Month: July 2012

Wyoming wedding!!!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been stateside for 2 weeks now already.  There have been good days and bad days, culture shock has ebbed and flowed, old friends have been reconnected with and new friends have been made, and lots of life changes have been set in motion.  But the main event of last week was my dear friend Rachel and her wonderful new husband Ryan’s wedding.  Next weekend’s event is Chris’ wedding, and I’m crazy busy getting ready for that and grad school, but I figure that I should catch up before I get super behind!  So here goes – fall 2012 wedding #1 (out of 4!)

I suppose I should tell you first about my trip to America, though.  On a whim, I checked my flight status online right before I left to catch the bus to the airport in Korea.  Guess what??  It was cancelled.  Yeah.  Super unfortunate.  So I called United Airline’s customer service line, all in a panic, and they basically told me at first that there were no flights, even from nearby airports, until 2 days later.  I begged them to keep looking.  They finally found one flight, but at that point I had to leave to catch my bus, so I couldn’t confirm my booking.  So I said a prayer, crossed my fingers, and left the house, hoping that I would have a ticket on some plane upon my arrival.

And check out what happened….I love how God always has our backs.  I showed up at the airport, to find out that not only had I successfully been booked on a different flight; but I had been upgraded to business class – at no extra charge.  And, because business class customers have a higher baggage limit than economy class, I also didn’t have to pay any of the almost $200 in excess baggage fees that I was expecting.  Praise the Lord!!  And man, let me tell you what…business class is the way to go.  Seats with so much leg room that they can be reclined into fully horizontal beds, free wine and champagne, 4-course meals….they even gave you little slippers, so that you could relax your feet!  I don’t even like wine, but I had some just to be able to say that I did.  It was heaven :).

So anyway, I arrived into Jackson, Wyoming, around 11:00 pm on Monday night – jet-lagged beyond belief, but safe, with all my luggage, and ready for a week of wedding madness!  Rachel’s bachelorette party was all day on Tuesday – we spent the day at Yellowstone National Park, and then had a really nice dinner at a fancy restaurant to cap the day off.  It was a lovely day, and a needed breather between Korea and the craziness of wedding planning that would follow for the remainder of the week.  The best part, I think, is that we combined Rachel’s bachelorette party with her lingerie party – we made her unwrap a scandalous present at every stop we made in the park.  I’ve never seen her so embarrassed in my life.  It was great.  I love that girl ;).

The rest of the week went by in a blur, mostly with wedding preps, but punctuated by fun stuff, such as dancing at the famous Million-Dollar Cowboy Bar, trying buffalo steak at the Gun-barrel restaurant, or checking out the quaint and charming town of Jackson; and always underscored by the love and support of some truly incredible people.  The Murphy’s (Rachel’s new in-laws) are honestly some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my entire life.  They are constantly loving, giving of themselves, thinking of and serving others, and glorifying God.  It was a crazy week, but also a very edifying and encouraging one.

And the wedding itself was beautiful.  Goodness.  So precious.  I am so honored and blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, and also to be a part of their lives.  I will treasure the memories of the Ryan and Rachel Murphy wedding forever.  Many pictures from the wedding and the week leading up to it below!! 🙂

My reaction at being in business class 🙂
The leg-room in business class – it was incredible 😀 

Course #1 – out of 5!!

Wyoming scenery – the storm literally split the sky in half!!  So cool!!

Rachel’s bachelorette party at Yellowstone – and yes, that IS her doing a handstand on a pile of logs in the middle of the river…. 🙂

Old Faithful blowing faithfully!

A famous lodge on the park grounds – possibly the coolest building I’ve ever seen

Wyoming is gorgeous, plain and simple.

Yellowstone is aptly named…

Sisters!!  Elsha and Shannon Murphy

The mud pits of Yellowstone – they bubble and pop and sing to you! 🙂

So yeah…the water was a bit cold…

Rachel trying to avoid a tanline – that’s how much she loves Ryan ;).  Haha…

More sisters!  Rachel and Sarah Leslie 🙂

My wedding present to Rachel – a personalized cookbook with old family recipes and stories and pictures from her past

I like this shot – Rachel’s engagement ring has the silhouette of the Teton mountains in them.  It’s lined up perfectly with the actual mountains 🙂 

Wedding prep!  Making programs – they were really complicated.  We had to get really creative to save time 😀

Anddddd…..a week later, the finished product!!

