Monday, February 28, 2011

Sah Kyehjole: Interlude

My childhood home: 3407 Ackerman Rd.

One thing that living abroad has allowed many ex-pats to do is to take trips around the South Pacific and other parts of Asia. Among other benefits, these short furloughs allow an interlude from the fast-paced life of Korea and a chance to experience other seasons around the world. However for me, instead of travelling to another country, I chose to take my break from Korea back in Texas to experience a season of a different kind--my brother getting married and adding not one, but two new members to the family. Along with sharing in my brother's joy, I was able to spend some time with some very dear friends of mine and make some new ones. It was hard leaving for Korea in the beginning, harder still the second time around. In some ways, it feels as if I left my heart back home with many of my loved ones.

April 2010: Interlude
Makgan 막간

Meet Kristin: She was the Christian woman who sat with me on the 9+ hour plane ride from Tokyo to Los Angeles. Come to find out, she was best friends with the sister of one of my friends from Chungju! We had the chance to encourage each other in the LORD.

Faces from House Church. Top to Bottom: Lizzie, Firoozeh, and Sharam; Sam and Christina; Firoozeh; Lizzie. These are the people that were in my life just prior to leaving to Korea. It was sweet to see them and be encouraged by what God's been working in their lives.

The Tolliver Gang! I met Mary-Ellen (far left) four years ago during my last year at TLU, and she has been a precious friend ever since. Here we are with her beau, Stephen, and her older brother Adrick at a Mexican restaurant in Seguin.

This is Toastmasters International, a Christian organization which seeks to give its members ample opportunities to give speeches in front of crowds; participating in it has become one of my dad's hobbies. It became a wonderful time to spend with my parents while I was home. That night, I had a chance to try my skills at public speaking with an impromptu exposition about my favorite meal in Korea, dokkgalbi.

My best friend Heidi and her sweet boys, Brody (the older one) and Nikki. Without her support, I would have never made it here in Korea.

These are my closest, oldest friends back home. L to R: Carla, Kamil, me, Amy, Matt, Kim, and Kamil's wife, Darcy. While I was home, they took me to dinner at Blanco Cafe, a modest but popular Mexican restaurant in the middle of town. After dinner, we went to hear Cleto Rodriguez, a Christian comedian who used to attend my home church.

Rehearsal and Dinner: The night before the wedding became a sweet time for me to spend with my family before having to journey back to Korea the following week.

The day after the wedding, we gathered together at Christy's parents' house for lunch, fellowship, and to watch them open their wedding presents.

Along with a gift for the couple, I brought other gifts from the Land of the Morning Calm to pass out to my family--which my mom thoroughly enjoyed.

This is a group of people--my family, really--to whom I have stayed close since graduating high school and joining their "college group." Brenda (top), her husband, and children have ministered to me greatly over the years, along with my dear friend Carla (bottom). As I rode with Carla back home one night, she told me, "It was a big thing that you left and it matters that you came back."

The night before I caught my plane flight back to Korea, Kim (above) asked if we could get some late-night dinner at the local IHOP and catch up, "since you're probably not gonna get sleep tonight anyway." As it was the last time I'd get to see her for a while, how could I refuse?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Detriments of Language Barriers

Last Friday, February 4, as part of our three-day celebration of Seoulal, I invited my friend Holly to come down from Seoul to visit me in the Byeongjeom area. After four and a half hours of travel time and minimal communication between us, she still hadn't shown up at my door. When she called from a stranger's cell phone to tell me that she had gotten off at the wrong bus stop, I decided to come get her.

Running across the darkening street minutes before 6 that night, I stepped into the back seat of the only cab waiting at the taxi stop. "Sen-tuh-ral Pah-kuh ka chuseyo," I asked the driver in my best Korean.

"Odi?" he countered. Where?

I didn't answer him. As the Park itself is several thousand acres, I figured he'd take me to the most popular side and if need be, I could direct him from there. I didn't know how to say, "The central part of Central Park--you know, where everyone goes."

He asked me something unitelligible in Korean as we set off, but I ignored that question as well. I then saw him motion someone downing a shot glass with his right hand, and heard him couch his action with yet another indistinct question. Though I couldn't understand his words, his meaning was unmistakable.

He had just witnessed me running across the street! Drunk people don't walk, much less run! Appalled, I sharply corrected him. "Andeo," I answered forcefully. Young Sook had recently taught me that the word was synonymous with heck no.

"Anio?" he asked politely, glancing at me through the rearview mirror. After a few steely moments, he asked another question. Seeing the still-blank look on my face, he added, "Country?"

"Miguk. Miguk saram eh-ee-yo," I said in perfect Korean, in an effort to redeem myself.

"Miguktharameeoh..." he repeated in mock drunk-speech, mimicking my apparent ill pronunciation.

The man continued to ask me questions as he drove on, many of them familiar ones like "Where do you work?" and "Are you an English teacher?" But I stopped answering them--and whatever I did answer was in the form of a curt, one-word response.

Ten minutes later, we arrived at the Park, just across the street from where Holly sat waiting. I could have asked the man to hold while I called to my friend, but nothing within me wanted to spend another moment in his taxicab. I quickly paid my oh chon won and left.

Frustrated, I confessed the story to Holly as we stood in the cold waiting for bus 27. "I don't care about my witness, Holly," I told her. "If you know me, you know that's not who I am. What upsets me is that this is his perception."

"The sad thing is that those are the kinds of foreigners he sees," she intoned. And I had to admit she was probably right.