyball, and apparently it is fairly common for teachers to have teams that compete against other school's teachers. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 19, 2013

3 days in

I arrived in Korea on Saturday at 4. 봉연 (Bongyeon) met me at the airport and we rode the bus to her sisters apartment in Seoul where we would meet her younger and older sisters. The bus ride was about an hour but it gave me my first glimpse of Seoul. Bongyeon is a great friend. Her and her elder sister cooked dinner for me of sesame chicken, fried chicken, fried pork, bulgogi, rice, and kimchi. It was delicious. Her sisters cannot speak much English, but the little English they spoke and the little Korean I speak somehow worked for us to communicate. It would have been funny to see what that dialogue looked like with Bongyeon translating and all the crazy gesturing. Her sisters are so sweet. They treated me very nice.

The next day was very relaxing. Bongyeon and I talked and reminisced about Superior. She took me to the KTX (Korean high speed train) station and saw me off there for my trip to Ulsan. The KTX is the first high speed train I have ever ridden. The scenery was amazing, but after about 20 minutes I fell asleep! I was lucky enough to wake up in time to get off at my stop. I took the bus from the station to the Ulsan airport where I met the other teachers waiting there. From there we took a bus to the dormitory of the university we are housed at. The first day of orientation just ended and I am back at the dorm writing this. I dont want to go into any details about orientation or about my upcoming job because I have few details and orientation is long and tiring.

I do want to mention one thing before I go to bed. I appreciate what great friends I have in Korea. Miss Bong took such great care of me, reserving my KTX ticket and going to the station with me, along with everything else she did. Many years ago when she was in the States I had the privilege of meeting her and helping her with life in the States. I never thought then that I would need help with life in her country. It's great how the Lord ordains things like this.

I hope youre all doing well. I miss my family and friends in the US. I thank God He gave me a family in Korea.