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Jeju Island

27 May

JejuianAs advertised, I spent the week of May 19-25 on Korea’s honeymoon/getaway island of Jeju! Now, for the sake of curbing my verbosity (and because I don’t feel like thinking too hard), I’m doing this post in point form, with pictures throughout. Ladies and Gents, a walk through my week on Jeju-do!

May 19:


  • 1 hour on the plane, after the easiest airport security checkpoint I’ve ever crossed!
  • First impressions: Jeju is gray and drizzley! Where’s my tropical vacation weather?!
  • Too early to check into my first-night’s hostel, I spent some quality time in Dunkin’ Donuts. They served my bagel in small bite-sized pieces with a fork, and I finished my lame book.
  • Got to my hostel and realized why it was only $13/night. On the bright side, there were only 3 of us in my 6-bed female dorm room that night, so there was room to move and the ability to chat.
  • I spent the evening walking aimlessly (which isn’t to say unhappily!) along the northern shoreline. I witnessed a Jeju “mermaid” (elderly woman diver without breathing apparatus) surfacing from the waters, her day’s catch in its bulging net. I also found a great gazebo thing on the edge of a cliffy gorge, as well as a smallish temple.

May 20:

  • Switched hostels. Totally worth the extra $7/night, plus free breakfast!
  • Hopped a bus down south, to the Jeju Folk Museum. Felt awkward when I realized it was an old-fashioned village where people actually live. It’s free, and you can walk through several yards and poke your head into rooms, but that’s only interesting for about half an hour. Not to mention the women who live there tend to be standing around, watching their guests snoop around their houses. I left after a snack break – for another 1-hour bus ride.
  • Befriended a girl at our hostel, also from Vancouver. Then Jessica arrived! We ate a dinner of Jeju “black pork” together. Delish!

May 21:

  • Had our free breakfast, then hopped the bus to Hallasan (“san”, meaning mountain). Our Vancouverite friend joined us after deciding against the 10-hour hike. Jess and I decided to do the 5 hour one, and it was a great choice! I hate hiking. I’ve said that before. But it was a great day, we had wonderful views, and I was happy to work for them.
  • After returning back to the hostel, showering, and donning clean clothes, we went to ACTUAL PIZZA HUT and ate pizza. Then Jess and I bought an ice cream cake to celebrate her upcoming birthday, and reward ourselves for all our hard work.

May 22:

  • Getting lost day: a bus ride due south, to the city on the opposite side of the island. Then many hours spent wandering in the wrong direction, wondering if we should “just take a taxi” everywhere. We tried to find some waterfalls, but ended up at a different one (just fine; water falling is water falling). Then we wanted to go to the beach, which we didn’t think was that far, and so ended up costing about 4 times as much as we thought it would by taxi. It was an expensive mistake for a day that should otherwise have cost us nothing, but at least the scenery was gorgeous.

May 23:

  • At the top of Songsan! I suggest doing an image search, as none of my pictures do it justice.

    At the top of Songsan! I suggest doing an image search, as none of my pictures do it justice.

    Jess and I got in contact with CINDY, who was also on the island! After a few frantic emails and phone calls, we finally were able to cross paths. She ended up joining us for yet another hike up Songsan Ilchubang, or “sunrise peak”, this great, gaping bowl of a mountain that seems to come up out of no where and is supposedly a great place to watch the sun rise. We didn’t, but it was still pretty.

  • Again, it seemed appropriate to reward ourselves with junk food, so we had a burger lunch before heading out to activity #2:
  • Lava caves! Manjanggul is a lava “tube” that goes on for a couple kilometers underground. For only a couple bucks, you can descend into the depths of the earth and walk its cold, dark bowels.

    At the end of our walk down the lava tube. It ROCKed.

    At the end of our walk down the lava tube. It ROCKed.

May 24:

  • Relaxation day! Jess and I visited the nearby(ish) Samyang black sand beach, where the sand was particularly hot to walk on. We got sunburned, explored the tidal pools, and gushed about how CLEAR the water was. Then we changed out of our bathing suits and walked around town a bit.

    The sand didn't seem that  dark to me, but it was sure hot to step on!

    Samyang “black sand” beach. The sand didn’t seem that dark to me, but it was sure hot to step on!

