It’s a New World, It’s a New Start

10 Jan

 

Warning: This post features exactly zero pictures. I realize this is the number one mistake a proper blogger can make, but I’ve written you a thousand words instead. Read them.

Happy New Year! Is it appropriate that I’ve have this song stuck in my head the past week? (Tee hee, gotcha!)

I have to say, I’ll probably never forget how I rung in 2013. I moped around all day, oscillating between two warring thoughts: “woe is me, I have no plans” and “I’ll make the most of it, relax, and go to bed early. It’s just like every other day.” However, all that craziness was put to rest when Doogii came home and announced that I should come celebrate with her Mongolian friends. I was pleased, and asked what time we should leave. “Hmmm…” she thought, looking at the clock. “Maybe 11:30?” To my tired Canadian mind this seemed a little late, but I went with it. We left as planned, but quickly realized there was no getting a taxi on short notice. We walked a little faster, starting to realize we only had about 20 minutes to get clear across town. Doogii was the most stressed I’ve ever seen her, which is saying a lot, since she’s always pure sunshine. At 11:45 we got a taxi. The guy drove us a majority of the way, until Doogii spied our three party-mates in a dead sprint toward their home. With about ten minutes till the new year, we jumped out and joined their ranks. As my feet hit the pavement, and as I tried to ignore the icy air filling my poor lungs, it hit me how silly New Year’s actually is. Every year I work myself into a stressball if I don’t have plans. I’ve always said it’s the worst holiday to be single, not because there’s no one to kiss (that’s gross anyway), but because all my couple friends (yes, all my friends are married) “want to spend it together”. But then there I was, tied for last place with a strange girl who is automatically my new friend (as all gym-class losers know), laughing it up, not sure if we’ll make it there on time, thinking, “this is all symbolic, anyway.” What does it really matter if we toast the new year on time or not? What will happen if we don’t shout “HAP-py New Year!” at all? And what if the people you care most about aren’t celebrating for another sixteen hours? Who really cares?

But deep thoughts aside, we did make it to their place with five minutes to spare. Picking ourselves up from the collapsed, panting heap of bodies that just ran a marathon, everyone sort of settled into their places, pouring cheap champagne, turning on the TV and finding the right channel, and setting up the table for cake and dessert.

The new year’s celebration in Seoul was truly an oddity, compared to the loud ball-dropping NYC-style spectacle NAP are used to. There was a huge crowd, surrounding a huge bell, which they waited until midnight to ring. Then they rang it a few times and that was it. Crickets. It was officially 2013 in Korea, but no one really made a sound. As for the 5 of us in that small apartment, though, we were cheers-ing and smiling and laughing and clapping appropriately. Now I’m gonna make a broad, sweeping, probably racist statement, which is based on minimal (but hopefully accurate!) information: Mongolians are the best people ever. It may just be Doogii’s influence and choice of friends, but all the Mongolian people I’ve met here so far are just like her: full of laughter, jokes, fun-poking, and good times. I don’t have to understand everything they’re saying to have a good time – I just do. It’s heartwarming.

Sufficiently tired and stuffed to the gills with junk food, we trudged outside, where the streets were crawling with staggeringly-drunk people who also needed taxis (I actually did witness one girl having to crawl. Poor inebriated dear). Eventually we got one, and were able to collapse into bed at the still reasonable hour of 3:00 am. The next morning I made delicious Mennonite portzelky, which worked out pretty good for a first-timer! My friend Heather came over to eat some, and we made a plan to watch Life of Pi that evening. I already know it was the best movie I’ll watch this year! (And I’ve read the book!)

As for the last ten days, I’ve been busy getting back to work, taking one mental health/sick day, botching up rice-cooker spice cake, mastering microwave chocolate cake, making pudding from scratch, inventing dakgalbi nachos (okay sorry, this is all food…), restarting my ladies’ English group, and participating in the KAC’s latest “Kingdom Builders” seminar – a weekly 2-hour study on peace and reconciliation from a biblical perspective.

Some good news is that our office is at a bearable level of cold now, instead of freezing. Yes, literally freezing – we didn’t have running water for a whole week, and couldn’t flush the toilet either, since all our pipes were frozen. Oh well; aside from toes that felt like ten individual ice cubes, we did eat out quite a bit, and got to know our friends at the restaurant across the hall a bit more (we used their facilities).

This week I also had a bit of a weird altercation with God, which I obviously lost. Kyong Jung and Nuri were outside in the -15, fixing the pipes, and I was told simply to answer the phone if it should ring. My young heart immediately started beating a little fast at the prospect. A fear of phones plus a fear of messing up the little Korean I know does not equal a happy Deborah. I prayed so hard that no one would call, while at the same time rehearsing what I would say if the phone should ring. (I know, it probably seems like I’m making mountains out of mole-hills, but I couldn’t help it!) I think at one point I thought “seriously, Lord, don’t test me!” Well, sometimes the answer is a blatant “no.” After all that time, my time had come! The phone rang, and I put on confidence. I’d heard it hundreds of times, so I knew how to answer. Apparently my Korean sounded pretty good, because the next thing I knew, a woman on the other end was struggling through “do you speak English?”

I was so worried about what would happen if I didn’t understand the caller – I know how to ask someone to wait, but the more Korean I’m faced with speaking, the more I’m likely to screw it up. But now here was a person in the same situation. I’m sure we were both relieved when I answered with a laugh, “Yes, I do.” The conversation was a short but good one, I took her message, and got on with my day. At the end of it, I could only marvel at the merciful, everyday ways God challenges us. I didn’t want that phone to ring, but now I’m glad it did, because it led to a nice little encounter and a boost in confidence. It’s another one of those small things that convinces me…I’m right here in the place where I belong.

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