Korea is infectious.  Hahaha 😀

The million dollar cowboy bar.  Thus named because the knotted wood that the bar is mostly made of is a very rare anomaly, and literally costs millions of dollars!
Gunbarrel restaurant.  I tried buffalo steak – soooo good!! 

Yes, that arch is indeed made entirely of antler horns! 

The rehearsal dinner

I tried slack-lining – basically it’s a tight-rope that’s really close to the ground.  Sooo hard!!

The wedding!!  Check out the mountains in the background!  I love this shot… 🙂

Sarah (on the left) made both of the wedding cakes.  They were incredibleeeeee!!!

Me and my escort, Seth, walking down the aisle

What happens when you return

There’s this article that’s been going around the internet lately called “What Happens When You Live Abroad”, by Chelsea Fagan.  It’s a great read, and talks all about the way that your heart is always torn into different directions and given to different peoples when you live in and invest in different countries.    I would highly recommend you read it if you get a chance.But what the article doesn’t really talk much about is what happens when you return.  What they don’t talk about is the culture shock that you feel all over again after you’ve gotten back on that plane and landed in your home country.  All of the confusion and unsettling feelings that swirl around you because of that culture shock – even more so, because you know that this is your birth country.  This was where you were born.  This is supposed to be your home.  So why does it feel so alien??

For me, it started off with little things, unimportant things.  My friends just laughed at my silliness, and I was too jet-lagged to really notice that something was different.  After all, it was just little things, anyway.  Like my excitement at finally being able to use a clothes dryer again, and snuggling up in the warm clothes right after the machine finished.  Or eating cheese and drinking milk after nearly a near of languishing in the desert of no dairy.  Or not having to think anymore about expertly aiming the shower head so that I don’t soak the rest of the bathroom.  Or being shocked when someone walked into the room with their shoes on.

But then the jet-lag wore off, and it got a little harder.  I started driving again, and was reminded how much I loved hopping on a bus and going somewhere exciting in Korea.  I kept noticing people giving things with 1 hand, and was reminded of how much I love the politeness of the Korean people, how cool it is that they always give or receive things with 2 hands as a way of showing their respect to the person they’re interacting with.  I noticed the large numbers of obese people in America, and was reminded of the Korean propensity for exercising and eating healthily, and how cute their fashion styles are.  I started cooking a few things, and was reminded of how much I love Korean food, and how loved and cared for I always felt in my homestay when my host parents cooked for me.  Even something as innocuous as being able to flush toilet paper, reminded me of the bathrooms at my school, in which you most certainly could NOT flush toilet paper.

And that, of course, reminded me of my students. And how desperately much I miss them.  And then when my students themselves started messaging me about how much they missed me, and how quiet school was without me, and how much they wanted to see me, things got MUCH harder.  I’m sitting here in America, in the middle of some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my life, among wonderful old friends and fabulous new ones, and all I can think about is how I don’t fit in.  How I don’t belong here.  How can it be that I can feel more alien in my own country, among some of my closest friends, than I ever did on the other side of the world??  How is it possible that I somehow feel more comfortable speaking Korean than I do speaking English??  Sometimes even now, I catch myself saying a few words or phrases in Korean….and every time I do it breaks my heart.  Because nobody here understands it.  And it reminds me all over again how very far from Korea I truly am.  


Living abroad is a beautiful thing, a wonderful thing.  And the fact that I am back is also wonderful, because it means that I have a family and friends whom I desperately love who have pulled me back to America.  But Chelsea Fagan was spot on when she said that living abroad tears your heart in half.  It is a good thing, a beautiful thing; but it means that you will for the rest of your life live with the knowledge that you don’t quite “fit in.”  No matter where you go, you’re always going to be missing people, traditions, foods, and customs from somewhere else.  That’s a fact that I think I can live with.  But I surely do hope that it won’t always hurt so much.  

