Category: museum

The countdown begins

Frenzied.  That’s the best way to describe the 3 or so weeks leading up to my wedding.  Not really in a bad way…there was simply tons going on, and although I enjoyed most all of it, I also found keeping up with it quite exhausting.  I definitely can’t complain of being bored, though! 🙂

I got to spend most of those 3 weeks with my good friend Caro.  You may remember her from my Peruvian exploits last year – she was a fabulous travel companion then and has become a very dear friend since.  Anyway, she was in my bridal party, but wanted to come for more than just a weekend – gotta get your money’s worth out of a plane ticket from France!  Our first stop was somewhere near and dear to both of us – Berry College.  That’s where we met, and it utterly stole both of our hearts, so it was only natural that we would spend a few days back there.  Once there, we did very little together – we had different friends to catch up with and different priorities for our visit.  Caro flitted around all over town catching up with people; I spent most of the 3 days we were there to myself, resting and relaxing and preparing myself mentally for the next few weeks.  I did go to my old church for the Sunday service, and managed to have dinner with some dear old friends one night, which was really lovely.  But other than that, I simply basked in the beauty and peace of my alma mater.  It was a very much-needed mini retreat for me.

From Berry, we drove further north to Tennessee.  For as long as I’ve known her, Caro’s been obsessed with country music, and has always wanted to visit the heart of country music – Nashville.  So we drove up there and spent a few days exploring the world of country music – taking a tour at the Grand Ole Opry, walking down the historic Broadway Street, going country dancing at the famous Wildhorse Saloon, and watching a show at the Bluebird Cafe, a place for up-and-coming musicians that was made famous by the hit TV show “Nashville” (of which Caro is a huge fan).  Reserved tickets at the Bluebird cafe were sold out, so we got there 2 hours before the doors opened in order to get one of the 20 or so additional open seats.  The show was very good, but even if it wasn’t, just seeing her excitement made the trip worth it for me! 🙂

As the days in Nashville passed, however, Caro’s excitement level grew, while mine dissipated.  The nerves and to-do list of my upcoming wedding – at this point just a week away – were starting to get to me, and I was turning into a quite distracted and not very good travel companion.  It had been fun, but I knew that I needed to get home.  She, on the other hand, wanted to stay a day later than originally planned so she could go to a show at the Opry and see more of the city  So, I let her have my car, and I took a bus from Nashville back to Atlanta.  It worked out well – Caro was able to do more in Nashville, and I was able to surprise Michael at work and have dinner with him that evening.  Plus I got to have a few days to myself before the wedding week craziness ensued, the value of which cannot be overstated.

Speaking of wedding week craziness…while up until this point, I was only hosting Caro on and off while she was in town, starting the weekend before my wedding my house turned into a regular hotel.  It started with my dad, sister, and brother Josh coming up on Saturday.  They wanted to have a little time with me to themselves, since they knew they wouldn’t get that the following weekend.  We were able to go to a little community arts and crafts festival together, which was nice.  We all had a lot of fun, and I really appreciated them making the effort to come up and actually spend some quality time with me.

The next day, dad and Josh went home, but Hope stayed with me.  We got to spend a few days together, and she was a lot of help wrapping up last-minute details and keeping me company.  I enjoyed that time with her immensely.  By the time the bulk of the guests started arriving, I had very little in the way of wedding details to still take care of.  That was wonderful, because it allowed me to focus on spending time with the out-of-towners that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I decided a long time ago that that was what I wanted my focus to be during my wedding – not obsessing over all of the little details that no one was going to remember, but spending time with and focusing on people that I love and how much they mean to me.  I went to the airport 3 times in 3 days – to pick up my grandfather, and also my dear friends Sarah and Rachel.  It wasn’t a lot of time we spent together, but it was something, and I treasure the one-on-one moments I had with them.  I also got to have breakfast with my Aunt Cathi the Saturday before the wedding, which was a REAL treat!  She lives in Arizona and we rarely see each other, and I’m not sure we’ve actually ever had one-on-one time like that before.  It was lovely to take a step back and just be there in the moment with her for a few hours.