  • That evening we found out about an Indian restaurant, in a happening part of town we hadn’t explored yet. Rajmahal was not only pretty easy to get to, but we got a great 2-person deal which more than worth the delicious and authentic food we got.

May 25:

  • I enjoyed my last breakfast at the hostel, said goodbye to my comrade, then hoofed it to the airport.
  • When this becomes your normal, you've arrived.

    When street kimbap becomes your normal, you’ve arrived.

    After the plane, I took a bus back to Chuncheon. Once there, it was only by chance that I should run into Peter and Joy, a couple who have been like stand-in parents to me this year. Apparently their son was on the same bus as me, and they were picking him up! Without thought, Joy and I gave each other a big hug, and they offered me a ride home. I was so happy and surprised to see them that I realized just how difficult it will be to say my final goodbyes. I’ve spent enough time in Chuncheon that I run into people I know, and can call many of them family. To me, that’s the definition of home. Bittersweet only begins to describe the feelings I have about leaving Korea in eight short weeks. What a day that will be!


How Psy Misled Me…And Other Adventures from Life’s Path

31 Dec

So, about Christmas. I got the whole week off, which meant lots of free time! Christmas eve day was spent relaxing, watching A Christmas Carol, and attending church. The service was oddly similar to the smorgasbord of free-wheeling praise and entertainment I’m used to at home. There was the children’s song and dance which participants took on in varying levels of seriousness (ranging from the keener who knows every action to the kid who does nothing more than to stand right were their parent plunked them). There was the requisite touching song sung in sign language, made interesting since this was Korean Sign Language. There was the church choir with lovely harmonies (low on men, which I take it is the worldwide standard). There were skits put on by middle- and high-schoolers, full of laughs and confusion (mostly on my part). There was the black light and neon dance portion…wait – that’s not typical, is it? And neither was the Christmas dinner that followed: ordered-in pizza, bucket chicken and dokboki (globby smoushed-together rice in a spicy/sweet sauce). Oh well; ho ho ho!

Continue reading

My Awesome Trip Part 3: Hong Kong

13 Dec

This is the third and final installment of updates from my recent trip to China and Hong Kong. For part 1 (Beijing), click here. For part 2 (Shanghai), click here.

As promised, I’ll start with my train trip from Shanghai down to Shenzhen and then ultimately Hong Kong (from here on out, “HK”). It was almost 20 hours long, and went through the night. The cheaper “hard sleeper” beds on a longer train trip are basically 3-tiered bunks, smushed very close together and with no privacy whatsoever. I found mine pretty quickly, and was pleased to see it was a bottom-bunk. Not realizing this train was a LOT slower than the one I took to Shanghai, I began to get a little worried that I’d end up in HK too soon. For some reason I couldn’t for the life of me remember when I’d arrive, and started questioning my travel-planning ability. Thus ensued the seven or so hours of worrying and wondering where I would sleep that night, should I arrive at nightfall (a worry made worse when you have no way of asking someone, just to make sure). But when they started selling packaged dinners around 7pm, and then when  they turned off all the lights at 10pm, I realized it was stupid to worry. Finally I was convinced that I’d be in HK at the proper time, and I was able to relax and enjoy the journey – well, for the most part. The anecdotes that bear mentioning:

  • When you have the bottom bunk on a train in China, people will use it as their personal bench while chatting with their friends, playing cards, or looking out the window. I was  never quite able to stretch my legs until lights out, because a woman was parked at the foot of my bed. 
  • Most bathrooms in China are squat toilets. Now imagine, if you will, using a squat in the middle of the night, on a clackety train car, in a room where the floor is covered in pee. All you have to stabilize yourself is a pretty unappealing-looking bar attached to the wall and covered with a  film of mysterious goo. And there is no toilet paper. Now imagine you’ve finished your task, only to realize there’s no flush, and the hole in the bottom of the squat isn’t open at this time. What do you do? March right out of there with your head held high, ’cause you’re in China, baby, and these things happen.
  • It’s the middle of the night. Finally no one is sitting on my bed. I’ve slept for a good four or five hours so far. I’m in that half-sleep state where every little noise wakes you up in between spurts of light sleep. And now the man on the sleeper next to mine is having what can only be called the “burp-ups.” Not really hiccups, because there’s definitely some force there; not really true burps, because they’re coming at a pretty consistent rate of about once per twenty seconds. And they’re not going away, folks. Does this man bother to close his mouth? No. To me it sounds like he’s deliberately forcing each one out, and after about half an hour of jolting awake to the sound of a new, very wet-sounding belch, I’m convinced he’s doing it just to keep me awake. I do not like that man. (To be fair, it’s quite normal for people in China to burp, pick their noses, and hork up large masses of spit in public. Maybe he found my silence suspicious.)