Silence

You know that feeling that you get when something big is about to happen?  You bolt out of bed, you have butterflies in your stomach, you’re all tingly and excited??  That’s what happened to me this morning.  I bolted up out of bed, wide awake, way before 5:00 am.  And, since I have nothing to do before I catch my bus, I’ve decided to write one last blog from Korea.

Today is the day that I leave Korea, after living here for over a year.  And while yes, it is sad, at the same time, it’s exciting.  I remember when I left Costa Rica; it literally took about 3 minutes before I could force myself to step onto the plane, that’s how much I was dreading leaving.  But I don’t think it’ll be that way this time.  I’ve had a wonderful year here, and I’m so so grateful for the time that I’ve been given.  But I also know that God has more things in store for me – really big things.  And I can’t wait to see what they are!

I had more goodbyes this weekend – with Si-yeon, my wonderful language partner and friend; with Lorna, my dear friend from a neighboring city, who came to see me off and stayed the night with me on Saturday; with all of my church friends, who hosted a farewell church-wide lunch after the service on Sunday; and of course, with my host family, who let me cook for them and give them gifts one last time on Sunday night.  I will miss them all dearly…..but I’m also getting pretty stoked about Atlanta!  Studying, more languages, more new friends and plenty of old ones, dancing, and of course…..wedding season!!  I have all of that to look forward to!

I want to close this blog with a piece that I wrote for and read at my church on Sunday morning.  It’s a good representation of how I feel right now.  Also, lots of pictures and videos below!  Enjoy!! 🙂

Silence
Silence.  I try to will my lips to speak what my heart is telling them to, try to force my tongue to form the words that so desperately want to come out.  But all I get is silence.  My heart feels like a freshly scrubbed sky after a torrential storm.  It is clean and content…except that it has not stormed yet.  There is so much that I want to say, so many words that need to come out, that it simply overwhelms me.  And so I say nothing.  Silence.
How do I tell them, I ask myself, what they have meant to me?  How could they ever understand what worshipping and praying and fellowshipping with them has done for me in this past year?  How could they ever know how much serving them and being served by them; how much teaching them and being taught by them, has blessed me?
I want to tell them.  I want them to know how much I love them.  But I don’t know where to start.  Perhaps I should explain the sheer terror that overwhelmed me before my arrival to Korea.  As Sir Henly so aptly pointed out, “you are too young to be teaching in Asia all by yourself.”  And I cannot argue with him.  I had never felt more alone, more isolated, more scared, than when I arrived in this city last year, far from home, family, and all things familiar.  If they knew, if they knew how many times I cried myself to sleep during those first few weeks in Gyeongju, would they be able to better understand why it’s so amazing that I’m crying now at the thought of leaving? 
Perhaps I should explain my initial elation upon finally finding an English service.  Dr. Cho must have thought that I was an idiot when he gave me a ride that first Sunday, I was so excited.  But if I talk about my initial excitement, I must also talk about how that excitement faded into dull monotony after the first few weeks.  I traveled often, came to church when I was in town, and settled into my normal school existence during the week.  I never saw them outside of church.  Sure, I missed Christian fellowship like what I was used to back home…but here in Korea, there didn’t seem to be any other alternative.
And then, somehow….an alternative DID appear.  They became not just people that I saw for an hour every Sunday morning…they became my friends.  They became not just a sea of faces who sang from the audience, listened to the pastor, and then left, not to be seen again until the next week.  They became my teachers, my confidants, my friends, and my family.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, prayed with them, and learned with them. 
They have taught me more about the Lord, more about myself, more about loving and accepting others, than I ever thought possible.  They have taught me to truly love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to always give Him everything that I have.  They have taught me not to be afraid of people who are different from myself.  They have taught me not to judge those who come from backgrounds different from my own.  To not shy away from cultural and linguistical barriers, but to embrace them.  They have taught me that a smile, a hug, a kind gesture or a caring word, will touch someone no matter what language they speak, no matter what country they were born in, what job they have, or how much money they make. 
Here in Korea, I introduce myself as an English teacher.  But I think a more apt description would be a life student.  A student of life.  My friends, my family here at Gyeongju Jeil church, they have taught me that.  They have taught me how to embrace every opportunity that comes my way, how to love every individual that God puts in my path.  How to laugh at my mistakes and learn from them; and how to teach others, so that they don’t make the same mistakes.  I wish that I could tell them everything that they mean to me.  I wish I knew the words that I could say to make them understand.  But I cannot.  My heart is content and scrubbed clean, but the thunderstorm of words has yet to arrive.  And so…silence.  I use my pen to convey what my lips cannot.  Maybe one day they will realize how much they meant to me.  How much I love them.  I can only hope and pray that that day comes soon. 

