“Falling” into a Rhythm: and other general updates as we go into autumn…

21 Oct

Well it’s been an interesting month. Nothing “important” to report on – life’s just going by with the usual ups and downs that accompany it no matter where you live. Lately I’ve hit a bit of a rut. I believe this is a natural part of my settling in, but I’ve been feeling a little bored lately. I go to work 5 days a week, then enjoy a short weekend crammed with activities – then I do it again. It’s hard to believe, but I’m battling the daily grind even here, during what was supposed to be a really adventure-filled year. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still totally loving life here, and I’m having a lot of fun in my everyday – I’m just dealing with a weird brain that sometimes refuses to let me really sink in and enjoy it. That said, I’m excited to share my latest exploits (small as they may be) with you!

Red and orange are replacing green as the leaves here start to turn. The heat is gone, with mornings being especially cold. Autumn must be here! That makes me really happy, because it means more sweaters, more fuzzy socks, more tea and hot chocolate, and more nesting. The only thing different, being here in Korea, is that instead of a fireplace, we get heated floors (sooo nice). And instead of cinnamon buns or gingersnaps we’re eating lots of rice pudding (one thing I can always make at home with ingredients I have on hand), and piping hot kimchi chee-gay (kimchi stew – one of two ways I legitimately enjoy kimchi. Actually, it’s a lot like Borscht, but with a lot more kick!).

I am also slowly building up a network of more and more people to befriend and hang out with. This has been a special blessing, and definitely helps tamp down my ho-hum attitude.

Now, for a little of what I’ve been up to this month….

October 5-7: SALT/YAMEN! Reunion & Meeting of NE Asia and other MCC Reps

Our group at the DMZ. From left-right, back-front: Jessica, Alex, Rod, Kyong-Jung, Paul, Cindy, me, Ellen (Kyong-Jung’s wife). (Joe is taking the picture.)

It was really great to see Alex and Jess and Cindy again, a few weekends ago. The added bonus was meeting Rod, the Northeast Asia representative for MCC, as well as Joe (another Asia rep from Thailand) and Paul (who came all the way from Canada!). We had a lovely weekend of dining (eating don-ga-su/pork cutlet AND dakgalbi = best food ever), as well as visiting the very eye-opening DMZ (border between North and South Korea). (If you would like to know more about this particular trip, email me directly for a post that wasn’t published here: deborah dot wiens at gmail dot com.)

English-Learning Groups

You may remember that it was a possibility a few month ago, that I would be “teaching” English to a group of university students. We’ve now met twice, and plan to continue, every Monday night for an hour or two. I’m still not sure what direction I want to take this group in. I’m generally steering away from formal book-learning, since they’re all students anyways, and don’t need another “class” to keep up with. So, so far we choose discussion topics and do a “free talk” about them in English. The challenge becomes one of drawing out the more shy or quiet individuals, who aren’t confident in their English. I just keep reminding them that their English waaay better than my Korean, so I’m definitely not going to judge them! This group has 4 boys, 3 girls, and me, so we’re a good mix.

My other group meets on Tuesday mid-mornings, followed by a group lunch. They are a group of six housewives, all with different levels of English. I wanted to meet them where they’re at, so I let them choose materials for learning. They decided on one English-basics textbook, which I’ll teach a bit from each week, plus a novel – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. We will read a few pages per week, then discuss it and clarify any words/concepts they may not have understood. The group itself is a joy, full of energy and laughter and so much eagerness and motivation. It’s amazing how little the age, cultural, and stage of life differences actually matter – I really like these women already! After our first class they took me out to a fancy Italian restaurant to celebrate, and all took individual pictures with me on their cameras!

Korean Lessons

Me and my tutor, So Hee, celebrated with coffee and a walk after we completed the book.

Are going well. We’ve finished the first textbook in the series, and I am currently going through the corresponding workbook in order to consolidate all the basics. I’d hate to forget everything as soon as I go home!

I’ve realized that, to learn a language properly, you must remember that the learning doesn’t stop when the lesson is over and the book closes. It means actively listening to the speakers around you, even if you don’t understand a lick of their meaning – because there’s always got to be a word you know that stands out, or something you can look up or ask about later.

To learn a language properly, you must also force yourself to speak it. I’m progressively getting better at using what I know, minuscule as it is. Whereas in my first month here the only things I was brave enough to say out loud were “Hello”, “Thank-you”, and “Goodbye”, I’ve now added such phrases as “it’s cold!”, “I’m tired”, “I’m hungry/full”, “the weather is [insert adjective]”, “where is [place]?”, “what’s this/that?”, “please give me [thing]”, and “let’s go to [place]” into the mix!

Occasionally I want to look up a word online. So I made my keyboard Korean-friendly! I’m quite proud of it.

I’ve realized that no language is impossible, it’s just got its own set of rules and patterns that take a while to learn. Even Korean and its one-of-a-kind script! I’m past the point of thinking “everything in this darned language sounds the same!” Now I’m able to differentiate parts of sentences, recognize adverbs and other parts of speech, etc. I may not know what people are saying 98% of the time, but that’s 2% improvement from when I arrived! That, in itself, is amazing.

