Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I truly believe God created this beauty to reflect His amazing Glory!

Us happy on our motoBikes...before crazy flat tires. Praise GOD we didn't die!

Summer pictures :)

Nolacho feeding the baby elephant after his "special" elephant honeymoon massage!

Memories of Summer : Thai-ing it up in a Summer-y

It's September: leaves are turning and this weekend is Chuseuk Holiday: BUTTTT according to Blogger we have done NOTHING since april! Not true Blogger-man.
Our Summer in Korea involved many things: the highlight being Nancy, Merri and Terese all visiting us in May, a vacation to Thailand in July and many weekend journeys around seoul: Here's just a little look into our week in Thailand......

Elizabeth and I had a wonderful week on Koh Samui. Our flights took a mere 24 hours (10 hours in Beijing airport and 7 in Bangkok), so it was extra glorious stepping off the plane onto the little trolley that took us to the cutest, most tropical bungalow-style baggage claim area I've been in. Our hotel had a driver waiting for us and we were at the hotel 15 minutes after stepping off the plane! The name of the place is Papillon Resort and it is French-owned, so Elizabeth was able to enjoy conversing with the owners and many guests, as well as negotiating a free night for us =D It was really nice as our place is at the far end of the beach, away from the crowds. We're kind of in a bay, so the tide is out for about half the day and you can walk out a few hundred yards on the sand. Then when it comes in it comes right to the steps. So peaceful.

We went on a “sea safari” which involved getting on a 400hp (grunt grunt) speedboat that took us out to some islands in the Anthong National Marine Park where we snorkeled, hiked a little mountain to view a lagoon, went kayaking around some islands and had a delicious lunch of yellow curry and fresh fruit. We were even picked up in a really old Land Rover, HOO-AH! We weren't sure what to expect, but it highly exceeded any expections and was more than worth it for a whole day of activities. We would have been content upon arriving back on Koh Samui, but the day came to an end with going to an elephant camp where we rode an elephant, then watched a baby elephant do some cute tricks. Elizabeth and I both volunteered to lay down on a mat and have the elephant massage us with its feet, pretty funny. We went at two separate times as nobody else seemed brave enough to volunteer =D Little did I know that I was to receive the 'honeymoon massage' where the elephant gave me kisses all over my face with its trunk! I had to lay on my back while it did this, the elephant even thought it necessary to give a special touch in a special place. Yea, disgusting.

We also rented a scooter and drove around part of the island. We went up to very high point to a "view point' and on our way down the scooter seemed to be slipping. At first we thought we had just hit a patch of sand or two, then we stopped and realized we had a flat rear tire! Thankfully, we were only about twenty yards from a local restaurant, so we walked the scooter there and asked if there was any place close-by to get it fixed. A woman motioned to a boy who told Elizabeth to get on the back of his bike, and he led the way down the rest of the mountain to a local mechanic. He was out having drinks with his friends but stopped and replaced our tube, in the dark, and in ten minutes for only a 100 baht, or $3.50. Very nice guy. So, off we went, happy to have had what could have been much more difficult, end so quickly and cheaply. Ten minutes down the road, POP, the back tire blew and we wobbled back and forth, 'til we could slow down enough pull over and walk the bike to another restaurant. Anyway, this is getting quite LONG! Another mechanic helped us out and showed us the wear on the tire, so we replaced that and the bad tube we'd been given at the last place. Once the guy changed the tire, he led me out back and showed me his crazy, home made 4x4 suv then told me to get in and took me for a wild ride up and down a mountain. I was much more scared for my life in his vehicle than I was from the motorbike tire blowing going fast on congested road. Two hours later we left.

When we returned the scooter they tried telling us the tire we had taken off was not theirs and they weren't going to reimburse us at all, but I was persistent and they ended up giving us the majority of the money we'd spent getting the scooter fixed. Yes, we were wearing helmets if you're wondering, despite my head being too big, apparently all rental agencies only have size medium helmets. What's with that??

