Sunday, November 9, 2014

Excitement for the Future

I have been away from the blogosphere for a while now, but that doesn't mean that nothing has been happening.  Quite the contrary has been the case.  For now, I will just say that my time as an ESL teacher in South Korea is coming to an end at the end of February.

Nothing negative is happening, nor has happened.  I am simply being called to another place.

I've mentioned in a previous post that I moved here to Seoul from Gwangju, a city that I still love, because I have felt called by God to do so.  I did so sight unseen, not knowing anybody, and knowing very little about the city.   From the time I landed at Incheon Airport to permanently move here, God has put people in my life who have helped me get settled, remain happy, grow as a Christian, and further pursue the calling I have in my life.

Seoul is a city where the churches, both Korean and Expat are on fire for God.  I've heard on more than one instance people say about the city, "This is a place where God is moving."  I definitely believe it, because I've experienced it myself.  It is a place where I have experienced an enormous amount of growth in my passion for, knowledge of, and experience with Jesus Christ.

I can't speak on exactly what I will be doing in the future, but I will state that it will involve me working with Koreans from a place other than South Korea.  The longer I work with Koreans, and the more I experience the favor that they show me, the more I realize that an enormous purpose that God has for my life is to minister, and to help them.  I'm sure many of you who have been with me from the beginning will be able to "put two and two together" to figure out exactly what that calling that I will be pursuing is.

It is now November, and the ending of the current contract that I have signed with my current school is in sight.  I know it will be an extremely bitter sweet time, because I have experienced an enormous amount of growth as a teacher, and I am now extremely confident in my ability to enable a person to improve in their ability to master the English language.

It will be an even more bitter sweet time, because I will really miss the children that I teach.  I am fighting tears now thinking about it, because I have taught some extraordinary children who will grow to be extraordinary contributors to their respective societies.  And not to mention, they are wonderful people for whom I have grown to really care about, and chances are high that when I say my last goodbyes to them, it will be the last time that I will ever see them again.  It won't be easy.

If it were up to me, I would be teaching students, and experiencing South Korea for the considerable future, but I've come to learn that God has a different purpose for my life, and it involves me sacrificing the comforts that I have come to know here, and totally relying on him to provide financially, logistically,  relationally, and spiritually for my future.  I've come to learn that man is at his most powerful when he is completely reliant on that, so I look to the future unafraid.  It will probably involve me suffering and sacrificing for the sake of Christ, as Paul called Timothy to do with him as he was imprisoned, writing the book 2 Timothy.  I don't do it unwillingly, because quite honestly, I am really excited about pursuing this next dream that God, the true dream giver, has revealed to me.

Please pray for me.  God bless all of you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Yes, I'm Still Alive II

Just checking in to show everyone that I'm still alive.  My lack of posts is not because nothing is happening.  Actually, it's quite the contrary.  It's because of the sensitive nature of everything.  Being that my future has sort of a sensitive nature, I'm not sure if something that I post can jeopardize my future.  I'm sure it won't, but I'd prefer to be cautious.

Let's just say that I will become a missionary, and am working towards that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"A House Divided"

I am proud of the fact that I am an alum of LSU, an SEC university.  My pride for my university is not a unique thing in the south.  People hang flags outside of their homes.  They put various paraphernalia on their cars such as bumper stickers, decals, license plates, and etc.  Many people wear their university colors everywhere.

Naturally, people affiliated with different universities intermarry.  It's quite common, especially in states with at least two major universities, like Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia.  When that happens, most of the time, people don't stop cheering for the team that they are affiliated with, because their spouse is affiliated with a different one.  So naturally during football season, things can be rather tense in those respective households, especially at family gatherings with in-laws.

Many of these families display their pride for their two universities with a license plate on the front of their cars with the words, "House Divided", and the plate will be divided in two with the logo of a respective university on each side.

I wonder sometimes which teams the children of these couples cheer for.  Perhaps I can provide some insight into that, being that I am an American with Korean ethnicity living in Korea, a country that I have come to care about, during the World Cup.

Here in Korea, I am really proud of the fact that I am an American, especially around my non-Korean friends.  I am a fan of sports in general, especially football (American football for all my non-American friends) and basketball.  Being that I am from Louisiana I am very vocal about my fanhood for LSU football, LSU mens basketball, LSU Baseball, the New Orleans Saints, and the New Orleans Pelicans.  And recently here in Korea, I have been quite vocal about the U.S. world cup fanhood.  On my twitter account, I've posted pics of such American icons as Hulk Hogan, George Washington, Rocky Balboa, and Abraham Lincoln to display my fanhood of American soccer.

