Unexpected fellowship

Early last week, one of my co-teachers asked if I’d be available for dinner this week. I didn’t think much of it, and later in the week I heard that another co-teacher would be joining us. 

Today finally arrived, and the three of us arranged to leave straight after work. I got to choose the menu, so I opted for shabu-shabu. It’s one of my favourites, but sadly I’ve had only one opportunity to eat it this year – on my very first day, actually! One might say I was proper ‘uitgehonger’. 

We went to a beautiful restaurant just a stone’s throw from my home. I’d walked past a few times but never taken note. The decor was lovely and the food was tasty. But what I really enjoyed was the conversation. 

All three of us are leaving the school at the end of February so we talked a little about our plans and about teaching in general. But pretty soon the conversation turned to our faith. See, all three of us are Christians (yay!) and we’ve often talked about it (double  yay!). So the conversation took a very natural turn.  While we were chatting, I just had to take a moment and praise God for all the ways in  He’s revealed Himself to me this year.

One of my favourite parts of it all has to be the interconnectedness of the themes I’ve dealt with. If I read something in the Bible that stands out to me, you’d better know that I’ll come across a related article on Facebook (I’ve stated following a lot of faith-based pages in an attempt to make my newsfeed more palatable) and it’ll come up in at least one conversation in the near future.  I’m all about patterns and links and I tend to look for them in all aspects of life. So of course during the conversation last night, three things came up – and all  three happened to relate to things I’d read/studied in the last week or so. 

Yesterday morning I woke up to messages from my friend back home containing some stuff she came across in her daily readings. It dealt with trusting God’s perfect timing. The way it was written was exactly what I needed to read for it to make an impact on me. And then later, when I checked Facebook, the very first thing I saw was related to the theme of God’s timing. So I shared it with my friend and reflected on it for the rest of the day. (Side note: I’m currently dealing with some pain issues and it feels like my to-do list is getting away from me. So I need to trust that I’m not missing out on opportunities here.) And then  tonight, my one co-teacher was telling us something and the main point of his story was – you guessed it – to trust God’s process and not to rush it. 

Later in the conversation, he was talking about how popular culture has adapted Biblical definitions, and the example he used was the concept of blessings. And guess what’s been on my mind all week?! Just yesterday I shared an article on Facebook dealing with the Biblical concept of blessings. Short version: earthly possessions aren’t blessings; anything that brings us closer to God (including rough times) are.  I told them a little bit about the article, and then my other co-teacher shared about a new member at her church. This woman joined her cell group. She’s divorced and carries a lot of shame about it. And you know what their pastor said? Dude! (Well he didn’t say ‘dude’. I’m saying ‘dude’ because it’s so cool!) The Pastor told this woman that she was blessed, because her divorce lead her back to church and to joining the cell group. There ya go! What a perfect example! 

But it doesn’t end there. At another point in the conversation, one of my co-teachers mentioned that he has decided to worry less about pushing himself to always get better and to rather enjoy himself with what he has. Once again I got excited, because earlier in the week I’d read a quote by someone who said (and I paraphrase) that our constant striving has become one of our greatest enemies because it prevents us from being truly thankful for what we have, because we’re so busy focusing on what we don’t yet have. We’re so busy seeking out the next great goal or reward for our efforts, that we often forget to stop and give God glory for what we already have.  All three of us had examples of events in our lives where we’d stand to benefit more from appreciating the present rather than chasing the next goal. Deep stuff. 

On the way home, my co-teacher commented that he admired my insight and that even though he’s been a Christian for a long time, he’s only just starting to learn about God’s true will for our lives. I explained that this year has also been a massive learning curve for me. 

This evening’s events just served as such a real reminder that God really is everywhere if we let Him be. 

Here’s to many more fellowship opportunities! 

Shabu-shabu oh yeah!