This video was actually from last week, but I was having trouble uploading it then.  Anyway, my church did a world rendition of Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” – English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Khmer (the language of Cambodia), and Tagalog (the language of the Philippines) are represented.  So beautiful!

A gift from a student on the last day of class.  Possibly the best gift I have ever received.  Absolutely incredible <3

Jeong-min surprised me with a goodbye violin performance on my last day at church.  I had been asking her to play for me all year.  So beautiful!!!

Pictures with some of my favorite students…

My last Sunday in Gyeongju I was the guest speaker at church!    

Pastor Mario praying over me before I left

Church goodbye lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant

Me and Lorna :).  She came to visit me one last time before I left….she’s such a blessing…. <3

Lorna, Lin, and Lauren! 🙂

Please note the size of Pastor Mario’s umbrella…hahaha 😀

Hands

Hands.  
There are so many ways to shapes ones’ hands.  
I have seen them lifted up in fists of anger against enemies.  
I have seen them comfortably clasped in the familiar bond of friendship.
I have seen them playfully shoving one another in good-natured camaraderie.
I have seen them, fingers intertwined, lacing lovers together.
But today, I have not just seen them.  I have felt them.  Hyeon-jeong’s hands.  
I felt her hands squeezing mine goodbye.  
I felt the strength, the love, the urgency in them.  
It was as if her hands knew that this was the last time they would be in mine, 
and simply could not let me go.
They stayed with me, her hands, while I bid fare well to other students.  
While I bowed solemnly to other teachers.  
They crossed the broad expanse of campus with me, 
as I slowly, painfully walked it for the very last time.  
They gently wiped my tears away as I struggled in vain to not cry.  
They stayed with me, her hands, even long after the bell had rung, 
summoning her back to her studies.  
And, when we reached the edge of school, 
when I crossed the line that her society dictates she must not cross, 
her hands reached out after me.
In that moment, the frizz of my hair or the slant of her eyes were no longer noticed.  
The color of our passports were longer a dividing line between us.
It didn’t matter if we couldn’t wax eloquently about politics or religion or philosophy.
All that mattered were her hands in mine – 
reaching out to me, connecting with me, loving me.
And in that moment, we were no longer foreigner and native.
We were no longer adult and child.
We were no longer teacher and student.  
We were simply….together.  Friends.  Sisters.  

Bittersweet goodbyes

There have been a lot of goodbyes in my life lately.  At church, at Bible study, at school, at teachers dinners and meetings, even in neighboring cities….it’s been a very sad week for me.  But I keep reminding myself that this is really a good thing.  I’ve been in Korea for over a year now.  I’ve invested a large percentage of my life into this place.  I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve poured out my heart and life and soul into this country.  The goodbyes are bittersweet, to be sure.  But how much more tragic would it be if I had lived here for an entire year, and WASN’T sad to be leaving?  How much sadder would it be if I had spent so much time here, but hadn’t plugged into the people here at all?  If I had just considered this year a “pause” in my real life, and just spent all of my time here looking to the future, waiting until I could get back to where I was comfortable?

