Monday, August 25, 2008

Latest and the greatest (or something like that...) from Korea

We arrived at the place where we would be staying for the remainder of the orientation - the Vocational Technology Dorm. This dorm is for the boys. What we first noticed were the beds. Two twin beds. Next, we were told about the toilet paper not being allowed to be flushed but, rather, needing to be put into a s a separate trash can (this reminded Beth-Anne of Galapagoes).

Something which Beth-Anne finds very interesting (but which Matthew likes) is the shower. It is not separated from the rest of the bathroom, it’s all together – one floor. There is no tub, simply a curtain to separate the toilet from the shower area. I will admit (Matthew here) that it is a little weird to be facing away from the shower-head and see the sink where you brush your teeth (and mirror), right in front of you.

After showering, because of the long hours of traveling, our mission was to push the beds together. However, despite the beds being “together,” the frames of the beds kept the mattresses from being flush (this word means “flat/even”). We attempted to sleep on our “separate” beds, but Beth-Anne felt lonely, sad, and homesick. Thus, the young married couple was forced to sleep on a small twin bed for their first night in Korea.

Welcome to Korea!

The following morning we were awaked by the boys making a lot of noise. Do you remember those boys we mentioned earlier in this update? Yep, the same ones – our “dorm boys”. We have never heard such loud noises in one confined space before! (And remember, Matthew has lived in a boys’ dorm before for 3 years.)

Anyway, we got ready for breakfast and made our way out into the hallways of the dorm. We attempted to lock our door and found that we had no idea how to lock it. (We need to mention that it was no typical insert-key-and-turn-type of locking mechanism. This is a punch-in-your-code-type of lock.) Then, like knights in shining armor, our friendly Korean dorm-boys came over to help us. They tried for a number of minutes to help us, and though they did not succeed in solving the matter (the problem was later solved and we were able to finally lock our door) they proved to us that Koreans, at least these young boys, are generous in willing to lend their time.

We must note that while entering and exiting the dorm, we have found many a young, boxer-clad, male Korean who, upon realizing the presence of a female, quickly flee to the safety and protection of his room.

The past few days have been filled with orientation. We eat all our meals with our other fellow orientation people and they appear to be a great bunch of people. The food here started out American the first lunch we had, then by supper it was half and half. Half-American, half-Korean. After that, it was only Korean. For breakfast we have cereal and toast, so that’s normal, but we have been trying new things. Every once and a while something we’re use to will be throw in the mix. Today at lunch it was mashed potatoes and gravy in between a cold vegetable soup and rice.

Matthew and I have bank accounts at the KEB Bank. Don’t really know what that stands for, but it’s our bank and we have little cash cards and bank books to prove it.

Sabbath was new too. We first went to the Main Church where we were introduced and given gold bookmarks to. Then we proceeded to the “clubs”. This is instead of Sabbath school. The teachers have different clubs in which the students are still learning English, but with a religious article or discussion topic. It’s openly focused on God, but some come just to learn more English. That lasts about an hour, then there is Open Student Church where the students and teachers go. This service is in Korean and English. The sermon was actually really good, and sometimes it is harder to follow sermons that are broken up for translation purposes. Something interesting was to be on the side that was being translated to. Usually it’s English and then being translated to something else and so we as native speakers will laugh first at all the jokes. In this service the room would erupt in laughter and we’d have to wait to get the joke. After church there is a free lunch for everyone…but luckily we went to our teacher cafeteria so we didn’t have to wait in line. Then there are more clubs. Same idea, but these are two hours instead of one. It’s kind of a long day. Matthew and I went to bed early that night as well. We can barely make it to 8pm Korea time.

Sunday was more orientation, finally getting into the materials for how we will teach. But the more interesting experience was after supper most of us decided to take the subway into town to a market that two of the missionaries had been to. It costs 1000 W (basically $1.00) to go one way on the subway—to whatever stop you go to.