Of course, in talking about the last few days before my wedding I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful bachelorette party that my mom threw for me.  Most brides would hesitate at the idea of even letting their mom come to their bachelorette party, let alone having her plan it.  But it was an easy decision for me.  My mom is undoubtedly my best friend, and although she drives me crazy sometimes, I never doubt that’s she’s my biggest fan and always in my corner.  I found out later that she was really nervous about planning it, worrying that I wouldn’t like it, but I think it was superb.  It had a perfect mix of tasty food, fun (and somewhat embarrassing!) games, pretty decorations, great company, and godly wisdom and encouragement.  My favorite part was when all of the attendees surrounded me and prayed for me.  It was a good reminder that wedding preparations may be fun, they may be stressful, but really at the end of the day what matters is marriage preparations, and learning how to daily give up your life to serve God and your spouse.  I’ve sure got a long way to go learning that!

It is often said that the bachelorette party and last few weeks before the wedding are a person’s last hurrah.  In some ways, I suppose that’s been true for me, as well.  I got to travel some with just me and a girlfriend, something I probably won’t do very often now that I’m married.  I really enjoyed being able to celebrate my last few days of singleness with dear friends and family.  But I don’t feel like this is the end of the story.  The days until the wedding have been steadily marching down, true…but I hope and pray and truly believe that this isn’t the end of my adventures, but rather the beginning.  The beginning of many adventures that I don’t have to experience alone, but rather I get to share them with my best friend.  Now if only my poor nerves would go along with that and calm down! 🙂

Just what the doctor ordered

Although I’ve been blessed to have been able to spend a good bit of time with some dear friends this summer, there are several of them I wish I could have spent more time with.  One of them is Elizabeth.  Between school and then work and church and being super popular with lots of people making demands on her time, she is a tough one to pin down sometimes.  But ironically enough, it seems to have actually gotten a bit easier since she got a new boyfriend.  Caleb and Michael have several times taken the initiative to plan double dates and outings and such, which means I’ve gotten to spend more time than usual with my lovely friend Elizabeth (oh yeah, and Caleb and Michael, too :]).

Two of my favorite such outings were going to the High Museum and visiting Helen for the day.  The High was supposed to be a surprise for me and Elizabeth – the only thing I knew was the date, and that I should dress up.  But it turned out that Caleb told Elizabeth all about it, so the only one who was surprised was me.  And boy oh boy, did the three of them enjoy the fact that I was left in the dark.  They were definitely enjoying teasing me, lol.  But it was worth it.  The High was having an exhibit on classic cars, which was why we went that night.  Knowing that I used to race, they chose that activity really solely because they thought that it would interest me – I felt very loved :).

After leaving the museum, we came across an interactive exhibit set up outside the museum entrance.  It was basically just a bunch of hammocks hanging under the stars – using them was encouraged.  It took a few minutes to snag 2 hammocks near each other, but we finally did, and stayed there in various amalgamations of people until the museum staff finally kicked us out.

My other favorite outing, as I mentioned earlier, was a day trip to Helen.  Elizabeth and I had so much fun with the boys at the High, that we decided to plan our own date.  This one was also supposed to be a surprise, but they are pretty insightful and had mostly figured it all out by the time we left.  But it was still fun.  She and I had packed stuff for a big picnic, which we ate upon arrival to Helen, which is about an hour and a half away from Atlanta.  After that, we rented some inner tubes and floated down the river.  It was pretty crowded, since it was Labor Day weekend, but we were able to navigate pretty well, especially considering the fact that we had decided against renting poles for steering.  I found that tying myself together with another inner tube made navigating the river exponentially easier – when one person got stuck on a rock, the other one usually bounced off of them and then pulled them free.  I only got stuck badly enough that I had to stand up to get off of the rock 3 or 4 times.

In the middle of the river, there was also a couple of big water slides, at which we took a fun detour for a while.  We started off racing each other down, but when Michael was going so fast that he slammed into the pool at the bottom and scraped himself up pretty badly, we decided to calm down a little bit and go at a more relaxed pace.

