Sunday, January 25, 2009

Christmas Eve

I think Christmas Eve is wonderful. It feels like Friday nights do. A time to be quiet and do something special.

Before Mama came I had asked one of my students Simba and then later Paul to help me get a special surprise for Christmas Eve. For those of you who know me, I love surprises. I love planning things and planning a surprise is even better!

So the day started out that we were going to go back to Insa-dong for a little bit to pick some stuff up, and then continue on our way to the final destination. But before we left, we wanted to give our Fruit Lady a Christmas present.

She is so friendly and nice. Plus her shop is clean and full of fresh fruit. So we got her a box of cookies and a Steps to Christ in English and Korean. She was really happy to get them, plus we were able to finally get a picture with her (thanks to Mama!).

Doesn't she look adorable?

In Insa-dong we ate lunch in Starbucks and got a hot chocolate so that we could sit in there, it had been drizzling and we didn't want to eat our lunch outside. Then we traveled to the Performing Arts Center to see....The Nutcracker!!!!!!!

When I was in elementary school, for a surprise Mama took me to The Nutcracker on Christmas Eve, so this was a special reminder of that even. But this time the surprise was for her!

Inside was dazzling.

But I couldn't relax yet, because our student Paul had to get the tickets under his name and so we had a paper from him explaining it. I held my breath, hoping everything would be okay.

I wanted this picture taken to remind me of the relief it felt to have those in our hand. I have a series of events that I've been to where getting our reserved tickets hadn't work, and so being in a foreign country I was extra nervous.

They had little set up areas for photo ops, and we took advantage of them, even though we aren't children.

It was still fun to sit in there and feel the excitement of seeing a ballet in Korea! After all, what could be a better surprise than a ballet?! (At least in my opinion)

Before we were told we couldn't take pictures, Mama got this great picture of the curtain. It was a beautiful tapestry and so unique to us.

The ballet was beautiful. For the snowflake dance, they had fake snowflakes falling and it was gorgeous. The sets were fantastic as well as the dancing. There was a mix of Korean and Western dancers. Clara was Korea and the Nutcracker was white. It was a really special and fun evening together.

As we left we were excited and planned to go out to eat to celebrate the wonderful evening.

Then...we got on the subway. Now, Matthew and I have ridden very packed subways before, but this was a totally new experience.

This picture does not do it justice, so I will explain to you that when we were trying to get off at a stop, there were so many people trying to push in that we could not push out and had to go to the next stop.

I'm not prone to claustrophobia but if you had any bit of it then this would be terrible. As it was, we were smashed into our neighbor and boiling hot, even though it was freezing outside. We longed for the doors to open and fresh air to come through.

Finally, after getting lost and being pushed in and off the train we made it home. We decided not to go out to eat and just to go home and relax there.

For a surprise we wanted Mama to try a Korean cake. Cakes here are different than ours in America. They are much much better. The cakes here are lighter, the whole thing is lighter feeling. The cake and frosting aren't as sugar filled so you don't feel terrible after eating it. Plus they are really cute! So Matthew went and picked up some pizza for us and this cake...

He got it because he said it reminded him of Frodo, Mama's Newfie at home.
Isn't it a cute cake?

And so that was our adventures for Christmas Eve. We hope your Christmas Eve was as memorable as ours =)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Closed on Tuesdays

So for day two of Mama's stay in Korea I wanted to take her to the Gyeongbokgong Palace (where we'd gone before). So we got up early and took the subway and hour and half into Seoul. We got there and it felt strange that no one was around the palace. It looked deserted. It had snowed that day, but I didn't think it would close because of the snow! So Matthew went to the ticket booth and came back with the sad news: It's closed on Tuesdays. Tuesdays! We had planned out this day to see the palace and Insa-dong and to come back another day just for the palace was frusterating to think about. But we decided to make the most of it and head off the Insa-dong.

But first we grabbed a picture in front of the palace. The sky was clear and the snow was so pretty. Plus we're pretty awesome looking =)

As we made our way to Insa-dong we posed by this sign. It showed how far different famous cities were from that point. Now Matthew's jacket makes it look as if it wasn't very cold, but by the middle of the day he was wishing he had Mama's jacket! She was definately the only one who stayed warm. =)

This picture was not taken by us, because for some reason we didn't take any pictures of it. But it is Insa-dong none-the-less. We shopped for gifts and different souvenirs. This is a place where you can buy more traditional Korean items. Many of my students tell me how expensive it is, but when we shopped, we were impressed at the bargains we were able to get.