Once off the train, I walked underground from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Long lines and confusion about what papers to fill out made the last stretch of my journey somewhat painful. But to be standing in a line, half-delerious from lack of proper sleep, wearing a hat to cover my greasy hair, and the same smelly, baggy sweater I was wearing yesterday, not even thinking about the fact that I haven’t washed my face or brushed my teeth, and to be right behind a group of modelesque and perfectly pristine Russian girls – that’s just annoying. This is how I exited the People’s Republic of China; the lowly peasant to their aristocrat. Continue reading

My Awesome Trip Part 2: Shanghai

8 Dec

This is Part 2 of a trio. Click here to read Part 1 (Beijing).

I'm in Shanghai!

I’m in Shanghai!

The train to Shanghai moved at a speed of no less than 400km/h. Lo and behold, the man sitting next to me knew English, and we were able to chat about this and that on the way. He was mad at Canada for rejecting him a visa twice – and that was about all he had to say about my country of origin. What could I do but apologize on behalf of my country? I fully agree with him that the system is flawed, and becoming even more so now. But that’s another story. Other than that, this man was very friendly, and it made me feel more confident about travelling alone.

I passed the train ride reading (finishing!) my mystery book, and looking out the window. I also tried to ignore – and failed – the dawning reality that my body was taking arms against me in the form of a rapidly streaming nose. Despite the fact that my symptoms never got beyond a sore throat, a runny nose and sneezing, I later decided it had to be the plague because, in a country where I couldn’t read the medicine labels and nothing looked like Nyquil, there was no cure. I put up with that feeling of near-death-by-streaming-nostrils until my last day, when I finally broke down, went to a drug store, found the first person that could speak English, and trusted her about these mysterious yellow tablets that would apparently take care of everything. Whether they actually did anything or not is curious, since the conditions were perfect for a placebo effect – and that remains my only experience with Chinese medicine thus far.

Not hostile at all!Once in Shanghai, already dark with night, I braved the subway system, making three transfers in order to find my hostel. I have no idea how I made it, but somehow I lucked out (or God was leading me) by randomly choosing to exit the subway in the direction of the biggest, nearest road. There before me was the billboard that pointed the way to the Utels Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel!

Well don't that look inviting!

The hostel was very warm and welcoming, what with flag-streamers hanging in the lobby, African and Asian art hanging on the walls, and book shelves sectioning off a big, comfy-looking reading area! I was home!

My room was a four-bed female dorm; plain but comfortable and secure. In my three nights there, I met women travelling from Germany, New Zealand, Latvia and Macau. Towels, I learned the hard way, were not. I didn’t know that hostel travel requires you to bring your own, so the first day there I ended up using a t-shirt. A trip to the nearby mall dollar store (yuan store?) remedied that quickly: a face cloth it would have to be.

So started the chapter of my travels called “MCC isn’t paying for this”. Continue reading

My Awesome Trip Part 1: Beijing

3 Dec

As I excitedly pointed out last time, I was going to China. In the words of my mom, I’m “alive and well” (I think my family was scared I’d die there or something), and yes, I have many stories to tell you. I anticipate this to be pretty long, so I’m splitting the blog-y goodness into 3 parts. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in the next couple days-weeks!

Why, thank you!

The purpose of going to Beijing was to meet and connect with other MCCers from around Northeast Asia. Us YALTers got to go in a day early, which meant we stayed in a separate hotel the first night. Known as the “7 Days Inn”, this place had the exact amount of comfort and warmth you’d expect from a typical “affordable” hotel.

Found under the table in our very reassuring.

Found under the table in our hotel…how very reassuring.

Disconcert aside, I actually liked this place! They gave us a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb and soap, items I learned are typical SWAG in many Chinese hotels – that’s a step above stealing as much mini-shampoo as you can off the maid’s cart when she’s not looking! (Not that I’ve ever done that…cough, cough.) We also got free breakfast, consisting of typical fare such as warmed soy milk, congee, a boiled egg and steamed red bean and meat buns. I’m gonna go off topic and on the record as saying I’m not the biggest fan of steamed breads. It kind of sticks to the backs of your teeth, and generally still tastes raw. The fillings, however, are delicious – enough so that, for the remainder of the trip, I braved the bun to get to the filling!