We spent the last day of our trip eating some more of our favorite Thai curry and pad thai before our flight. It took us about 30 hours to get home with 2 long stops in Bankok and Beijing, but it was fun filled (we had more thai food in Bankok and pizzahut & sleep in Beijing airport)...The long journey actually made us glad to be home when we finally reached Wondang :) Ready to start classes the next morning.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beautiful Bountiful cherry Blossoms :)

Spring is here! Spring is here! I could shout this because I am so overjoyed!
Korea is simply flooded with a whole new feeling. The slightly dull, gloomy, grey streets are now lined with large and small pots springing up with growing green vegetation! I smile walking down the streets because there is life and color and beauty all around. The sun is out and proudly shining out the gloom of winter. I don't think Im the only one noticing this new beginning of spring either.
Last weekend we decided to spend our Saturday at Yeoido Park and then walk along the Han river to admire the blooming cherry blossoms. We decided to go along with tens of thousands of other koreans and foreigners. The buses and subways, streets and sidewalks were flooded with people snapping photos of the blossoming evidence of Spring's arrival. My friends Goldie, Kium and Sung were all a little bothered with the throngs of people as they had already visited the park the week before, and they commented that it was so peaceful- opposite of our Saturday visit. I didn't mind this busyness though. It just added to the excitement. So many people were able to all enjoy the beauty together. We all were just walking down the street (closed to traffic on the weekend), we were all pushed close together in the shade of the Japanese Cherry Blossoms with the River flowing on our right hand side. It was a beautiful view! A few people were sitting near trees ready to take a photo of you in front of the Pokote (for a small fee). We bought popsicles and continued walking until we reached the National Assembly building.
On Sunday, after our Lord's Day Meeting and a delicious Lunch, a bunch of us from church went to Namsan Mountain to see the cherry blossoms. You'd think I would have seen enough the day before, mais NON! This was completely different actually. We took a packed yellow bus up part of the mountain, walked to the tower and the view was gorgeous. Seoul was still the busseling city of tall apartment buildings and highrises, but with the mountain full of greens, yellows, and pink it was certainly different from our last visit to the top of Namsan Mountain in January when Ryan visited. Afterwards we walked down the mountain stopping for many photos with the pink blossoms and yellow forsythia. Beeeauuuutiouss!
At the moment we are sitting on the 3rd floor patio of Tom-n-Tom's Coffee in Itaewon. Nolan's writing a letter to his grandparents and sipping a strawberry yogurt smoothie. MMmmmm good. I just received an email from Meg stating that her red nailpolish just came off her big toe from our wedding exactly 7 months ago! That was the last time we saw her :( and most of you who might be reading this! It's amazing how fast time passes. Winter seemed so long, but now it's over, and Spring is here. I feel like my patience is sometimes so short, and I'm am so often dissatisfied with my life or circumstances. Today I felt like sharing some of my joy from the past two weeks, but I think the joy is so strong because it comes as a relief after the hard winter. It has been difficult at times living in this country teaching long hours and not speaking Korean- but through all of this I feel like I am finding more faith and trust and stength in Christ Jesus. Amen for Spring, new beginnings and LIFE!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Korean Eduacation, Popcorn & Work work work