Once we finished the tubing course, we went back to the town and walked around for a bit.  I didn’t want to bring my camera on the river, so the only pictures that I have from the entire day are from when we were walking around the city center.  Helen is a very picturesque town – it’s supposed to be a facsimile of a traditional German town.  It’s incredibly touristy and I would hate to live in it, but to visit for a few hours was actually a lot of fun.  They have lots of little candy and artisan and gift stores that you could browse for hours if you wanted to.  My shopping limit is much less than that, so I only lasted about an hour before I was ready to head back home.  But it was a very nice day.  I was particularly grateful for the fact that, despite all of the driving to get there, I was actually able to rest and re-charge a bit on the river.  I had been going so hard for so long at that point, that some rejuvenation time was really just what the doctor ordered.  Getting to do it with people I love was just the icing on the cake :).

The Amazing Race: Oregon edition

Every now and then, you meet someone with whom you immediately click.  Someone with whom you can share everything with, and no matter how many miles or months may separate you, as soon as you see them again you can immediately pick things back up where they were left off.  Many people only have one or two friends like this in a lifetime.  But I’ve been blessed with several; although they’re scattered all over the world, I’ve no doubt that they will be in my life for a very long time.What’s more, I actually got to see one of them last week!  Rachel, one of my roommates in college, had the nerve to get married and go off to Oregon to go to optometry school.  But I suppose I can’t get upset, since I left her for Korea, haha.  It had been a while since I saw her, and I was blessed with a fantastic deal on the flight, so after I finished up my finals, I headed out west to pay a visit.

I must admit…I don’t think I could ever live in Oregon (**knock on wood**).  The fog and creeping chill is something that I’m not used to, and I imagine would have a very hard time acclimating myself to.  But nasty weather is easily overlooked for a few days, especially when you’re with such lovely people! 🙂

Rachel still had to take a final the first day that I arrived, so Ryan and Seth (an old friend of theirs and also their housemate) took it upon themselves to entertain me while she was taking her test.  We went to a Sherlock Holmes exhibit at a hands-on science museum in Portland.  It was really excellently done.  They had some artifacts from the time period on display, as well as a lot of biographical information about the author, Arthur Conan Doyle (did you know that he was an army medic?  The character of Watson is modeled after himself).  There was even a recreation of Sherlock’s living room!  But after that, it got even cooler.  They had recreated a “crime scene” in the exhibit hall.  We had to go through the clues and compare the evidence to the official police theory, and see if they were right or not.  Eventually we cracked the case!  The police had it all wrong :).  It really was a fantastically done exhibit…I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The next day, Ryan and Rachel and I went on a walking tour of Portland.  There’s an app called Stray Boots Tours that you can get that sends you on a scavenger hunt around the city, so we bought it and followed the clues.  I felt like I was on the Amazing Race – actually with both the Sherlock Holmes exhibition and the Stray Boots tour, but particularly the walking tour.  I had to remind myself several times that there was no need to rush, we were not going to be eliminated if we came in last.  In fact, between the clues, scavenger hunts, and trying lots of new things – from homemade beer to lockpicking driving super fast cars to videogames – the entire weekend felt somewhat like a tamer version of the Amazing Race, haha :).  They were definitely my kinds of activities, though!

One of the first stops on the Stray Boots tour was a vintage record store
Another clue took us to Powell’s, the largest new and used independent book store in the world.  We spent quite a bit of time there…. 🙂
The rare books section.  I thought I found the most expensive book.  I found out later that apparently there’s a book there that costs around $200,000!
Check out the Christmas Tree – it’s made from beer bottles.  Rather fitting for a famous pub, I’d say 🙂
A map of tea across the world in a cute little tea shop

The rest of the week was marked by board games, an introduction to the video game Portal (every level is basically solving a series of puzzles; I’m not a video gamer, but that one was pretty darn fun), seeing Rachel’s campus and meeting her friends, and oh yeah…a Tesla test drive.  Teslas, for those who may not know, are premium fully electric vehicles (they start around $70,000 and go up from there).  And they are gorgeous.  Ryan arranged for Rachel and I to have a test drive while I was there.  Oh my word.  It was like a dream.  I’ve never really had car envy, always been perfectly happy with my beat up little Subaru; but I must admit, car envy may have reared its ugly head during that test drive :).