Office highlights

I have two students who pop into the teachers’ office every day to say hello and make small talk.
The first one has been chatting to me for most of the year. I’ve recently made a breakthrough as he’s finally remembering to greet me before diving into a story about his many interests/obsessions (trains, the FBI, zombies, Home Alone 2…).
I had a slow start with the second one. He comes in at the end of every day to fetch his class’s cellphones. He’d always greet me (in Korean) and I’d greet back (in Korean). He’d then tell me my Korean is very good. Because I’m a total dweeb, I started saying it to him, too. For some reason this became a thing. After several weeks of this mindless exchange, he got a little braver and started making basic small talk. His vocabulary is limited, although he manages to express himself well regardless. He’s been getting increasingly more confident and it’s been fun to hear him practice new expressions. He’d ask my co-teacher for translations when he got stuck.
When he asked me “How’s it going?”, I didn’t think much of it. But then he explained to my co-teacher that he learned it from me, because that’s how I greet him every day. Apparently he picked up on it some time ago and has been anticipating the perfect opportunity to use it. He was very proud of himself, and of course my heart swelled, too!
Now excuse me while I go learn some new informal greetings 🙂

Nice to meet you, Hully Keen!

​Preemptive TL;DR: Today was good and I want to remember it.

The students had a market day in the morning. Each of the 27 classes sold something (food and drinks) or had an activity (photobooth, face painting, etc). I swear they spoke more English today (to get me to support their class) than this whole year combined. Listening to them argue over how to say the amounts in English was amusing.

“It’s one hundred, no thousand dollar!” Ugh. Who taught them that ‘won’ in English is ‘dollar’?

What really killed me though is that they’re still saying ‘nice to meet you’ every time they see me. The Korean word for ‘meet’ covers ‘meet’, ‘see’ and ‘visit’ in English, so it’s a tough one to unlearn. I. Have. Tried. And. Failed. 

One of the 9th graders escorted me around a bit while making small talk. He was surprised to learn I have Korean money. He just assumed I used dollars.

In an effort to kill time a few weeks ago, I taught the 7th graders the “English names” of Korean food (blood sausage, spicy rice cakes, etc). I was impressed to hear them use those descriptions today. 

There were several make-up/face-painting booths. I had at least 30 girls come up to me with blue and red combo eyeshadow, proudly announcing  that they are “Hully Keen” (the Korean pronunciation of Harley Quinn).

And of course the talent show this afternoon. I’m somewhat over the expressionless K-pop routines the girls are churning out at an alarming rate, but there were some legit surprises in-between. I only see a class once every two weeks, and then they’re just a group of teenagers actively disinterested in whatever I need to teach them. So it was a great reminder for me that they are, in fact, way more talented than I could ever discover in just my lesson. 

Their artwork has been on display all around the school this last week. They produced some quality work! I started off taking photos of a few that stood out, but before long I couldn’t even choose anymore so I was just snapping away. 

Today reminded me that I want to get back into teaching in a way that I can get to know my students and can learn what really makes them tick. Spoiler: two-weekly English speaking activities aren’t it! For many of them, my lesson is their only mental downtime all week. They are exceptionally talented, but that talent is rooted in hours and hours of input and dedication.  

5. Share: Best advice you’ve ever got

This one is easy! As soon as I read through the topics for this challenge, I knew that I’d be sharing my mom’s singular but all-inclusive go-to piece of wisdom. Sometimes she says it as a joke, sometimes it’s accompanied with a hint of sarcasm, and sometimes she says it as if it’s the most important piece of advice she’ll ever share. But always always always, she means it and she says it with the amount of love only a mother can.

Life is full of choices.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and I’m also not going to spend a lot of time explaining it.

Whatever situation you may be in, if you find yourself complaining, these are the words you need to remind yourself of: Life is full of choices. If you don’t like what’s happening, change it. Change your mind, change your situation, change your mindset or change your attitude. But stop complaining. It’s really as simple as that.

I’m not saying the choice is easy. But the choice is there.

There really hasn’t been a single time in my life when my mom’s advice hasn’t helped me sort myself out. The lady is a genius.

me & ma

We take a pretty good selfie, I’d say!