I am extremely proud to be an American.  One of my students said during the London Olympics, "I don't like America, because they always win in the Olympics."

My immediate automatic almost-instinctive proud response was, "Yeah, we're the best."

I enjoy imagining what I would do, if the American Soccer Team came to Seoul to play Korea in a friendly.  Obviously, if that happened, I would sit in the American section of the stadium with my American friends in my red, white, and blue, and celebrating if we scored a goal, or even won.

At the same time, if that moment were to happen, it would be rather bittersweet, because although I am really proud to be an American, I don't enjoy in the least bit seeing Korea lose, even when it's to my country.

As a passionate sports fan, it's a rather confusing feeling.  There are moments when I will say unequivocally that I would cheer for America, but on the rare occasions where competition between the two nations happens, I find my support secretly shifting to Korea.  There are moments when I am secretly cheering for Korea, but then I would notice an American on the other side that I identify with, and I begin to feel better about cheering for America.  Then Korea would start losing, and I would find myself secretly cheering for them again.  Sometimes my support wanes periodically throughout a competition.

I've experienced this only a few times.  The most recent being a women's volleyball match between the two nations during the 2012 London Olympics, and a women's curling match during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

As my American pride in terms of sports and competition is rather extraverted, my pride in the nation of Korea, as a Korean-American is rather introverted.  Many times, my support for Korea is just as strong or stronger, despite that.  I can't explain exactly why, but I was extremely proud when Korea scored their first goal in their opener in the World Cup against Russia as I was eating my breakfast getting ready for work.  It was a stronger feeling than any that I had that was associated with any good thing that America did in the tournament.

I was moved while watching a reality show that follows some Korean celebrities in Brazil as they cheer for Korea during the World Cup, when one of the female celebrities started to tear (with a long e) up when the Korean team was introduced before a match, and the Korean National Anthem was sung.  I was also moved when they showed a Korean man in the stands crying when Algeria scored their third goal to go up 3-0 early on in their match, and Yoo Jae Seok, tried to rally support in the stands.  I was really proud during those moments.

I don't vocalize my support for Korea during competitions, because I am not a Korean citizen, but my support for them, many times, is every bit as strong as my support for America, sometimes even secretly cheering for them against my home country.  So many times, during international competitions, I really do find myself being a "house divided."

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Normal Weekday Morning Commute in Seoul

As I lay here on my bed, looking out the window of my 13th floor apartment at all the cars riding along on the highway, and at all the lights of the city, I sit here wondering what to write.  Recently, I've felt the urge to write more, almost as if someone important, whom I don't know, is reading.  To that person, whoever you are, Hello.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.

I am fairly entrenched into a routine here.  I have friends.  Everyday, I wake up, get ready for work, walk out the door of my apartment, wait for the elevator, step in when the door opens, sit and wait for a few seconds for it to touch down on the first floor.  Sometimes, it stops on it's way down at a floor in between mine and the first, and someone steps in.  Sometimes the face is familiar, but most of the time, it isn't.  If it's an attractive lady, and she is flirty, sometimes I say something to break the ice.  But most of the time, I sit silently, stand tall, and stare straight ahead at the closed door, and so does the other person, as the elevator descends.

I step out of the elevator, and walk into the lobby to greet the security guard, before walking out the door front door of the building.  He knows everybody that lives in the building.  Every resident knows him, and greets him also, just like I do.

I step out of the front door near the busy road that runs a few yards away.  The sound of traffic dominates, including the hum of cars, and the roar of busses.  I have to turn my headphones up rather loud in order to hear my music and podcasts clearly over it.

I walk a few feet to the bus stop to wait once again.  In my year of living here at this particular place, I've never seen the same person more than once at this particular bus stop, and I am pretty good at recognizing faces, even those of people I don't know personally.  Seoul is a big city, and so is my neighborhood.

Some days, I have to wait longer than others.  When the bus comes, I see usually the second familiar face of the day, and usually, it's the last until I arrive at work, and that being the bus driver.  There are around five to ten different buses that run along that route.  I know the faces of each driver, and they know the faces of many of the regulars.  They know mine, at least.  The kinder ones smile upon seeing me, and say "hello," and "welcome" in Korean.  I like it when they do that.

