Now we’re finished.

Today, June 10, is the beginning of the end. Today signifies the initiation of the speeding downward-slope of the end of my grant year. Ladies and gentlemen, I was around 32 days left in Korea and it’s not without some bitterness. I also say it’s the end because for the next three weeks, I am conducting speaking exams. After the three weeks, I have two weeks, one of which is consumed by exams. Essentially, I have one week left to teach my students and then be on my way.

For example, this morning I realized I was finally, completely at ease in Korea. It took over 10 months, but I woke up and realized that it’s no longer a strange place to be. I guess that’s what happens when you live abroad. I ate my bagel with cream cheese and jam, and realized that strangely enough, I was home. Sure, I’ll be jetting out of Korea in a little over a month, but for now I am home.

I have also struggled with a teaching slump. For you teachers out there, you probably know what I’m talking about: the inability to plan a lesson, the constant distraction of the Internet or something that isn’t lesson planning. You know that tug. During my teacher slump, I started evaluating myself. I realized that I was in the slump because I was stressed and afraid. Afraid I wasn’t making a difference, stressed that my students probably don’t care about English as much as I do.

Then, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, helped solve my funk.

In a roundabout way, she said “Sarah, you can’t make all the difference. You’re just planting the seed and other teachers in the future will water it.”

I then realized that it’s not all on me to change the scope of my students’ lives. Sure, I’m an important part, but I’m not the gardener and the harvester. I should probably not be as hard on myself. So, thankfully, I can report that I’m climbing out of the teacher slump. Hooray!

In the meantime, allow me to participate in some shameless plugging. I love blogging, and I’ve already launched my post-Korea blog. Of course, I won’t be posting until after I leave Korea, but if you don’t mind, can you check it out (and maybe even subscribe)? You can check out Runaway Sister here.

geon bae!



Going to Korean church: Not-so-lost in translation.

Before I left for South Korea, many individuals were worried that I would not be able to attend church. Though a legitimate concern, many people believe South Korea to be a nation without a trace of Christianity in it. However, according to my personal research (the Wikipedia, ya’ll), about 30% of South Korea claims to be Christian (18% Protestant; 10% Roman Catholic).

And here’s my confession, though I knew that there was a growing population of Christians in South Korea, I was still worried that I would not be able to find a place of worship during my year here. Of course, Our Lord answered the prayers of my Church of Christ parents and my Anglican friends back home, and I was informed that a campus shuttle would be able to drop off those who wanted to

Goesan Methodist Church (South Korea)

attend services at a local Methodist church. Thankfully our RA,  a student at Jungwon University, got the shuttle driver to stop near the church.

Upon walking up the church steps, we were greeting by an enthusiastic older man who shook our hands. Being good foreigners, we gave insa (bowing and proper greeting) and entered the church. When we entered, many other churchgoers enthusiastically greeted us and shook our hands. Despite our language barriers, the church goers welcomed us with open arms and escorted us to our seats inside the church. Once we were seated, many others greeted us with smiles and nods. It felt very good to be welcomed, even though we spoke a different language and came from 6,000 miles away.

The service began with the singing of hymns. Though they were all sung in Korean, I recognized songs such as “Jesus Loves Me,” “When the Roll is Called up Yonder,” and “Rock of Ages.” I tried to phonetically read the Korean on the screen, but I decided it was best that I softly sing the English lyrics. The service proceeded with a scripture reading and a responsive reading, as seen in

Inside the church.

many liturgical churches. The minister then began his sermon, and a fellow ETA who speaks Korean informed me that the minister  introduced us formally to the congregation. During the sermon, the minister became enthusiastic and many of the congregants shouted “Amen!”, a word which sounds just like the English. Though I wasn’t able to understand the sermon, I felt comfort each time I heard the name “Jesus” in the Korean language. Perhaps that was all I needed.

After the sermon, a nice older gentleman (who told us when to stand up and sit during the sermon), invited us down for the Sunday potluck. Within moments, lots of attendees were saying hello and making eating motions with their hands. As we filed out of the sanctuary, we shook the pastor’s hand and he also invited us to eat.

Side story (but related to this story): In the present moment of my life, I am in “training” to become a third-order Benedictine nun with the Company of Jesus.  As I try to determine how to live out the Benedictine values in my time abroad, especially hospitality, I was overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us Fulbrighters this morning. For example: When we entered the dining area, we were all seated and given chopsticks and a spoon. Soon, congregants began to bring out our plates of food and made sure that everything was to our taste. I’ve experienced this kind of hospitality in the States, but I didn’t know what to expect abroad. These Christians abided by Leviticus 19:33, and sought to do right by those of us visiting in South Korea. As we ate, an man showed me how to use chopsticks and another woman sat with us and tried to learn more about us and why were in the country. The woman even scraped my plate. Sometimes hospitality looks like opening the door to a stranger, despite lots of cultural differences. Finally, at the end of our meal, a very old, bent over gentleman came up to our table and said “Have a good time and don’t leave Korea.”

I think I’m in the right place.

In other news:

I went walking in Goesan today with friends. We visited two pastry shops, Lotteria, and all the convenience stores. I love going into convenience stores here. In a the town of Goesan (it’s a Neon Kentucky, mind you), there are four Korean stores and a 7-Eleven. There are three places to get your hair done, and two fancy pastry places. And cabs. Lots and lots of cabs. I don’t understand how something so rural can be so bustling.

Also, we took a cab back to Jungwon. The driver turned off his music and turned it to a popular American song (Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”). I guess he thought four American girls would like the sound of a British songstress. He’s basically correct.

Tomorrow I’m visiting an all-girls’ high school in nearby town. I’m looking forward to it as I think about where I might like to teach after Departure Day (August 22nd).

Other events include a beach resort visit in two weeks, a visit to the DMZ, a weekend in Seoul, and teaching at Camp Fulbright (and English camp for Korean students). Will these weeks  be busy? Yes. Will I be exhausted and sometimes cranky? Um, yes. Will it be totally worth it? Yes, yes , yes.

geon bae!