Teaching children really pulls on my emotions. I go from feeling very loving and sympathetic toward them to feeling totally run down, exhausted and annoyed by them. The kindergartners and most of the elementary school children are just little kids, yet hardly have a chance to be kids because of the education system in Korea. When I was four or five I think I was still in preschool, or maybe it was afternoon kindergarten, but either way, I was only going to school for around two hours a day. Kindergarten here goes from 10-2 and it's pretty intense. Actually, the newest kindergarten kiddies have signed up for extra classes from 2-4 as well. Of course it isn't that bad. I mean, we are simply reading, coloring, eating and speaking basic English with them. But it is only the beginning of their jam-packed scheduled childhood that will follow their kindergarten years.
In February, What really amazed me was that the kindergarten children graduated from kindergarten and started a regular school schedule with a Hagwan(private after school classes) or two after only a week later! They went from a four hour chunk at school in which they'd spend time in the ball-pit before and during lunch, singing songs and doing crafts for at least one or two classes, and then go home at two. Then all of sudden they're thrown into regular school starting at 8:30 in the morning until 2:00, then going to an English hagwan for an hour or two and another Hagwan for Taekwondo or piano lessons after that, and maybe if they're "lucky" a math Hagwan for more math practice...meaning that they'll get home between 6 and 8. After arriving home it's dinner time, followed by homework time, followed by bed at around 11 or 12 for many of them.
How do they have any chance to be children? I get SO frustrated with them for being talkative and antsy in class, but I would be the exact same way. They're tired, hungry, though ready to burst from being force-fed information, and want to get outside and play. What a depressing, monotonous childhood, with the only pay-off (and that's debatable) being their passing the national exam with a good enough score to get themselves into one of the few worthy universities. Once in the university, many finally have some time to do what they want and spend much of their time pumping themselves with alcohol and partying it up. Once they graduate (if they graduate) they will often times go on to a job where they work the same if not longer hours than when they were children stuck in school all day. The working hours here must rank in the longest of anywhere in the world, as we're getting a little taste of it working at our school. We thought our time at the school would be six hours a day and that we'd find private lessons to teach, but we're actually here a minimum of 9 hours, with it many times having been 12 or more.
Oh what a life to be a Korean child...only to grow up to become a Korean adult plagued to work long hours your entire life! But there are positives to this culture-for sure! The people here are ready to please, befriend and serve you! They are loyal and very generous which is apparent even at age 5 and 6. If ever a child brings a delicious snack to class, he-she will usually reach out with their sticky hand to offer you part of their snack as well :) On two occasions we have also been on the receiving end of generous Koreans. We have joyfully been invited to a few families homes, and twice the mother and father have given us THEIR bed to sleep in for the night as a sign of hospitality and generousity! We felt a little strange excepting this, but on both occasions they let us know that they WANTED this, and it was what they do, so we accepted. What kindness!
Another positive is the quickness of mail :) Above there is a photo of us two after receiving a package from Terese Hunt...and it was Garrette's Chicago Mix Popcorn (cheese and caramel...OUR FAVORITE IN THE WORLD) and it arrived in 4 days and still kept it;s freshness! Thus we savored every bite! mm mm mmmm! Thank you Korea for having a reliable postal system!
Also, the koreans seem to pride themselves in the very thing that we as outsiders look down on them for. Their work ethic is unbelievable. Working long hours day after day after day...and almost never having a vacation. The previous cultures we have seen have not been this way. Ethiopians took life slow, one day at a time. It took about 6 months to install the most basic solar panels at the Champro school in the village of Karsa. In Paris, yes there are the businesses that do work long hours, but the French seem to pride themselves on their long lunch hours, and vacations. Their school year goes a bit longer than the US, but every 6 weeks there is a two week vacation! Oh my! But back to Korea, life is diligent, quick, work work work....and they are good at it! They are STRONG as bulls! Many many Koreans work until 11 or so, and then go out drinking many nights a week as a form of social comradary with their fellow workmen only to awake the next morning at 6 or 7 for another LONG day of work!
Now after a long day of work, it's time to get to bed!
Over and out, Hunts in Korea March 19th

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We saved a fish!

Wow, it's been well over a month since we last wrote something on here, Hawaii seems like it was forever ago, but we arrived back just over a month ago apparently, I mean, that's what the calendar says but I don't trust it.

Eliz and I just got back from our third trip to Costco since arriving in Korea. Tonight we arrived earlier than the past two trips so we were very happy to find all the sample stations still set up. Among other things, we had New York steak, bulgogi (Korean style marinated beef strips), Quaker oats cereal with milk, dried apricot, some noodle soup, and AMAZING chocolate truffles (if you like chocolate and frequent Costco, seek them out...they come in a two-bag set)

Today we had a new class schedule which was really confusing, then it'll change again in March once the oldest kindergarteners graduate. All of January there were a lot of kids gone as public school is on break and many kids take off of private lessons for that time as well, now most of them are back and classes need to reworked, plus they're making all the Special classes which are all the best kids from the previous A.P, for younger kids. Kinda sad though as a few of the original classes only have a few students left, so those students must feel kinda bad. One class went from having five boys to one boy, so the one boy was crying for about half of class because he was so sad his friends were gone, and also cause he probably didn't understand why he wasn't good enough to be in Special class.

