Another Month Down (But Who’s Counting?)

31 Jan
In Sokcho

I’m at the beach!

Thoughts About Timeline:

I’m halfway through my assignment year. It’s a weird feeling! On the one hand, days seem to inch along slowly. On the other, each week passes me quickly, and every time another month is up I’m dumbfounded. Maybe it actually is as everyone told me: this year is going to go so fast.

Thoughts About Language & Service:

Now seems like a good time to let everyone down: my Korean language ability is just barely conversational. I’m not even brave enough to use the small bit that I do know, so I probably won’t be wowing everyone when I get home. The most I can promise is the ability to read Korean and order food. Everything else I’ve “learned” will likely be lost unless something drastic happens (I’m not sure what that is). I used to have dreams of bilingualism. Self expression is important to me, and acquiring another tongue always seemed like the best thing I could feasibly do to “better” myself. Turns out it’s not. Turns out language – admirable as multilingual individuals still are to me – isn’t what I should be striving for most while I’m here. I know, eh? A true revelation! But seriously, I’ve had to remind myself of this often: it’s not the measurable things I accomplish here, it’s the immeasurable.  I tend to feel good about myself if I can “accomplish” something tangible; updating the KAC website, reorganizing the library, trying out a new Korean expression. Actually, I’m nothing if I don’t do those things in love. Even if I were to speak perfect Korean, I’m nothing if I do it without love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). My main goal needs to be building relationships with the people I encounter on a daily basis, and that’s not something that culminates in a feeling of accomplishment. The point is to follow up my relationship with Jesus by echoing God’s love to people. It’s true that putting the effort into learning a new language shows identification and respect for a new/adoptive culture, but it doesn’t have to be the way I choose to do that. It is but one way.


I’ve now been to Sokcho twice. It’s a beautiful coastal town three hours east of Chuncheon. I think it’s cheaper to stay there in the off-season, which explains why I was invited there for two weekends in a three-week period. That, or it’s a “thing” to go to the beach in winter – haven’t quite determined which, yet.

The first time I went was January 12-13, with the six women in my novel-reading group…and a couple of their husbands…and all their kids…who are a median age of 11 and mostly boys. It was wild. I thoroughly enjoyed the mountainous drive there, and appreciated the new experiences apparently typical of a stay in Sokcho. They are mostly culinary. (Brace yourself!) It starts with a stroll through the fish market. It ends with loose stools.

Not only did I eat raw fish, I also tried some sand-fish eggs, stingray, and sea snails. The only thing I’d consent to eating again is, surprisingly enough, the stingray (as long as it’s fully cooked!).

The second time I went to Sokcho was this past weekend, with my “cell” group. No, that doesn’t mean I’m in a prison support group (though that would be cool). They’re merely my church small group, my stand-in family and mental safety net while I’m here. Whenever I need a happiness booster shot, I seek out the people in my cell. So I was quite excited to get away with them all for a night. Unfortunately only five of us could come (we were missing a few faces), but it was still great! This time we also drove up north a bit, to a lookout that allows you to see into the DPRK. There was also raw fish eating, but luckily this time I had some Mongolian moral support, and we got to eat Sokcho fried chicken!

I recently picked up another teaching duty, with two first-rate second-graders! We are pretty much starting from scratch with the English learning. Any English they’ve already learned is virtually useless and, judging from their very obvious ADHD symptoms (standing on their chairs, laying on the table, other general fidgetyness), probably not consolidated very well. So, every Wednesday I pluck up my energy and head into a small room with an interpreter (so helpful!), and attempt to drill something useful into these kids’ rapid-firing brains. The easy part is teaching them English. The challenging part is making it fun.

At Connexus: time for circle games!

At Connexus: time for circle games!

I got a lot of help from my friends over at Connexus. I made the trip out to their school last Friday, so that I could look at their phonics materials, hear their teaching tips, and observe. Fridays, however, are activities days, so I didn’t actually observe any teaching. Who cares, it was fun. That night I got to hang out with the girls, watching a movie and sleeping over in their room. Before we said farewell I made them take me to Costco. Now I have lots of salsa and teaching ideas!

This past week was a bummer, as I missed four days due to a head cold. It was sucky because 1) I’ve already been sick twice since leaving home in August, which is usually the number of times I get sick in a whole year, and 2) I was alone for most of it. There’s something particularly lonely about being sick away from home. Happily, I’m usually able to look at my mood pretty objectively, in large part due to my education and interest in counseling and mental illness (self-CBT is a travel kit essential)! That said, it was a relief to Skype with both my parents just after the worst of it. Doogii also made sure I had everything I needed when she left every morning, and Kyong Jung even hand-delivered some lemon tea and honey. I am well cared for.

Now I’m on the mend, and looking forward to getting a new roommate come Sunday! Jiwon will do IVEP next year, and will live with me until I leave, as she completes the pre-requisite KAC internship. Pray for her as she comes into a new home, and pray for Doogii and I as we prepare for her. My hope is for another meaningful friendship.

Always aiming for the immeasurable,



5 Responses to “Another Month Down (But Who’s Counting?)”

  1. Carol Wiens February 1, 2013 at 5:20 AM #

    Nicely said.

  2. Kaite February 1, 2013 at 3:21 AM #

    So jealous you went to Korean Costco! Did they have a food court? What else was different?

    Glad you’re feeling better and that you keep on looking on the bright side!

    • Deborah February 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM #

      It’s pretty similar, actually! Even the population in a Costco feels more “Vancouver” to me than anywhere else – tee hee hee. The food court is exactly the same as in Canada! I even had a hotdog. A HOTDOG!! It was wonderful.

  3. Stefanie February 1, 2013 at 12:31 AM #

    Thanks for the spiritual food for thought Deborah! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I could do career wise, and thinking of how much I love to accomplish tangible things; I needed that reminder that without love, all those things I can do are nothing. Thanks!

    Also, I admire your seafood adventures! I don’t know if I could’ve done it.

    I hope you feel 100% healthy again soon, and that you won’t have any more sick days. Praying for you! ❤

    • Deborah February 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM #

      Yes – there’s nothing wrong with getting satisfaction from something tangible. We just have to remember WHY we do those things.
      Thanks for your encouragements, Stef!!

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