But shopping can only happen so long before hunger sets in... Then we had the task of finding a restaurant that tasted good. We saw an Italian restaurant and went in. As always we ask for a menu... It was expensive. Very expensive. So, we left.

Seeing another Italian restaurant we went toward it. Also expensive. We paused in disappointment, hunger, and cold.

The world seemed against us, but we posed by this No Parking sign to show that our spirits were still up! Even if we weren't eating yet. And then we looked up and saw this sign..

Look at the last line in the sign. The web address reads: We thought it was really funny and so looked around and saw an SDA building of some sort. Then Matthew noticed a sign, "Vegetarian Buffet"!!! We were very happy but unsure if it was open or how it worked. So we went inside. Matthew, again, saw the sign pointing down toward the buffet so we walked down.

It was a cafeteria looking place and sure enough it was SDA run and it was vegetarian. We asked the lady how much it was. She said 8,000 won. It didn't sound too bad, but Matthew wanted to check out the selection first. While he went to do that I tried to make small talk with the lady. I showed her my SDA backpack and said that we worked for SDA. I just wanted to form a friendly relationship, but then she said, "Okay 7,000 won".
So we decided to eat there =) Mama got to try traditional Korea food without being afraid of octopus or squid being in there and it was pretty good food! They had some veggie meat and thta was especially good.

Afterwards we posed by the sign (the lower one) to express our happiness!
We shopped a little more and then had to head back to meet up with my 7am, level three students. They had wanted to meet and go out to eat. They took us to Ashley's because it is a buffet and has a greater variety for vegetarians. We had fun eating with them.

Felix, Bart, Eric, Me, Ana, Austin, Torres, and Grace.
After eating, they asked us what we wanted to do. Of course we didn't know, so they decided to take us to a No-ray-bong. (Sounds like: Nur-ri-bong). It's a singing room. While we might just say this is karoke, it is not. The whole group, rents a booth and you go in, with just your friends, and then sing along to songs. Personally this is much better, than having everyone look at you! Plus here in Korea most singing rooms don't allow alcohol.

We sang a few songs, but we were not very good. They did have English songs, but trying to sing Elvis is not a good idea.
This is what it looked like. There were videos that went with the different songs, but sometimes they didn't match. It was interesting to watch them though.
Our students are really fun to hang out with. We were excited to experience the singing room because our students talk about it a lot.
And that was the end of day number 2.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When Mama came to Korea

When Mama came to visit us in Korea it was definately the happiest day we've had since being here. She arrived on Sunday December 21st around 8pm.

This is us on the way into the airport...

After traveling around the world, she safely made it to Incheon! This was our happiest moment *smiles*

The first day, we expected her to sleep in, but she was up with us and ready for school. It was our party day at school so that was good.

These are Matthew and my 7am classes. Usually there are a lot more students but because it was party day (and there was a little miscommunication) hardly anyone showed up. The students were thrilled to have my mom there!

In the afternoon she came to some of my junior classes. This is my favorite junior class. I've been blessed to have them for all the three terms I've taught in Korea so far.

This is Steven, Tommy, and Lily. They are so bright and will do very well in life.

This is the whole class. The junior teacher is Wendy and she is fantastic to teach with.

Front row: Lily, Nana, Sarah, Alice. Back row: Steven, Tommy, Poohti, Willy, Peter, and Jack.

Later on we had our junior and adult graduation ceremonies. I was able to teach the juniors who graduated, and the one adult student who graduated- Paul.

Paul's graduation speech was amazing. We were so proud of him! Paul and his girlfriend Mary are some of our good friends here in Korea and we are blessed to know them.
So this was Mama's first day in Korea! It was a busy one to be sure, but she really enjoyed getting to meet the students and teachers. Plus, everyone was shocked that she was my mom and not my sister! One of the junior teachers asked me if I was sure that it was my mom because she looked so young. hehe. It was funny.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Korean Wedding

On Sunday, December 21st we had the honor of going to the wedding of one of our students. Matthew and I have both had her in our religion classes. Her English name is Gloria, and she is a very sweet and beautiful person.

We met her husband for the first time at the wedding, but were very impressed by his kindess and the love he has for Gloria.

There were some very unique and different things at this wedding, and apparently most Korean weddings.

When we got there we were ushered to a room where Gloria was sitting on a chair and having her picture taken with friends. We all got to take a picture with her and then were taken out to wait for the other wedding to finish. Apparently every hour, on the hour, a new wedding would start. So while we waited we watched the other wedding (people we didn't know) finish up and file out.