I had an intense workout this morning...I went to the gym this morning and after powerwalking with intense arms swinging on the treadmill for about five minutes, my arm caught my headphone cord and yanked one of my earbuds out of my ear, totally startling me. I went to put it back in and realized the rubber piece that goes into your ear had disconnected in the process, so I proceeded to look for it. I didn't see it on or around the treadmill, so I tried looking underneath it, but there were treadmills butting up against on both sides and a wall a few inches in front of it, so I could only try looking underneath from behind, which didn't work too well. I looked around the rest of the area as I figured it could have gone a few feet, all the time a group of five older Korean ladies sitting on their recumbant bikes watching me, wondering what the heck I was looking for. One of them got up after a few minutes and went to fetch an employee, so I followed her and got someone to help me roll the treadmill out so I could get a better look underneath. After pulling out the second treadmill I saw an earbud and grabbed it, covered in hair and dust-bunnies, though happy to have it back. I washed it off and got back on the treadmill, then about a minute later I heard a clank and this bzzz type sound, and looked down to see my locker key (which I'd stuck into the waistband of my shorts, no pockets) had fallen and gotten wedged between the tread and an opening on the side, unbelievable! So, of course, the women were all still on their bikes watching this whole thing, so after I stopped the treadmill and yanked out the key, I resorted to a massage chair for about 30 secounds until realizing I had to get to school soon.

So, I started to head for the showers and some black, slimey looking thing on the floor caught my eye in front of three of the fishtanks. I bent down for a close look and realized it was a fish that must have jumped out of the tank somehow. I poked it to see if it was still alive and it wiggled a little, so I picked it up by its' fin and dropped it into the tank. I watched it for a minute to see if it would start swimming and was happy to see it recalibrate after regaining oxygen. Then about ten seconds later I realized that I'd put it into the wrong tank! There were two others right next to it and saw the exact same fish in another. Not wanting to only save the fish part-way I worried that I might have put a fresh-water fish into saltwater, but they appeared to both be fresh-water tanks. I'd pulled Elizabeth over to see what I'd done and monitor the fish while I went to get an employee who could get a net to do a little switcheroo. After motioning to a confused female employee that I wanted her to come downstairs to help with a fish dilemma, we got to the tank "just in time" as Elizabeth had been pounding on the glass (I think putting her arm in would have been better) to stop a bigger fish who had already tried eating the fin of our little friend, Elizabeth had also already found a net, so the two girls held the half lid out of the way while I swooped in with the trusty little net, caught the fish in one attempt, then plopped him into his correct home. Yea, I felt like a pretty big hero, the female employee and Elizabeth were impressed with my valiant efforts. =D

Oh yea, after looking at my earbuds later, I realized the one I'd found under the treadmill was significantly smaller than the other (I thought it felt loose after I put it back on), so I went back at lunch and had someone move the treadmill out again and found mine with amazing ease. What a relief! ha, yea I know, sounds goofy, but I haven't seen ear-buds for sale and didn't want to buy new headphones

Yup, that was my exciting morning, pretty sweet eh? It's silly how much type it takes to tell what would have taken a minute or so to tell you face to face. So I never finished this earlier so now I'm home and it's 12:30 already! Elizabeth and I made garlic smashed potatoes for dinner tonight, our first time and they were delicious! Not that there's really anything to mess up. This weekend we also made tomato soup (not from a can) for the first time as well as apple sauce. We thought both turned out pretty well and had a couple friends over Sunday afternoon who testified (without our encouragement) that our tomato soup was of high quality! I think I feel more satisfaction from cooking than I do teaching kids...gotta sleep here.