I normally sit alone in my seat, sometimes I have to stand when it's crowded, as my music or podcast plays through my white Apple headphones.  (To see my taste in music, and to get an idea of what is played in the mornings, check out my Twitter feed on the right side of this page.  There are always links to stuff I like.  As far as podcasts, I really enjoy The Rich Eisen Podcast, The Fighter and the Kid, In the NO, and The MMA Hour.  Sometimes I like Bill Simmons, and I always listen to Zack Lowe and Jalen Rose on Grantland.)

The bus that I take takes me to the subway station.

Korean bus drivers have absolutely zero consideration for the passengers.  They slam on the breaks extremely hard at bus stops and stop lights, sometimes throwing people.  They hit the accelerator just as hard.  They are terrible at shifting gears, and working the clutch smoothly.  The bus ride to the subway station is always rough, but the music and podcasts make it more pleasant.

After the bus driver slams on the breaks at my stop, I exit the bus, and begin weaving through the people at the crowded bus stop near the subway station.  I continue weaving through people as I walk along the crowded sidewalk that is lined with cafes on one side, and twenty-four-hour street food tents.  Because most of it is fried, and because it's rather unhealthy, I never eat the street food, even though sometimes I am interested in how it tastes.  If I'm craving fried food, I'll eat something better, so I am always able to talk myself out of stopping and trying it.

Koreans walk really slowly.  At least to me, they do, so I find myself weaving through them whenever I am walking anywhere in the city.  This is especially true during my morning commute.  It's refreshing whenever a Korean is walking at least at the same pace as I am in front of me.

As I enter the entrance to the subway, I climb down a rather long set of stairs, and weave through an underground market full of vendors setting up for the day.  In this particular subway station, in the mornings, I seem to be going against the morning traffic, because a lot more people are getting off of the train, and walking in the opposite direction through the underground market, some of them in a rush and running, many of them being ladies in skirts and high heels.  I'm really impressed at their ability to run in them without tripping, or even stumbling.

Sometimes there are so many people who are walking in the opposite direction that it feels and looks like I am walking against wave after wave of a high tide of Korean people.

My station is one where numerous people exit the train in the mornings, and few enter, so there is almost always a seat available upon entering.  When the train stops at the next station, the train suddenly becomes packed with people, as the people who are standing have to squeeze to make room, and it remains that way for the duration of my thirty minute subway trip.

When I exit the train, it's like a tale of two subway stops.  I leave my neighborhood full of business people, and young professionals who are in a hurry, and the train takes me to the neighborhood where I teach, where the sidewalks seem full of Korean mothers slowly and leisurely pushing baby carriages in a sea of high-end high rise apartments.

As I enter my school at 11:00am, the school day is in full swing for the children and other teachers.  I suddenly see familiar faces again.  I see children playing in the soccer field in front of my school, and the P.E. teachers organizing them.  I walk into my school, and I see some of my students wandering the hallways.  I walk up the stairs to my room on the 4th floor.  I take a right, and see the kind and attractive 4th grade teachers teaching their classes across the hall from my classroom.  I briefly enter my classroom to drop off my things, turn on the lights, and power on the computer.  Then as I exit, I make my way to my co-teacher's class room down the hall to check in, and receive a quick briefing before preparing for the day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Land of the Rising Sun

The thing that I really like about Japan, and find most fascinating is it’s inherent calmness, and sense of order.  The people here really seem to show a proper sense of restraint.  They show a keen understanding and implementation of self control when in public.  For example, it is rare to see someone shout, speak boisterously, or show strong emotions in public.  It is also rare to see a sudden burst of laughter among a group of people.  Japanese people seem to wait in line much more than Koreans and Americans are willing to do, and they do so rather patiently.    

They seem to not be in quite as much of a hurry as Korean people, but it definitely isn't motivated by a relaxed attitude.  The calmness here seems to come from a certain etiquette where it seems important to keep oneself composed, in order to maintain ones’ sense of dignity, and it is something that is practiced for the betterment of society, as a whole.  

The people here seem to realize that they are a component of something larger, or greater than the individual.  Korean society has a similar mentality, but it’s manifested in a much different way than Japan.  

I am not saying that this is a universal truth, and applies to every single person, but I find that here in Japan, society and the group seem to be more highly valued, where in America, the individual to usually takes precedence.    

It is fascinating to see, to witness, and to experience.  There are places here in Tokyo that are absolutely overflowing with people, but it isn’t overwhelming like it is at other places, and the crowds aren’t as tiresome as they are in other large cities.  Whenever I told people in Seoul that I need a vacation, they would respond with, “Where do you plan on going?”

“I really want to go to Tokyo.”  

“Really?!  It’s even bigger than Seoul.  And you want to go there to recharge?!”  