Also, while we waited we give our "wedding gifts". Here, you give money. You give to the groom's side or the bride's side, depending on who you came for. And then at the end, apparently the bride and groom's parents split all the money. It is to help cover the expenses for the wedding.

Here in Korea, they also take "glamour shots" before the wedding in lots of different outfits and take fabulous pictures! Then they display some of those pictures outside before the wedding.

This isn't very clear, but isn't it a great picture?!

This is once we got into the hall to sit down.

This is the bridal processional. Bride's mother (pink), groom's mother (green)--then boy and girl -- then groom -- then bride and father.

As you can see behind the mothers there are a lot of people. This is where the people for the next wedding wait. The problem is that they aren't exactly quiet. They talk and joke as loud as they want. I found it disruptive, but no one thought anything of it. Even the guests at the wedding were talking amongst themselves during the ceremony.

Aren't they cute?! Both held a little bouquet of flowers. They held hand and walked down the aisle.

During the wedding Gloria's groom sang her a surprise song. Apparently this is very rare. She was really touched and cried. This is just the end of the song. Plus you can hear all the noise in the background.

Cutting of the cake...with a SWORD!

After pictures with their families. Then we got to be in a picture with all the guests. One side had guys and one had girls. Then they tossed the bouquet, but it was different because the girl was already chosen to catch the flowers.

Then we went downstairs and gave our tickets (that we got when we gave money for the bride's side) and ate at the buffet. It was...interesting food. Mostly meat. Even whole baby octopus. mmmm. This is our "couple" picture with our matching "couple" scarves made for us by Cleo, our coordinator.

On the way home Matthew's head hit the ceiling of the bus. Mostly buses are okay, but this one was an older bus.
It was a great experience for us to go to Gloria's wedding and we pray that she and her husband will have a happy and blessed marriage.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

6 Months of Marriage

Now that it's almost seven months since we've been married, I am posting about our six month anniversary. The 20th came on Saturday so I had to give Matthew his present early since it would be Sabbath.

So on Thursday (because Friday we were all going to Costco, and I wouldn't have time) I sent him on a treasure hunt. Each clue had something about the different months and activities and changes we've had since being married.

Clue #1: Where it all started. A classroom.

Month Two: Beginning our first home.

Month Three: Surviving on Peanut Butter in Korea

Month Four: Discovering some very wonderful treats in Korea.

Month Five: Discovering the wonderful fruit of Korea. This led him to go on a bus to Dongincheon where we went out to eat.

It's an Italian sort-of restaurant. Nothing in Korea is really western, it's Korean flavored.

While eating our meal we looked out the window and saw a hair stylist shop. I'd been thinking about cutting my hair for a while, but I'd been too chicken to do it. But as we ate and looked at it, we decided to get my hair cut. I'd shown Matthew pictures of different hairstyles I wanted, and so I had them in my purse.

We went to the shop, asked how much it would cost, showed them the picture...and...

This is me right after stepping out from the shop. It's the first time I've almost cried after getting my hair cut. I'm still getting use to it, but it's better now and Matthew likes it =) Always a plus!

The hairstylist was really great. One of best service experiences I've ever had getting my hair cut.

For our real six month anniversary I made Matthew french toast, eggs, and we used some veggie links.

So that's all...oh! Matthew got me this really cool long sweater jacket thing. I don't have any pictures of it, but I'll get some and post them soon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Christmas Concerts

This Christmas was full of Christmas concerts.

The first one was held at the main Seoul church. We rode the subway there:

Got put in a video-feed room because there was no room for us in the big church:

Sang our song. Ate food. Went home.

As you can see the singing did something funny to Edward and Matthew.

Our other Christmas concert was at our school. Matthew played a guitar solo and I read one of Jason's poems. Then we sang out song again:

Here are a few videos.

This is from the main church in Seoul. These are girls doing the traditional Korean fan dance.

This is at our school concert, and these are the junior teachers.
And here's a few random pictures...
One of my religion students had brought this delicious tea for one of our party days and she knew I liked it and so she had it mailed to me! It was such a nice surprise and present. The tea is wonderful! I want to find a way to bring it home.
And here is the prices for clown fish for those who are interested. 7,000 won or approx $7.00
Matthew is very sad that he cannot purchase the clown fish. And just so you know, above the 7,000 won on the yellow sign it phonetically says: Nee Mo. Nemo. Disney and Pixar have taken over the world!