Beware the Strides of March

19 Mar

Yikes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?! This is so unlike me…I’m usually dying to blog something at least every week (true writer at heart)! Time is basically moving as slow as a freight train. I still complain about waking up on Monday mornings, but usually before I know it, it’s Thursday afternoon. I write this a few days after the Ides of March, which surprises me greatly, since I thought we just started  a new month. I’ve been here exactly 7 months, and only have 4 more to go! 어떻게?!

So what has March been like so far? The main thing is the winter chilliness has all but ceased. We’re getting more and more peekaboos from Mr. Sun. It’s amazing to step outside and have the air not hit you like a thousand knives. And it’s amazing what that does to my mood.

That’s another thing. Despite delicious weather, my mood has been a terrible roller coaster lately. Full disclosure: I’ve had a lot of trouble with insomnia and a bit of anxiety the last couple weeks. I’m sure this too shall pass, but what does it mean when you’re tired, having a bad day, and you can’t really complain about it to the people you usually complain to? It means suck it up, sister. That’s really the extent of my big lesson this past week: my mood does have an affect others. The only solution is to stick a smile on my face and hum a prayer.

As for activities, I’ve had my share this month. The first highlight was visiting one of Seoul’s old markets, Namdaemun, with both Doogii and Jiwon. We also visited the outer gates of the amazing Gyeongbok palace, which is over 600 years old. It was amazing to walk around downtown Seoul and witness skyscrapers right there beside such cultural relics. We had so much fun visiting city hall, walking around the shops and kiosks, perusing the giant bookstore there, stopping for some Chinese food, and otherwise enjoying the bustle that is Seoul!

Another highlight was visiting Insadong, also in Seoul and also a marketplace. It’s a major shopping destination for Korean souvenirs  and I plan to go back on a day when my backpack isn’t crammed with the likes of my winter jacket (I forgot it’s no longer the dead of winter!). I really enjoyed walking around and “window shopping” with my Connexus and NARPI* worker friends. We even enjoyed some time spent in a traditional tea house! (Flavours included persimmon leaf, plum, and pine needle tea.) After that we moved on to yet another destination for some amazing Turkish food. Lamb kabobs and flatbreads, oh my! I forgot what other spices besides red pepper and salt tasted like! Heh heh, nothing against Korean food though…. [*NARPI stands for Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute…now you see why they need an acronym!]

On Sunday the KAC also hosted four visitors from Hiroshima, Japan. One is a Hiroshima a-bomb survivor, and all are workers from the World Friendship Center, and were part of the “PAX” (that’s Peace Ambassador Exchange)  program for this year. Right now the PAX program runs solely between Japan and Korea, two countries with an extensive history of war and violence.  A side note for interest’s sake is that the World Friendship Center also partners with NARPI in its annual peace camps for young people from all over Asia (mostly China, Korea, and Japan). These types of connections are why the KAC thinks of “networking” as one of its ministries. So much can build out of simple activities between organizations and individuals!

But back to updates. We hosted one of the female visitors in our house, and were invited to visit at one of the other host family’s houses on Sunday evening. There we were regaled with some real, life entertainment, as their guest was a professional opera singer! She accompanied herself on the piano, and sang a (Japanese) song about the sakura trees that grew in Hiroshima after they thought there would never be vegetation there again. The next day, Kyong-Jung, Jiwon, me, our four guests, and our friend-with-the-van and his young son, all packed bag lunches and drove for about two hours to the DMZ. Only when we got there did we realize it’s closed to tourists on Mondays. Bummer! Plan B was to go a bit further out of our way, to Peace Park, which is built around a big dam. To me it was more interesting than the DMZ anyways, as there was more to see and look at. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had our picnic lunch outside. There is also a gigantic bell at Peace Park, called the “World Peace Bell” or something else similarly straightforward. Not only is it the third largest bell in the world, and the biggest one you can actually ring – it’s made entirely out of melted-down bullet casings from wars all over the world. When we got there a troop of soldiers in uniform were ringing it. When they left, we, too, rang it for the very affordable price of 50 cents. (All of which goes toward education in Ethiopia, since Ethiopia is one of the countries that stepped in to aid South Korea during the war!) We were also pointed to the unfinished wings on one of the bell’s doves. It is actually being saved for the day the two Koreas reunify peacefully. Until that happens, the World Peace Bell remains incomplete.

After a long drive back to Chuncheon, we still had an hour or so to kill before dinner at the KAC. Our visitors wanted to go shopping, so I accompanied them to nearby Myeongdong, where everyone bought lots of Korean food supplies at a little grocery store there. Then it was time to go back and have dinner! It was a big, lively group that included all the hosts families as well. We talked a lot about how Japan’s educational system is apparently very censored in terms of how it talks about its past treatment of Korea. If it gets mentioned in textbooks, it’s usually worded in a way that softens the blow: Japan ‘annexed’ this part of Korea, rather than ‘colonized’. It was interesting for me to listen in on, since I believe our Canadian education system is just starting to put our terrible treatment of First Nations’ groups into the curriculum. Uncomfortable as it may be, it needs to be there.

This morning, a Tuesday, our guests said Sayonara and left for the airport. It was a short visit, but all in all I think quite beneficial.

This week is busy for me, as I catch up on postponed English classes and even restart the formerly defunct student group. I have high hopes for it, and a few more tricks up my sleeve about how to make it more successful (as in, I retain students, instead of seeing less and less of them every week). The other classes are going well, but please remember to keep my classes in your prayers. Between just four of them I’m teaching at every age and level!

Another post about the current church situation here in Chuncheon should follow within a few weeks. Please keep an eye out for it, as it will tell you a lot about my own personal church situation, too!



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