The goodbyes are sad, of course.  I can’t say that I’m HAPPY that I’m leaving these people and places that I’ve come to love so dearly.  But I AM happy to be so, so blessed.  I am happy to have made wonderful friends here, to have such precious experiences and memories from the past year.  I am happy that a part of my heart has been embedded into the people and culture of Korea….for the rest of my life.  And, at the same time, I am happy to be returning to America.  Because I know that I have just as many blessings waiting for me back in the states, as I have in Korea that I am leaving.

So this blog is just a collection of photos, and also a short video, of some of my favorite goodbyes this week.  Captions explaining the pictures will be below the photos.  Enjoy!

School dinner with all of my teachers and Elizabeth, the Fulbright teacher from the middle school.  She said, “I feel like I’m crashing the high school party!”  Hahaha…

Goodbye ceremony at my school.  They presented me with an engraved plaque in appreciation of my work this past year.  It’s beautiful….and weighs a TON!!  Still trying to figure out how I’ll get it home… =/ 
Me taking on the world.  My farewell speech to the teachers of the school – completely in Korean.  I so love this picture :).  It’s also great being able to compare my first speech last year, with my last speech, and note how vastly much my Korean has improved :).  

Some of my favorite class pictures from this semester 🙂

We went out for dinner to celebrate Lin’s birthday

Me and Jeong-min

Check out Lin’s reaction below when I said happy birthday to her in Chinese!  It’s only about 19 seconds, but soooo worth watching!  Priceless!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

I took a bunch of my second year students out for dinner.  After the usual chaotic confusion of deciding where to go with a big crowd, we had a really good time.  And then the waitress gave us soft drinks on the house, because she said that “it’s so beautiful to see foreign teachers spending time with their students outside of the classroom.” (Highly paraphrased, since it was all in Korean, lol)  I’m really going to miss the generosity of Koreans….

An adorable little coffee shop in Pohang

Coffee and patbingsu – the best patbingsu I’ve ever had!!  Left to right – Da-seom (Korean), Yustia (Indonesian), Zack (South African), and Alejandro (Peruvian).  I love my life 🙂
A letter from a winter camp student: “Dear Lauren, today is the last day that I can see you in Korea.  I’m sad when I knew about your leaving… 🙁  It was so sudden, but it is fortunate that I know your leaving before you really leave!!  So I can write a letter like this <3.  Did you have a nice time in Korea?  It is best if every moment is full of happiness, but I think that you may have been sad or disappointed here.  Although it is real, do not fall into sorrow, Lauren.  Because you have even more great memories!  I know!! :D
I hope you take away good memories to your hometown, and make a smile every time you think about Korea.  Also, congratulations with back to America, have a nice time with your family :).  Oh!  Don’t forget to upload to Facebook.  Haha.
I have something to tell you.  Even if I told you before, I want to tell you again.  You really are such a great teacher!!  Your class is very lively and full of energy.  And I’m always looking forward to class.  Maybe other students, too.  (I think your energy must have been passed to them!!  Lol)  I’m convinced that you will be a wonderful teacher in USA, too.  I will support you!  Fighting! <3 <3
Whenever I see you, I think you’re great.  Cuz you came alone to a strange place, and you always smiled.  Thinking about, “could I do that??”
One of my hope is going to the USA.  I’ll let you know when I go to the USA!!  I wish I could see you again :).  The time with you was special, and it will remain good memories in my heart.  Thank you and love you, Lauren!!  Good luck in everything!!!  Love, from Chae-yeon.  

Baseball games and jjimjilbangs

The last time I went to a baseball game was 2 years ago, in Atlanta.  I remember being impressed back then with the “culture of the Braves,” as I put it.  The crowds, the advertisements, the entertainment….it was all quite an experience (you can read about that day here).  Definitely not something that you see on an average day in America.


But America has nothing on Korea.  A baseball game in Korea….is truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  I’m not really sure where to start.  I suppose I could start with the scalpers that swarm you when you try to buy your ticket.  Literally – they swarm you.  Like, so thick that you can’t even get to the vendors.  But then, I suppose there are scalpers in America, too, so that’s not such a huge deal.