Cindy and Alex show me their brekky.

Cindy and Alex show me their brekky.

On our first morning there (Friday, November 23), we met Aijuan, or “AJ”, who acted as our tour guide for the day (usually she’s an MCC office assistant). AJ and the four of us YALTers visited the famous Tienanmen Square and Forbidden City.

In the minds of those we’ll call “North American People Around My Age” (NAPAMA), Tienanmen Square is probably only known for the protests of 1989 and the associated infamous “tank man” photograph. Historically, it has been a place for the people of China to seek justice from their rulers.

Picture pushers

The Great Hall of the People (a parliament building) is there , as well as the National Museum of China and the Monument to the People’s Heroes. What the tourist brochures won’t tell you is that there are also a lot of guards, video cameras, people, tourist groups, snack stands, and hawkers trying to take your photo for lots of money. It’s a happening place!

(On a more serious note, I kept noticing fire extinguishers just sitting in the middle of the Square, here and there. Later I was told it was because Tibetan monks have been setting themselves on fire. So the tradition of supplication and demonstration still lives on here – in a very aggressive way.)

After walking around a bit, we all stopped for a little refreshment. I was in dire need of a caffeine fix (since sleep at the beloved 7 Days was scarce), while the others decided to try instant hot bubble tea (reviews were mixed but we all got more a few days later, so it can’t have been all that bad).

Drinking my Nescafe in front of the Great Hall of the People (and trying and failing to look natural while blinking into the sun).

Drinking my Nescafe in front of the Great Hall of the People (and trying and failing to look natural while blinking into the sun).

Before breaking for lunch, we decided it was time to see one more thing that lives – er – lays in Tienanmen Square: the remains of Chairman Mao. Viewing ends each day at noon, so in a frenzied rush we checked our coats, bags and cameras into a private room, went through two security checkpoints, and ended up in a snaking but steadily moving line. Without stopping, we were ushered in eerie silence through a lushly decorated receiving room, where many people (mostly older generation) quickly stepped out of line to place white flowers before a statue of the seated (throned?) Chairman. Past that, we walked down a little hall and into a low-lit room with a glass cage. There, surrounded by a bed of flowers and looking as though he fell asleep ten minutes ago, lay Mao. Aside from looking a little waxy, it was impossible to tell this was a man who died 36 years ago.

With that image fresh on our minds, it was time for lunch! Traditional Beijing noodle soup was the order of the day, and I got a bowl with spare ribs, broccoli, and a tuft of kelpy-looking seaweed. Sound a little out there? IT WAS DIVINE. As I later told several others, it was culinary heaven. Truly. So good. A little FYI for all the NAPAMAs out there: whatever they’re peddling as “Chinese food” in North America ain’t the real deal.

I knew about the faux pas of sticking your chopsticks directly in your food, but I did it anyway. Stupid me.

I knew about the faux pas of sticking your chopsticks directly in your food, but I did it anyway. Stupid me.

Post-Best-Lunch-Ever, it was time to visit the Forbidden City! This place goes on and on for light-years, with original, traditional architecture throughout. It’s the place all the Chinese Emperors from the Qing through Ming dynasties (if you even know what that means) lived, among their families, concubines, and servants. Much of the original decor is still there and intact, which is quite amazing to behold, since the place has been around since the 1400s! It’s truly beautiful.

The next day, Saturday, was Great Wall Day! By now we’d transferred to the Traditional View hotel of Beijing, in the hutong area of Beijing (just picture the old-style houses you’d typically see in a historical movie about China!). There, we were with all the NE Asia MCCers, and many of us used our first full day together to spend the afternoon driving in a bus to the Wall. The bonus perk of that bus trip was that we had lunch in the bus. And do you know what it was? Subway sandwiches! Whoa, I didn’t realize how much I miss those. Okay, now too much talking about food…back to the Wall.

