Category: America

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.  

There and back again

Well my nerdy book-worm friends will recognize the title of this blog as a reference to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” which I suppose is rather fitting considering the fact that I’ve just spent the better part of an hour downloading dozens of free literary classics onto my Kindle to keep me occupied during my numerous upcoming flights.  But other than that, there is really nothing relating to Tolkien or Middle Earth or Hobbits in this blog.  This one is about Christmastime in America :).

The trip to America was long and boring, but I would not go so far as to say grueling.  It was uneventful, and marked mostly by sitting and watching movies, but not a particularly pleasant trip, nonetheless.  I started at 2 in the morning from Gyeongju, catching a bus to the airport in Seoul.  I met a girl from California while I was waiting on my flight who was doing the same thing I was, and we got some coffee and had a nice long chat.  It was a much better way to pass the time than just sitting in a corner of the airport :).  So anyway, 1 bus, 2 planes, 3 customs and security checks, 4 airplane meals, and 27 hours later, I finally found myself in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.  My friend Sylvain met me at the airport.  We got some airport pizza, he got a good laugh at seeing me so completely jet-lagged, we caught up for a little bit, and then I took a shuttle to Columbus, where my family was there waiting for me.  Actually, I ended up waiting for them for a little bit, but it was ok, because I got to meet lots of interesting people while I waited.  I had forgotten how much I enjoy striking up random conversations with strangers I meet in my travels.  That’s not really something I can do in Korea, as usually there is a pretty large language barrier that makes communication of any depth really impossible.

So anyway, my first week in America was marked mainly by just spending time with family and friends, punctuated by Christmas, my birthday celebration, and visits from Grandparents.  I went on a picnic with my friend Tyler, saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie with James, took daddy to see Mission Impossible, and played lots and lots of games with my siblings.  I went to a Christmas Eve Eve service at my church on the 23rd, got a hair cut and a pedicure with my mom, and went shopping with my grandmother.  Christmas day was a relaxing affair – we waited to open presents until after church, and then just hung around and visited with each other.  It was also the only day that I got to see Chris, which was a nice treat.  Mom and I hosted a tea at our house with some of her lady friends who had been wanting to meet me, which was fun – I’ve been wanting to meet them, too, and I haven’t had a real tea in years.  Then my grandparents came down to visit on the 27th, and stayed until the 30th, so I got to spend a lot of time with them, too.  That was awesome – it had been close to a year since I’d seen them.

Josh’s birthday present – Joshua 1:7 in Korean

Tyler’s Christmas present – Kimchi!!  He was so happy 🙂

My first picnic in years 🙂

She’s such a cutie pie <3

The Fenner family, all together!  Such a rarity these days…

Merry Christmas!!!

I love, love this picture!!

Spreading the Korea love….

Yay for seeing grandparents!! 🙂

Tea with the ladies! 🙂

Haha we’re silly 😀

Christmas presents from the host family 🙂

On the 30th, we packed everything up and made the long drive to Birmingham, Alabama, to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends the Roberts’.  This has been an annual tradition with our families every year for as long as I can remember – we take turns hosting each other in our respective homes, and it’s always a lot of fun.  However, I haven’t been able to be present for several years for one reason or the other – usually it’s because I’m out of the country, lol – so it was especially nice for me.  So we had lots of fun, played lots of games, watched the ball drop in New York City (and for a special treat, watched the moon pie drop in Mobile, Alabama!  Gotta love the south, lol….), went to church, and then headed back home.

Games with the Roberts’ are always super intense, lol…

Happy new year!!

Friends… <3

On the way back to Albany, my parents dropped me off in Atlanta.  So that was goodbye to my family, and hello to Atlanta.  Bittersweet for sure, but it was good to see my friends in Atlanta.  So Rachel and her fiance Ryan picked me up from my parents, and we wasted no time.  That night was spent playing putt-putt with J-Parr, and then going to Jonathan and Jessica’s house and playing games until wayyyy too late at night.

The next day, January 2nd, was the day before my 22nd birthday.  However, since my 22nd birthday was going to be spent on a plane, the 2nd was the celebration day.  I got to watch the tournament of roses parade (my favorite parade…ever!) for the first time in like 3 years.  After that came lunch with David and the Knights and then more games.  And then the evening came.  What started off as a simple dinner with friends morphed, because of my fabulous friends, into a full-blown birthday dance.  They even had a steal dance just for me.  As I was looking around the dance room at all of these dear faces, half of whom didn’t even dance, but had come just to see me, I was overwhelmed.  I felt so loved.  It was a wonderful way to wrap up my visit to the states.

They were calling me the “princess” because of what I was wearing.  I think that’s why I was making that face, lol.  But…I did win the game!! 🙂

Soon-to-be newlyweds….love those guys

Jonathan and Jessica
Me ‘n David 
Old friends from Berry <3

again….spreading the Korea love.  What can I say?  It’s infectious 🙂

My friends are silly 🙂

Yay for sisters 🙂

So, armed with my suitcases and enveloped with the wonderful new jacket that they had bought me for my birthday, Rachel and Ryan took me to the airport early the next morning.  I was fighting a cold, but I sat next to a really friendly lady on the plane who made the trip a whole lot more bearable.  When I finally arrived in Seoul, the plan was to meet Sarah and Leora and Adam and go up to Hwacheon to see the ice festival.  So I met them and they gave me a little birthday party and it was great to see them.  But by then I was REALLY sick, so instead of going north to Hwacheon, I went south to Gyeongju.  I know my limits, and that would have been just too much.

Brand-new fiancees!  And I get to be in the wedding!! <3 

So I finally got home to Gyeongju…and my host father took one look at me and hauled me off to the hospital.  Within an hour, and after much poking and prodding, I found myself with an IV needle sticking in my arm and a bagful of medicine.  Add to that extreme jet-lag, and my host mom’s constant fussing and overprotectiveness was NOT appreciated.  All I wanted to do was sleep, and that was the one thing they didn’t seem to want to let me do.  Although I must say, sleeping with a needle in your arm is most certainly not the most pleasant sensation.

Today, the next day, was mostly spent in bed, with a short foray into town to swap stories with Elizabeth.  I’m glad I got to see her – I needed to get out of the house, and I think talking with her restored a sense of normalcy and acceptance to being in Korea again, which I had been lacking since my arrival.  So yeah, that was America!  Winter camp starts in 2 days – keep me in your prayers!!  I’m super nervous about it – I’ve never done anything like this before.  I’ll have my students for more time in the span of 2 weeks than I had them for the entire semester, and I’m terrified that I will run out of material.  I guess it’ll just be another chance for God to show His bigness!! 🙂