It goes without saying that the week flew by all too quickly.  I’m so grateful to have been able to go, and I missed them even before I boarded the plane back to Atlanta.  No time to mourn their absence, though…it’s time to get geared up for Christmas!  Only 3 more days!!

Ryan really liked the Tesla shirt that Rachel got him for Christmas 🙂
Rachel’s campus – doesn’t it look eerie with all the fog and devoid of students??

The daily grind

They say that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  If that’s the case, then I am becoming very dull, indeed.  Ever since I came to Albany, it seems that all I’ve been doing has been work.  I’ve been working for my dad’s medical transport business, and I often feel as if I’m trying to do the work of 2 or 3 people all by my lonesome.  I’m doing scheduling, and billing, and filing, and handling the phone, and administrative stuff, and yada yada yada….oh, and on top of that, I’m also driving an average of 3-4 hours every single day.  It’s been so unbelievably exhausting…but hey, at least I can’t complain about being bored!
I have been able to do a few things outside of work.  I went to Matt and Hope’s piano recital – they have really progressed by leaps and bounds!  I was super impressed.  Also, my first weekend back was Mother’s Day weekend, so the whole family (including my grandmother) went down to Pensacola for the weekend.  The kids and I had some little gifts and cards for mom and Grammie, and we had a nice dinner together, and basically just enjoyed each other’s company.  I went with Dad and the kids to the naval aviation museum, which was really fascinating.  Seeing all of the different planes was cool enough, but we also got to go on a hands-on science-y tour that was part of the museum which was super interesting.  I really enjoyed it. 


On Sunday, we went to church with the Chatraws, our old paster and his wife from when we went to Cornerstone Church in Americus, a loooong time ago.  That was wonderful seeing and catching up with them….strange how little they’ve changed!  Josh made a comment as we were driving down there, saying something to the effect of, “I can just feel the stress melting away the farther we get from Albany.”  I couldn’t agree more, and I think it was exactly what our family needed.  Because it was right back to the grind when we got back Sunday night!  It’s times like these when I’m so very grateful for my friends and family who keep me grounded, and remind me of God’s faithfulness when I’m apt to forget it.

Easter fun

Since I had just been home for Spring Break the week before, I chose not to go home for Easter.  Just couldn’t justify the gas money to myself.  So rather than driving to one city for the weekend, I elected to go to three, instead.  I seem to be good at cramming crazy amount of stuff in a very small amount of time, lol.

I started the weekend by going up to Ellijay, to see my dear friend Rachel and her family.  She and her husband were in town over her Spring Break.  We went for a walk in the mountains, which was lovely.  The views were absolutely incredible.  I do so love being in the mountains!

Rachel’s father, Mr. Jim, also sent us on an Easter egg hunt on Easter morning.  It was hilarious – 4 fully grown young adults running around the house, playfully vying for the most foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in their little basket.  I have no idea who decided that chocolate eggs and fluffy bunnies and bright yellow sugary peeps are an appropriate way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ…but the hunt was still fun!

Upon returning from Ellijay, I headed straight to Easter dinner with some of my relatives who live in town.  It’s always a joy to see them, and this time was no exception – especially since I was sorely missing my own family down in Albany.

That evening, I went to a play with Rachel, Ryan, and my friend David.  It was called The Whipping Man, and followed the story of a Jewish family – a white confederate soldier and 2 of his (former) black slaves – right after the end of the Civil War.  They actually had a Passover on stage, which was particularly moving, considering that I had just had a seder celebration with my family the week before.  Covering heavy topics such as racism, slavery, equality, and judaism, it was definitely not a feel-good play, but it was excellently done and poignantly executed.

I also went to a little park and science museum with Rachel and Ryan before taking them to the airport the next day.  Rachel found a few more plastic eggs that had been missed by the kids in the daycare center next door, which really excited her.  We also had particular fun at the science museum trying to make two pennies roll down the giant funnel at the same speed, and taking pictures inside the giant kaleidoscope.  We’re so mature.  Hahaha.  But hey, when you’re in grad school you gotta do what you gotta do to de-stress!