After having the same conversation a few times with different people, I began to doubt my desire and my intuition, and I began to think about going to a place like the Philippines, or Thailand.  

I am glad that I followed my strongest desire and greatest interest, despite hearing people advise against it, because this trip has been exactly what I needed.  I feel refreshed, and rejuvenated.  As a person like me who has no attachment to this society, I am able to find rest in the inherent tranquility, and in the fact that I am seeing and experiencing something different.  

I would tend to think that if I were a part of the society here, and if I knew the ins and outs of the etiquette, I would probably be less able to relax, but being detached, and yet still able to observe, and to a small degree, experience the way of life has been perfect for me, and my condition.  

I sit here in a cafe on Ginza Street here in Tokyo on a Spring Sunday afternoon among a large crowd of people, but not overwhelmingly large, with everyone dressed in their spring apparel  (And Japanese women, much like Korean women, are extremely well-dressed.), while walking calmly and quietly in public.  It has been beautiful to witness, and every place that I have visited here has been that way.

The fact is, upon returning to Korea, if I were to tell my Korean students about the trip, most of them would have absolutely no interest in hearing about it.  I would go as far as saying that they would probably have some rather unkind things to say about my experiences.  

It isn’t a baseless prediction, because that very thing happened the last time I attempted to share with my students from one of my previous schools about a visit to Kyoto and Osaka, upon returning.  Those feelings that they possess do not come from nowhere.  They don’t develop these feelings themselves.  They have to be learned, and acquired from another source.  They come from their parents and grandparents, and the ill-will that Korean society, as a whole, has towards Japanese society.  Although those feelings are justified, because of the dark history between the two nations, they are not right.  

Despite those feelings, I’m quite sure that if a Japanese person were hurting, or in need of help on the streets of Seoul, that a Korean would be there to help them, but nonetheless, the feelings are rather strong.

The ill-will felt by Koreans towards Japan does not change my opinion that Japan has a beautiful culture, language, and a fascinating way of life.  It was a great vacation.  It was eye-opening, enlightening, inspiring, fascinating, and beautiful.  I hope to return for another visit. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Upon Landing in Tokyo

My first day in Tokyo has been eye opening.  It is such a fascinating place, and the Japanese are such fascinating people.  

Just like my previous visit to Japan, the moment I got off the plane, and made it through customs, I came to a stunning realization that I am no longer in Korea, and I immediately felt like an outsider.  This time, I expected it, but sometimes, when things are so different than what you are accustomed to, expectation doesn’t adequately prepare you for what you experience.  

During the flight, I was rather tense, because it was to land at 11pm, and I researched the subway system to learn that the last train at the airport departed at 11:50.  I did not feel like trying to get a bus, because of the price, and my lack of knowledge of Tokyo.  I knew that determining the correct bus to take, while working through a language barrier would be difficult.   And neither did I feel like taking a taxi, which on top of all that I mentioned about taking a bus,  would have been extremely expensive, a lot more so than in Korea.  By far, the easiest directions that I received were via the subway, and even that was a little daunting.

Before leaving, I seriously asked my christian friends to pray for me while traveling.  I felt like it would take a miracle for me to make it through customs on time (first world problems). 

I received a tip from a good friend of mine, Greg, an experienced traveller, who explained, when in a hurry to be somewhere upon landing, request a seat in the front of the plane, which is what I did, which resulted in the pretty Korean lady working the check-in for Asiana Airlines informing me with a smile that that is where I would be sitting.  

Through all the tense feelings, I was able to receive a window seat, and I was taken aback by how enormous Haneda Airport was.  What stood out was an enormous neon sign on the building that read, “Tokyo International Airport.”  The building itself looked massive under the night sky, and what also stood out was through the windows on it, and through the dim lights that shined through them, there was a certain calmness in how the small silhouettes of the people were moving.  The airport certainly reflected the personality of the nation it represented.  I had a moment of calmness as I was observing it through the window of the plane, as we were taxing to the terminal.

The plane was fifteen minutes late landing, apparently because it was a busy day for the airline industry in Japan.  At that point, I felt like there was no way I would get through, but I was going to try anyway, because miracles do happen.  I had friends who said prayers for me, after all.  The Japanese friends that I made on the plane also urged me to go as fast as possible as we said our goodbyes, and they made a way for me to be one of the first people out of the plane, but to make matters worse, I had to take a shuttle bus to customs, and I ended up sitting next to them, after thinking I would have been far ahead of them.  