It is, well, GREAT! To walk along it is more of a hike than a leisure trip, since it’s built atop the mountains which (as mountains d0) dip up and down. The stairs along the whole thing are not even, either. In one place they’ll be shallow and long, in another extremely steep and short so you have to use your hands to stabilize. Perhaps the best part of the whole thing was the “toboggan” ride down the mountain! We took a gondola up, which was slow and scenic; but going down it was fast and fun! I can’t tell you how strange it felt to be in a place so historical, but to be enjoying something so like an amusement park ride – almost a living paradox!

On Sunday we ended the big-group festivities and said goodbye to new friends at – surprise! – a Korean restaurant. It was nice to be the expert for once, as Bibimbap is a dish I know very well.

That afternoon, us YALTers got to visit the beautiful Temple of Heaven. This is a place where, during the dynasty days, people would come every year to pray and make offerings in hopes of a good bumper crop. Like the Forbidden City, it’s a sprawling expanse of beautiful old building after beautiful old building. We took a good four hours to leaisurly walk through all of it, only stopping to refuel with a banana split and that hot bubble tea I was telling you about. The only downside was how terribly COLD it was that day (as all our days in Beijing, really). None of the flowers in the garden were in season, so we only had the structures to look at. I’m sure it would be even better in the summer, when the gardens are all in bloom. Wow!

Sunday night, the four of us went back to 7 Days, after another delicious and traditional Beijing dinner of dumplings, with the wonderful Rod and Kathi. Those guys were great hosts to us throughout our trip, even making lasagna for me, Alex and Jessica and nasi goreng for Cindy on our first night there – so thoughtful! (Plus, now I realize how delicious Indonesian food must be!) Kathi also took us to the grocery store, so we could buy Chinese snacks to take back to Korea with us. I always think it’s fun to walk through a grocery store in a new country; they are truly different everywhere you go.

The next morning I said goodbye to the girls, as they flew back to Korea. It was a little sad and a little scary to see them go, because that meant it was time for my solo adventures to begin. I slept in a bit, packed up, and walked to the subway, from where I found the train to Shanghai all my myself. I was a little nervous to travel alone for the first time, especially in a country where I only picked up but 3 words of the language (“Hello”, “Thank you”, and “Spicy”…not hugely useful). But I put a brave face on, told myself I could handle it, and I did. I didn’t even miss a single subway or train (thanks mostly to the helpful English signage everywhere; definitely the most useful language to know when travelling internationally – but that’s another thought for another time)! I did, however, do a lot of aimless wandering. More on that later.

Oceans of Emotions

5 Oct

A view from our “castle”.

Though happiness is the feeling I walk away from it with, the six days I spent in Busan over the Korean Thanksgiving holiday (September 28-October 4) were filled with almost every emotion I’m capable of. Busan is the second biggest city in ROK, and is also Jin Ju’s (my roommate’s) hometown. It’s beautiful and diverse, a hubbub of all things entertaining, and it is where I experienced my first wave of culture shock, which caught me a bit off-guard. Upon arrival, my eyes were opened to an undercurrent of cultural norms and expectations I hadn’t known were there. Without going into too much gory detail I’ll just say that it was – as the name suggests – shocking. They warned me this would be a part of the jumping-cultures experience; honeymooning had to ware off sometime, and this was it. Still, when it came, I was completely unready and, if we stick to the ocean metaphors, quite knocked over. We’re talking sand in my ears, seaweed in my hair, saltwater streaming my face (and that part is literal). For a while there it felt like I desperately needed a lifeboat. But, a little email correspondence with my Ma, a little journaling, a little bible reading, and a lot of prayer later, and I was back to almost-normal in a couple days. The silver lining is that it means I’m learning – I’m not on a vacation here, I’m not living it up in Korea until it’s time to skip on home – I’m actually here to learn about another country, another way of being, another people. And all this is part of the messy, tidal ebb and flow of emotions that goes along with that. Pray for me as I adjust!

The journey to Busan involved the regular subway, the fast train to Seoul, and then the really fast train from Seoul all the way South to coastal Busan. It took about 4 hours. Jin Ju’s family lives in one of the swanky “Lotte Castle” high rises, which are very comfortable and high tech (elevator buttons in suite, sensors that tell you when family members have pulled into the car park, etc.). On top of that, despite significant language barriers between her sister and parents and me, I felt very welcomed into Jin Ju’s family.