Finding the allure

It’s a curious thing, indeed, that even the most mundane things can seem interesting to us when we are abroad.  I’ve often noticed this phenomenon in my many travels – every restaurant, historical site, performance, or even ice cream shop or cafe can be charming and alluring when you’re in another country.  But then, I get back to the states, and I forget that intrigue, that child-like fascination with every experience that comes my way.

I didn’t really realize that I had lost this interest, until I started hanging out with foreign friends here in Atlanta.  And all of a sudden their thirst to experience everything that Atlanta had to offer, their passion to understand as many facets of this culture as they possibly could, and their desire for new experiences was totally putting me to shame.

So for the past few weeks, in the middle of my crazy busy schedule, I’ve been trying to sit back and find some of that interest, that allure, that intrigue, from my own culture – the one that I’m most likely to take for granted.  Here’s a few of the highlights from the month of October.

I went to a fantastical restaurant called Dante’s Down the Hatch with some friends.  It’s a fondue restaurant, which is already cool enough in itself – I had never had fondue before.  But then, on top of that, the entire restaurant looks like the inside of a massive ship – hence the name, I suppose.  You could walk through the “ship’s” walkways and into the galley and such while you were waiting for your delicious fondue to arrive.  Definitely a multi-sensory experience!!

Dante’s Down the Hatch

Fondue!!!  Yummmm

I went to a ballroom competition in mid-October.  At this point I had actually gotten rather burnt out on dancing, so it was a nice change to sit back and just watch it.  Plus, the styles were completely different from what I’m used to, so that was fun, too.  Was definitely a memorable evening…

For fall break, my family mixed it up some and came to visit me, instead of the other way around!  What a joy it was to be able to host them, instead of being the one hosted.  Mom and I cooked a nice dinner (it was the first time that she had cooked something in my kitchen! :]), and then Chris and Julia came over to eat with all of us.  The only person missing was dad, but he was there in spirit! 🙂  I’m looking forward to many more visits like that….it blessed me in so many ways!

My sister is really the cutest ever.  The end.

I love seeing my family at home in my home!

Sleepover!!!

I went to a Korean barbecue place with some friends from school.  I was soooooo excited before going – it was the first time I had eaten Korean food since I came back!  But I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed.  It was expensive, and honestly not very good, and they didn’t even let us grill it ourselves, which is half of the fun of Korean barbecue!  Lame.  I guess living in Korea has spoiled me. I should have known better – I didn’t eat American food in Korea, because they can’t make it the “right” way; why would I have thought that Americans can do Korean food any better??  Ahh well, live and learn, it was still an experience :).  The hunt continues for an authentic Korean food place!!

I was telling them what everything at the table was.  It was fun playing tour guide… 
Had an interesting Friday night a few weeks ago.  The Fernbank museum of natural history was having a salsa and bachata night – in the middle of the museum.  So I dragged my friend Fernando along – we actually met at a dance, so it was fitting that he come with me – and then met some other friends from the Tech salsa club there.  It was really cool, with DJs and dancers and drinks all spread out amid the museum exhibits and such.  I can’t say that I’ve ever danced under a dinosaur before, lol.  Now I can check that off of my list!  Not that it was actually on my list to begin with….but if it was, it’s been checked off now! 😉

Dancing with dinosaurs!!
The shell was as big as I was!!
This past week was really a momentous week in my life.  I went to TWO different sporting events – in a single week!  For someone who’s never in her entire life been to either a professional basketball or football game, going to one of each in a single week was quite a feat!  What can I say, I’m trying hard to find the allure of my own culture… 😉
So the first game I went to was an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.  Two German friends of mine, Theresa and Carston, had an extra ticket, and so they invited me to come along.  We went to Johnny Rockets first for dinner, and then headed over to the game.  I was a little underwhelmed.  Perhaps it’s because it was a pre-season game, so the crowd wasn’t as into it as they would normally be, but I wasn’t particularly impressed.  I had a good time with my friends though, and the mascot was certainly fun to watch ;).
Carston, Theresa, and me and Johnny Rockets
Beautiful shot of Atlanta’s skyline! 🙂
My second sporting event was GA Tech’s homecoming football game.  I figured if I was going to go to a football game, a homecoming game was a good day to go.  The pre-game festivities for this one were much more impressive than at the basketball game – there was a tailgate with my department before the game, and also a parade and great halftime performance.  But at least the Hawks won the game.  GA Tech lost 40-17, so that put a bit of a damper on the festivities.  However, I really feel no personal attachement to the team at all (don’t tell any of my fellow Tech students!), so it didn’t bother me that much.  I just went and admired the general atmosphere.  So I can now say that I’ve been to a football game; I don’t see myself ever going again, though.  It’s not that it wasn’t fun – it’s just that I can think of tons of alternative activities to do that I would enjoy more :).  Anyway, off to the books for me now!  I shall try to be more diligent in writing over the next month!