English Church

A couple weeks ago I told a few of you that I was planning on visiting a Saturday evening English church in the area. I was really excited about this! I figured out which bus to take, got off at the right stop, walked to the building and…it was completely deserted. No lights on inside, and no cars in the parking lot. So I went home. Perhaps I will try on a Sunday, instead. Perhaps I will just stick to my loving Korean church family, and keep supplementing spiritual life with podcasts and devotionals.

Dancing, Mongolian friends, and Patbingsu

Long ago, I told you that my roommate Doogii was in a dance competition with some of her Mongolian ex-pat friends. Leave it to her to discover the free entry Chuncheon dance festival, taking place the second weekend of October! The two of us went to watch on Sunday night. So much fun! There was everything from ballet, to modern and contemporary pieces, to hip hop, to traditional mask and drum dances. Each piece was better than the last, and more than one made me feel stupid and sappy, because it brought tears to my eyes. Especially the mask dance – this particular group of 16 dancers were so fluid and unified in every movement that watching it was like being sucked into the music. I know, I sound crazy! I don’t usually love dancing this much, but this was a fantastic show.

Afterwards, Doogii introduced me to some of her Mongolian friends who also came. We went out for patbingsu, which is a delicious dessert of ice cream, fruit and other mix-ins on shaved ice. Sound weird? It’s amazing. And you will never realize how amazing until you’ve tried it. Many laughs and calories were shared by all.

Games Night

After gathering up all the needed ingredients for over a month (you’ll remember when I got the pumpkin?), I finally made my pie! It was a roaring success!

Feeling lame and lonely, we had a few people over for potluck and Dutch Blitz this Friday night. Food choices included spaghetti, homemade bread, stir-fried noodles, dakboki, ice cream, and pumpkin walnut pie (made by yours truly). It was great to chat and get to know people better. I always say – Dutch Blitz is the best way to break down shyness barriers and really get to know people!

Dae-Ryung San

That’s the mountain we climbed. Yes, Deborah voluntarily hopped on the bandwagon to take a 2 hour hike up one of Chuncheon’s tallest mountains (899 m, not too shabby). Me, my two roomies, my Korean teacher So Hee, and four others from church (including my Sunday School teacher and home group leader) set out at 9:30 am on a Saturday, walking up perilous forest trails and stopping for breath several times (mostly because I needed it most, I’m afraid). Lagging at 4th-to-last (sad, considering I was in the younger set), I summitted to the applause and cheers of my friends. And the view alone made it worth it (well, almost)! From the top, we could see all of Chuncheon. I had to laugh at the little mound of dirt that is the mountain behind our house (which I climbed once). I thought it was this other, bigger mountain, but no…it was that tiny lump of a hill further off.

After a quick snack we went back down, which was almost as difficult, not because we had to stop as often, but because my knees and toes were kinda screaming at me the whole time. So now I have really sore muscles and a nasty blister. Other than that, though, I made it! I feel incredibly accomplished, even though I still can’t figure out why people elect to go hiking in the first place (if you ask me, the only people who should be bush-whacking up a mountain are the pioneers who got there first).

Thanks again for reading, everybody! Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!




5 Responses to ““Falling” into a Rhythm: and other general updates as we go into autumn…”

  1. Mama October 23, 2012 at 12:42 AM #

    This warms my heart. Maybe it’s because you are hiking up a mountain with a group of church friends, or maybe it’s because you are baking a pie, or playing dutch blitz, or…enjoying the company of lively housewives ! (yay!) But, all these things together IS your adventure-filled year in Korea. You are living life, and I am so proud of you.

  2. Carol Wiens October 22, 2012 at 8:40 AM #

    So interesting Deborarh. Especially your description of the kimchee stew sorta tastes like borscht. My mom used to make “kimchee” for her Korean homestays out of salsa (go figure) and they liked it, too. So I guess, there are variations of kimchee.

    Good on you for doing the hike.

    • Deborah October 22, 2012 at 9:14 AM #

      Thank you! And yes, there are over 100 variations of kimchi!!
      There is even a kimchi museum in Seoul that I’m told I should go to.

  3. alyssa301 October 22, 2012 at 5:10 AM #

    Reading this just makes me so happy! I am so proud of you Deborah.. and super encouraged by the way you are stepping out of your comfort zone, experiencing new things and learning so much — I feel like I need to do this in my life too! Also… you should become a professional blog-writer. I usually never read blog posts all they way through (sorry to everyone), except for yours because they are super awesome.

    • Deborah October 22, 2012 at 9:16 AM #

      You HAVE done that in your life! Just be inspired to keep doing it in your everyday – you don’t have to go somewhere new to step outside your comfort zone.
      I’m glad you enjoy the blog in general! Let me know if you find that person looking to hire a blogger… :/

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