Ok, well then maybe I could tell you about the cheerleaders.  About their cute little Korean dances that they perform in between every inning, or the mascot break-dancing competition that they had instead of the 7th-inning stretch.  But then, I suppose American mascots do silly things too, so many that’s not so impressive, either.


Of course, the way that they bring in their relief pitchers is pretty special – escorted onto the field in a souped-up mini cooper.  But even with that, the argument may be made that it can be found in other places.


The really unique part of a Korean baseball game would have to be the fans.  Like, when they did the wave – in super slow motion.  And it still made it around the stadium 3 times.  Or, how every player on the home team has a theme song that is played when they come up to bat – and the fans know every.single.song.  And they cheer, and clap, and sing along with every.single.song.  Or how they sing for their home team (the Lotte Giants), to the tune of the most random American songs.  Think along the lines of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah” – Lotte, Lotte, Lotte Looooooootte!  It’s hilarious.  Oh, and those songs are also usually sung with the entire stadium standing with arms linked and swaying back and forth in unison to the music.  


And they bring handmade pom-poms and wave them with enthusiastic vigor….pretty much always.  The entire 3 hour game.  But my favorite part, by far, of a Korean baseball game, was the bags.  Yes, the bags.  Around the end of the 7th inning, park employees start walking around handing out orange plastic bags.  And people put them on their heads.  They do bowties, or headbands, or sometimes belts; but the most common adornment was simply a big ball of air that is then tied to one’s ears.  Bizarre, right?  Wrong.  Here in Korea, it’s….totally….normal.  And that, my friends, is why I love Korea…and why a Korean baseball game is an event that simply cannot be missed.


Following the game, I had another cultural experience.  I went to a…..drumroll, please…..jjimjilbang!!  A jjimjilbang is essentially a sauna and a cheap place to sleep.  There are usually 3 floors – 2 for the saunas (gender-segregated), and 1 common area for sleeping and relaxing.  But oh no.  A jjimjilbang is so, so much more than that.  


When I got there, I was given a locker key and a pair of unisex pajamas – nothing more.  I made my way to the women’s sauna, and found the lockers.  Into these lockers go all of your stuff.  And I mean everything.  Including all of your  clothes.  Every.last.stitch.  After you get good and naked, you head into the sauna part.  First, there are scrubbing stations.  And I mean that in a very literal sense of the word.  There were walls about 4 feet high, with faucets coming out of them, buckets in front of them, and mirrors on the walls in front of the buckets.  So you found a bucket, sat down, and scrubbed.  You scrubbed until you were squeaky clean, until you couldn’t scrub anymore.  After you had made sure that you wouldn’t contaminate the public pools, you could choose a pool to soak in as long as you wanted.  There were several pools, each of varying temperature – the hottest was like 56 degrees C, although I was only able to handle up to 40 degrees.  There were also showers of varying pressure and temperature that you could soak under.  


There was a pair of girls who unknowingly became my heroes that night at the jjimjilbang.  I had never been, so I had no idea what to do, and you can bet your boots that I’m not going to walk up to someone and fumble around in Korean asking them what I should do when we’re both stark naked.  So I just watched the girls out of the corner of my eye and did whatever they were doing.  I’m not a creeper at all…haha :).


Anyway, once you were tired of getting shriveled up like a raisin, you put on your stylish PJs (boys got blue, girls got pink; that was the only difference in them), and made your way to the common area.  There were no beds – just a big open floor, and piles of incredibly thin mats and strange brick-shaped pillows. When you got tired, you got a mat and a brick and set up camp in whatever area of the floor suited your fancy.  Until you got tired, however, there were plenty of other things to keep you occupied.  They had big TVs blaring – which was nice, until it got to be around 1:00 am, and then it got a little annoying.  There was also a restaurant with a simple menu, and massage chairs – although they were about as relaxing as a massage with a jackhammer – and actual masseuses, as well.  


My favorite part, however, were the sauna rooms.  There were 5 separate sauna rooms in the common area, in addition to the pools on the men’s and women’s floors.  These rooms, however, had no water in them.  They were heated rooms made entirely of different materials – the different materials were supposed to give out different medicinal effects.  There was a natural salt room, a wooden room, a rock room, a crystal room, and a coal room (that was the hottest), and also an ice room, as well.  It was pretty cool…no pun intended…haha :).