My first tailgate!!

Buzz, GA Tech’s mascot.  He kind of creeps me out, lol

She’s juggling torches!!  Made me think of my dad… 🙂

Seoul food

One of these days I’m going to learn how to give myself a break.  Or at least slow down.  It seems that for me, the only speeds are dead stopped or going way too fast – it starts to wear on you after a while, ya know?

I arrived in Seoul from Japan around 11:00 pm on Sunday, February 5th, and didn’t get to my guesthouse until well after midnight.  The very next day, my intensive Korean classes started at 9:00 am.  I think that my whirlwind travels had finally started to take their toll on me – I was so tired that my performance on the placement test put me in level 1.1 – the lowest class level offered.  I quickly realized once class started, however, that I was wayyyy beyond that class, and asked my teacher if I could move up.  Apparently that was a really big deal – most people who requested to move were flat-out denied, and even I was put on a “probation period” of 1 class period, after which my teachers would confer and decide if I could handle the newer class.  But thankfully, I was allowed to stay in the higher level.  It was hard, but not overwhelming.  I felt like I was right where I needed to be.

On a side note, I would just like to comment on what a difference a changed perspective can be to how you see the world!  I returned back to Korea after 2 weeks of travel twice within the span of a month.  The first time, it was after going to America for Christmas, and I was so upset.  I missed my family, I miss my home, I miss the warm weather in Georgia, and I wanted to be anywhere in the world other than Korea.  But the second time I flew into Korea, it was after traveling around southeast Asia.  And I’ve never been happier to see Korean soil!  I could read all of the signs, I understood the currency exchange rate, I knew how the metro system worked…and I even had my own metro card!  It was a wonderful thing, and as I made my way to my guesthouse, I found myself periodically breaking out into idiotic grins.  It was great :D.

Anyway, back to Korean classes.  Before coming to Seoul, I had all of these grandiose plans about all of the things that I would do in Seoul with all of my spare time.  I was going to complete all my Federal financial aid forms for grad school, work on my TEFL certification, write lots of blogs and journal entries, see the city, meet with friends, blah blah blah.  The only thing I would be doing was classes in the morning…I’d have tons of time, right??  Ha.  Wrong.  So, soooo wrong.  What my days actually looked like was something like this: I would wake up, have breakfast with Leora (we lived together while in Seoul, and it was wonderful!), walk to class together, then sit through 4 hours of Korean lessons, until 1:00.  Then I’d grab lunch, sometimes alone, sometimes with new friends, sometimes with old friends, and head back to my guest house to study.  For hours.  I usually studied after class about as long as I studied in class.  By the time I finished, it was already 5 or 6 at night.  That gave me just enough time to clean up and eat dinner before I headed off dancing!  I danced almost every night of the week – it was heaven.  And the nights I didn’t go dancing, I went to bed crazy early to make up for the sleep deprivation from the night before.  It was a fun schedule, but probably not the healthiest – it’s probably a good thing that I was only in Seoul for 3 weeks, lol.

My class building – yes, that is a building.  It’s entirely underground – the ground and stairs and walkway were built up around it.  Super creative architecturally…. super annoying if you’re trying to find your classroom.

Leora and I in our little abode!