Thanksgiving offerings for ancestors

The biggest challenge of the trip came on Sunday, during the Thanksgiving day celebrations. It was an all-day affair, for which I was not fully prepared. We left the house around 6am, and drove for two and a half hours to Jin Ju’s grandmother’s house. The whole family was there! It was a little overwhelming to meet so many people, and so few of them with English. All the women were busy making breakfast, and the men were milling about and getting the table for the ancestors carefully set up. Yes – instead of a Christian Korean Thanksgiving, I observed a traditional one. It was very different! I watched as food, fresh fruit, and drinks were laid out in their specific places (with chopsticks), as notes were written in brush to their ancestors, and as incense was lit. All the men stood in front of the table in order of age, and bowed twice before it. After two bows, chopsticks were moved from dish to dish, followed by two more bows each time. This is believed to give the ancestors a chance to eat everything, so that they will in turn protect the living. Different from what I’m used to? You bet. Still, it was interesting to witness something that’s been done here for centuries, something I’d only read about in books or seen in Mulan.

After the ceremony we all ate breakfast (men first; women cleaned up after eating second). Filled with rice, fish, and all manner of fermented/spiced/pickled what-have-you, we spent the afternoon hanging out, walking to the park, and lounging about the room downstairs, napping in a nest of blankets atop heated floor mats (gotta get me one of those when I get home). It turns out public napping is a totally acceptable form of family bonding time here, and I was tired, so I embraced it!

Later in the afternoon, we visited Jin Ju’s mother’s side of the family (when it comes to tradition women are always second, it seems). This involved more driving, then more people, more food, and more language barriers. Also more  naps. I liked that part. Come nightfall we hopped back in the family car, not to go home, but to go back to Grandma’s house – to nap. Jin Ju’s parents work nights, so I think their clocks were a bit screwed up that day, which meant they needed rest before the long drive home. All in all, it was a long day, and we didn’t arrive back to the castle until 4am (do the math – that’s 22 hours out of the house!).

After a good sleep-in the next morning, Jin Ju and I went downtown, and explored the vintage/used-clothing shops district of Busan. Very fun! I even bought a shirt that, despite being very pink, makes me really happy (it has animals on it). After shopping we visited the Busan tower, which overlooks the whole city and ocean. We didn’t go to the top (that costs like, a whole five dollars or something), but the views were still pretty awesome from as high up as you can go for free. From the tower we headed to the Jagalchi fish market. It was really gross and cool at the same time (since I think fish themselves are both gross and cool). I actually witnessed people selling shark and whale meat (!), among “tamer” seafood like eel, squid, clams and other shelled mollusca, and all the fish you’ve ever imagined. It was quite disgusting to witness the live fish just jammed into small tanks, dorsal fins sticking out from the top of the water because it was so crowded – and humans eating their friends at tables all around, right in the midst of the chaos of tanks! Jin Ju was hungry after that, but I had to draw the line at “no seafood”.

Haeundae beach – proof you should come visit me in Korea before this year is out!

The next day we met up with a new friend, Amy, and enjoyed a day at Haeundae beach. Imagine a place with clear, aquamarine water, white sand littered with shells, and a blue blue sky that doesn’t quit – betcha didn’t know that existed in Korea! It was such a sunny and warm day, and I spent it traipsing through the waves, feeling the sand under my feet, and beach combing. This sort of thing restores my soul – I always meet God by the ocean, where I’m most moved to praise above all else. Sometimes life’s a storm, but then He surprises you with a reprieve, and you get the opportunity to stand in front of Him, humbled, weak, a little broken, and thankful. 

Good conversation and exploration filled the remainder of the afternoon, and by the end of it I felt ready to face anything.

Another day we rented bikes (cruisers; very Mary Poppins-esque) and visited a bird sanctuary and observatory – two things which, combined with another perfect sunny day, again lifted my spirits.

Spare evenings were generally spent at home, hanging out, snacking, reading, and watching several movies. (Legend of the Falls, Northanger Abbey, Jumanji, and The Pursuit of Happyness.) Then it was time to come home, and the whirlwind adventure was over. I’m really happy to have been able to explore beautiful Busan, though I’m thankful to be back at home base in Chuncheon.

Now, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in Canada! If I’ve learned anything this past Thanksgiving of my own, it’s that being thankful for what you have – rather than dwelling on the things you don’t have (for me: cultural understanding, language, or very many friends) – is the best way to stay afloat even when it feels like a storm all around you.

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)