The market place is…huge and somewhat indescribable. You have to see…and smell it for yourself. We have somewhat weak senses living in America and they should be stronger after this year. The market we went to were just open shops, sort of like a flea market—but this one never ends. We saw stairs going down and so we went down those after being up on the street level for a while and found out for ourselves about how the Koreans make use of their space. We went down two flights and there was at least one more left for us to see, but we were so tired that we didn’t go. This market/mall went on and on… Matthew and Beth-Anne have never seen so many shoes. We got lost on the second level of this mall and weren’t sure for a while how we were going to make it out and meet our group when we were supposed to. After 5 or so minutes we did make it out, but our senses definitely had an overload.
Today, Monday we have been at the hospital all day. God, seriously, has blessed America. No matter what faults we have as a country…God has blessed us and we should be proud of our country. No one is sick, but we all had to get weight & height, blood pressure, blood draw, urine sample, chest x-rays, ear and nose check, eye exam, and dental examination. Whew. Okay, it was a lot.

Well, that’s all for now. Check out the pictures on flickr!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Travels to Korea

In Korea and safe!

(For PICTURES, please click this link: )

We are going to start this post by saying, for the record, that good-byes are terrible, horrible things. But to look at the silver lining on the dark cloud, we are blessed – so very blessed – to have the most amazing family and friends in the world. Although not everyone could see us off from the airport, we have a full knowledge of just how much we are loved. Good-byes wouldn’t be hard unless the love runs deep – it does.

(It goes without being stated that we’re looking forward to the day when good-byes will no longer exist. Certainly not in the way they exist now.)

Tuesday night Beth-Anne’s dad and cousin Brianna came and stayed at Matthew’s house—and then they along with his parents came to the airport—where Kristin met us.

Well, the good-byes and hugs were shared, and the tears flowed freely – whether external or internal – so it was time for us to begin our long journey.

Flight 1 – Dulles Airport (Washington D.C.) to Detroit, Michigan

We have to say that the airport in Detroit is the most unique airport either of us has ever been in. Trains, traveling high up above the people within the terminal, are bright red. The underground passage-way from one terminal to the next played weird music and sounds (techno-like at times) with bizarre displays of light and color in the walls and ceiling.

Flight 2 – Detroit, Michigan to Tokyo, Japan (12 hours on a Boeing 747)

This flight went on and on and on. Unfortunately, despite its longevity, neither of us were able to sleep for more than an hour or two. However, the cool thing about it all was that instead of flying straight across the ocean, as a result of the earth’s curvature, we flew up through Canada, over Alaska, and down along (near) the Asian coast to Japan. We saw Alaska! Some of the mountain tops peeked above the clouds. Magnificent.

During the flight we watched movie after movie, and walked around the plane a dozen times. At one point in the journey, Matthew found himself talking to a professor at a college in Michigan. They talked a bit about education and morality in the schools. Both agreed that without morality and ethics being present in the school, true education is severely hindered.

Once we were in the Tokyo airport, we both looked around for shirts that said Japan, or Tokyo on them. We were successful! (See pictures)

Flight 3 – Tokyo, Japan to Seoul (Incheon), South Korea

This flight was the only one that was delayed. There was lots of rain and so the airport and stopped letting airplanes take off, so when we were allowed there was over and hour wait because of the line up.

This flight definitely had the most turbulence and at one point it was like we’d hit a pocket of air and the plane felt like it just dropped a few feet in midair. It was pretty scary.

We had ordered vegetarian meals but it was humorous to watch everyone else get sushi meals (they put them together themselves) and we got hoggies. Really weird. Beth-Anne wishes we’d had the sushi.

We finally made it to Korea! When our last baggage was claimed we were SO happy! It was good to know that we, as well as all our luggage had made it. Then we went towards the exit area and looked for a sign that would indicate to us that we were to go with them. Walking into the arrival area we saw the SDA Language Institute sign and another wave of relief hit us. We were warmly welcomed by the coordinators and leaders of SDALI, and met others who were arriving as well – many of whom we had been traveling with for the entire trip, even from Dulles, without realizing it!

It took about over an hour to drive from the airport to where we would be staying for the next week and a half, for orientation. The signs are in English and Korean thanks to the World Cup that was played here—we are indebted to soccer for life now… =)

As we drove in the middle of the night, Matt noticed dozens of illuminated red crosses scattered throughout Seoul. These are obviously enough many of the Christian churches in the area.

We finally made it!

We will post more details about the place shortly.