4. Your Favourite: 5 Blogs

 

I wouldn’t call the following blogs my “favourites” necessarily. They’re just ones I’m more familiar with than others. I’ve read countless blog posts all over the place that have resonated with me in some way or another, but to post them all here would be impossible.

So, in no particular order:

Hyperbole and a Half

Often referred to as the alot girl, Allie also wrote an excellent piece on depression (and later followed it up with part 2). And if you have a chance to read her book, you should.

#kikinitinkorea

This blog hasn’t been updated in a while, but it was a firm favourite when I first arrived in Korea. The creator moved to Korea around the same time as me, so it was a lot of fun seeing updates over the course of that year and being able to relate every single one.

pleated-jeans

This is my favourite Internet Black Hole. The Tumblr Gets Deep series is my absolute favourite, and at one stage I used to read it as soon as it was published on Fridays.

Seoul Secrets

Foreigners in Korea are fairly dependent on whatever English information is available out there, and a lot of this information focuses on the same locations, restaurants, etc. Seoul Secrets takes you off the beaten path, to parts of Seoul that foreigners probably wouldn’t think to visit because , well, we didn’t know they exist or we didn’t know what these areas have to offer.

10 won tips

I’ve found some really useful Korea-related info here.

3. Why do you blog?

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Google never disappoints.

I started blogging in 2012 when I decided to move to Korea. During my research on the job and the country, I found that a lot of foreign teachers in Korea had blogs. Most of the information in Korea is in Korean and that can be intimidating for a newbie. These blogs were all in English and they had everything from reviews to suggestions to directions. From these blogs I learned what to pack, what not to pack, how much to pack… I learned about what to expect from my job, my colleagues, my co-teacher, my students… I learned where to go and how to get there… I learned that there are ups and downs to living in Korea and how to deal with culture shock (hint: HAVE A WIDE OPEN MIND when you arrive AND BE ADAPTABLE and you’ll adjust a lot faster). Basically, there’s nothing about Korea that couldn’t be found on a blog somewhere.

There were also a lot of blogs that were more just about people’s personal experiences. I found myself enjoying reading about unique perspectives and even just the menial day to day things that foreigners endure experience in this here unique country.

Because I was the first person out of everyone I knew to move to a new country, I decided to start my own blog to keep everyone up to date with my experiences. So my blog is much more of a ‘look what I did, guys!’ than a ‘you should do these things’. I blog pretty sporadically though. Shorter updates were easier to post on Facebook and I just never felt like sitting down and writing about stuff that had happened before more recent stuff that happened. New stuff was happening all the time.

Random observation: It felt like, back in 2012, just about everyone had a blog, even if they only posted once in a blue moon. These days blogging has become such a thing. I miss the days of raw, amateur blogging! Sometimes I can’t resist, and I creep back on my Paju friends’ timelines until I find a link they posted. And then I can easily lose hours reading old posts. A simpler time, indeed.

2. Meaning of your blog name?

 

When I first moved to Korea, my blog had a different name. I figured I’d be blogging mostly about Korea, so naturally ‘kimchi’ had to feature in the title. ‘Boerewors’ is a uniquely South African sausage and I used it to represent my South African roots. I knew I’d be eating all sorts of unusual foods (by my palate’s standards, that is). As a picky eater this was very significant to me, and I wanted to focus attention on it. ‘Kimchi and Boerewors: Awaken the tastebuds’ was born.

Planes, trains and chutney

When I decided to leave Korea early in 2014, I figured it was time to give my blog a more general and less Korea-centered name. I wanted it to still be about my travelling, living abroad and having new experiences, but also about something from home. ‘Planes’ and ‘trains’ represent my main mode of travel. (Can I just say, public transport is the bomb!)  ‘Chutney’ is a type of pickled relish unique to South Africa – something I miss immensely when I live away from home.

Diary of an expat, teacher, comfort-zone teacher

And because my blog has no specific purpose, I think of it as a diary (or journal) of sorts. I am an expat and a career teacher, and even though I seem to be living this adventurous life, I’m really still just looking to establish comfort zones wherever I am.