Left to right: Mónica (from Spain), Ti-anna (from Canada), and Heidi (from Norway)

I did have time to do a few other things.  Our language program took us on 2 cultural excursions – one to see a comedic / taekwondo performance called Jump, and the other was to a Korean cooking class.  That was a lot of fun!  We made bulgogi (Korean-style meat and veggie stir fry) and bibimbap (a veggie and rice mix).  The best part was that at the end, we got to eat it!  Yummy!!!  I made some really good friends from class – particularly Heidi, a Norwegian girl, Ti-anna, a girl from Canada, and Mónica, who was from Spain.  Unfortunately Mónica was from my original lower level class, so I didn’t see much of her after I switched classes, but we still hung out some, and I’m hoping to connect with all of them again in Seoul before I leave the country.

Korean cooking class.  Check out her face.  Priceless 🙂

Look what we made!  Yummie!! 🙂

I also hung out with my dancing friends.  I spent a lot of time in particular with Jae, a Korean-American friend of mine.  I had met him when I went swing dancing in Seoul way back in November, and he promised that if I ever came back to Seoul and wanted to go dancing he would show me where all of the dance spots were.  He did not back out on his promise.  Jae was my personal tour guide of Seoul for the few weeks that I was there.  Not only did he show me where the dances where; he also introduced me to cute little restaurants, and to weird Korean food (anyone up for some cow intestine or fried silkworm pupa??), and to the international church service that he attends, and to a lot of his Korean friends.  He showed me little corners of Seoul that I would have never found on my own, like the underground museums dedicated to King Sejong, the inventor of the Korean alphabet, and Admiral Yi Sun-sin, whose brilliant military tactics saved Korea from the Japanese invasion in the 16th century.

Jae (on the right) and a mutual friend, John.

Jae and I in the underground museum.  He really liked the war machines, lol

Any of you at all curious about the principles behind the creation of the Korea alphabet?  Check out these signs 🙂

And then, just like that, my life in Seoul was over, almost before it had even started.  Finals were on Wednesday, the graduation ceremony was Thursday morning, and by Thursday afternoon I was on a bus headed back to Gyeongju.  I do miss the dancing, and even the intensive Korean studying.  But you know, I finished well in Seoul, and so I’m happy to be back in Gyeongju; I really have no regrets either way.  I was even given the honor (and the stress!) of being asked to give a little speech at the closing ceremony.  I found it ironic that I went from being bored in a level that was too easy for me, to giving a speech representing my entire class level!  I tried to upload a video, but for some reason it wouldn’t work…I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it! 🙂  I learned a lot in my classes and, even more importantly, my desire to learn Korean has been greatly spurred on, as well.  I will miss my newly-made friends from Seoul, but they have promised to come visit me, and I them, so I think that we shall see each other again before I leave.  And it’s soooo nice to be back in Gyeongju.  My host parents met me at the bus station, and then took me home and made my favorite meal for me.  I’ve spent today catching up on housekeeping stuff – laundry, blogging, journaling, unpacking, etc.  But even mundane things are enjoyable when you like where you are and who you’re with :).

Closing ceremony – class friends

Me and my teachers <3

Everyone all together!  We all passed, woohoo!!!

I’ve mentioned several times “when I leave Korea,” as if it were a certain thing.  The last time that most of you had probably heard, I was still on the fence about whether I would renew my contract for another year in Korea or not in July.  But my last day in Seoul, I got an email that solidified my decision.  I was accepted into Georgia Tech’s master’s of science program….not only that, but I was also offered a graduate assistantship, which significantly reduces tuition, and also pays me a large stipend every semester.  So, it looks like I’ll be headed back to Atlanta in the fall!  I want to study international relations, with a regional focus on Latin America.  I hope to write my thesis on the educational systems of Latin America.  It’s cool seeing how all of my random experiences are coming together! 🙂  Living in Seoul, even if for just a few weeks, has reminded me of how much I need a good church community and dancing.  They touch a part of me that nothing else can touch, and I’ve missed that enormously in Gyeongju.  I will miss Korea, too…but it will be good to go home.  God is so good, and I’m simply overwhelmed by His favor right now.  It has indeed been a very, very good past few weeks.  Hard to believe that I have less than 5 months left in my grant year!