So the sauna part of the jjimjilbang was nice, but not much of the actual sleeping part really happened, so by the next morning I was pretty tired.  But, there is no rest for the weary!  I had promised Jeanine, my pastor’s wife, that I would help her that day.  She’s teaching an intensive summer course at the university, and also taking care of a newborn, and was feeling a bit overstretched, so I told her I’d come help with some of her grading.  So early Wednesday morning, I took a train from the jjimjilbang to Gyeongju; then from there, took a bus to Pohang, and arrived at her university around lunchtime.  I helped her with her grading, then had dinner at their house, and pastor Mario then drove me back to Gyeongju, where I was just in time to catch the Wednesday night Bible study at church.  Needless to say, by the time I finally fell into my bed that night, I was more than ready for a good night’s sleep.  Overall, it was definitely worth it, though :).  I had a blast, and I feel so much more Korean after having experienced both a baseball game and a jjimjilbang – on the same day, no less!!



The only picture I was allowed to take of the jjimjilbang 🙂

At the beginning of the game….they didn’t seem too crazy….

Me and my friend Jae

The cheerleaders strutting their stuff

OK, now it’s getting a little crazy….teenage guys bringing homemade pom-poms….

wait….EVERYONE has homemade pom-poms!!

The entire stadium with linked arms, lustily singing at every opportunity….
ok, now it’s getting really weird….
 
Just a shot of the moon and the stadium lights that I thought was cool…

Battle of the mascots 🙂

Korean relief pitchers come on in STYLE! 🙂

Oh yes….you are seeing this picture correctly

Here’s a few videos showing you the progression of the fans’ frenzied excitement as the game progressed:

Church farewell party

I’ve been super busy these days.  The clock keeps counting down, but I try to ignore it, and just enjoy each day as it comes.  New deadlines at school have kept me hopping at work, and the litany of things that must be done to wrap up a year of living in a foreign country have assured that I’m never bored outside of work.

But in between the monotonous and the mundane, there have been some beautiful moments.  My favorite this week was undoubtedly Sunday.  My church threw me a going away party in the evening after church.  A large percentage of my congregation is from the Philippines, so they all got together and made a Filippino feast for us.  There was shrimp, and marinated beef, and flan (yummy!!), and lots of other stuff which I have no idea what it was called, but it was delicious, anyway.

About 20 people came (which, when you only have a church of maybe 35 or 40, is a really high percentage!  Lol…), and we ate together and talked and laughed, and just overall enjoyed each other’s company.  They surprised me with a cake (made me blow the candles out and everything!), and a slide show with pictures and messages saying things like “we’ll miss you, Lauren!” and “We love you!”.  I may have shed a tear or two.  It was beautiful.  I will miss them so much.

Oh, I almost forgot!  After dinner, we all gathered around and watched Courageous, the most recent production of my home church, Sherwood Baptist.  My friend James had sent it to me as part of a care package earlier in the year, and when I suggested that we watch it as a church, everyone agreed.  It was a nice end to the evening.  One of the Korea pastors liked it so much that he asked me how to get a copy.  I gave him mine.  I figured it was the best use of the gift that James had given me :).

My second favorite moment this week happened the next day, on Monday night.  A friend of mine from college, Emily, got a scholarship to come to Korea.  She arrived about a week ago, but has been spending most of her time in Seoul.  Well, this weekend her program came down to Gyeongju, and I actually got to meet up with her.  We went for a walk, and spent about 2 hours catching up.  It was great to see her, and also a good way to mentally start preparing myself for my impending new reality – the one in which I’ll be able to have fluent conversations like that with almost every single person that I meet.  It was a very nice ending to my day.  Thirteen days until touchdown!

Me and Emily <3

Where we ended up on our walk

See the projector screen?  **sniff, sniff**

My church family…. <3

Filippino food = sooooo good

The cake they got me – they made me blow the candles out and everything 🙂