Customs was excruciatingly slow, as always, but as I always do, I completely filled out my customs and entrance cards on the plane, and a Japanese official checking them noticed that I did, so he directed me to an express line.  My bag was one of the first out of baggage check, and I made it through rather quickly.  Still, I was thinking there would be no way that I would be able to hop on the train on time.

I noticed that the tracks were rather close to the exit at customs, and that people were racing to them, so I began to do the same.  I noticed a nice-looking older Japanese couple enter an elevator to the tracks, so I quickly jumped in with them.  As soon as the door opened, there was the train.  I thought, “Thank God.  I made it.”  

The Tokyo subway system is a lot more complex than that of Seoul, and the guest house was rather far from the airport, so still I was tense.  The moment I entered the train, I was hit rather hard by the fact that I was an outsider in an extremely unfamiliar place.  I know absolutely exactly two words of Japanese, and that is “Konichiwa, (hello)” and “Arigato Kojaimas (Thank you very much).”   I can read absolutely zero Japanese, and I know very little about the culture, so when I entered a train filled with Japanese people with no Koreans in sight, I realized that I was the only westerner around, so the intense feelings grew.  

But during that subway ride, which was above ground, I was immediately taken aback by the neighborhoods that were visible.  I saw houses which were really close to each other with dimly lit lights on streets that looked uniquely Japanese, even at eleven o'clock at night.  I was able to make out a graveyard in the dark, and if you’ve never seen one, they are rather different and interesting, and they have a certain beauty to them.  And once again, I noticed a certain calmness and serenity in the dim lights of the houses, and neighborhoods, to a greater degree than that of the airport.  

My only thought was to make sure I was going the right way, and in a trip that had two transfers, I was really worried about taking the right train, which at the second transfer, I failed to do.  I immediately realized it after the first stop, so I immediately exited.  After doing so, I realized I exited the last train of the evening.  I refused to pay the high cab fare to get where I had to go, so that was out of the question. I quickly decided to take my chances, and walk away from the subway station until I found a hotel to stay at for the evening.  Needless to say, the tense feelings didn’t go away.  

I didn’t have to walk far until I found a hotel that was beyond what I had expected, better than any of the places I reserved, and wasn’t that much more expensive.  I really believe those prayers helped. 

Again, I stated that I am a total outsider here, and I have embraced it.  The only time I’ve ever felt this way in my life was during my previous visit to Japan.

In America, we have chosen a particular word to coin an entire group of people who have black hair, white skin, and small eyes who are either from east Asia, or are descendants of people from there.  We call them “Asian.”  Sure the Japanese, Koreans, and the Chinese are “Asian,” but I am starting to dislike that moniker, because the only things that are remotely similar about Korean, Japanese, and even Chinese cultures are some of their physical features, and the fact that they use chopsticks.  

Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, among all of the other cultures that are are associated with the moniker are so vastly different, that they are each races in and of themselves.  And even among what is seemingly similar, they have minor nuances that make them totally different.  I propose that people should stop saying, "I'm Asian," and go back to saying, "I'm Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Veitnamese/etc."  White people may not understand the differences in the cultures, but that doesn't matter, because that doesn't change the fact that they each is vastly different from the other.  

More on that in a later post, but my point is that Korean and Japanese culture are totally different.  And the even bigger point is when I came to Japan for the first time over a year ago, I thought I could identify with Japanese people in the same way I sort of do in Korea, because I had the American mindset that we are all “Asian,” but that is not at all the case.  For me, being there is like being a dog in a world full of cats.  The cultures are totally different, and I have absolutely no basis of identification with them. 

With that being said, I am excited to be here.  I am blessed, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the next post, which should be soon.  Here’s to a great stay in Tokyo, and stay tuned for more.  

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I have an unexplainable pit in my stomach.  It is difficult to describe, but it isn't one of ominousness.  It seems to stem more from uncertainty.  To be honest, this isn't the first time that I've felt it.  I guess the only way I can explain it is by explaining the times I've had it before.

It reminds me of every time I checked in for my flight at Louis Armstrong International Airport, near New Orleans to fly out to Korea.  I remember embracing my father at 5:30 in the morning, before my 6:30 flight departed, as I just checked in, knowing it was time to walk through security, and enter the terminal.  I was always excited, somewhat somber, and filled with an awareness of the uncertainty ahead of me.

Terminals are essentially large well-lit hallways.  And as I walked through it, I remember that feeling as I found myself feeling alone once again.

I felt it as I got off the bus at Gwangju for the first time at the the bus terminal, known as "USquare" to locals.  After living in Korea for three years, it looks rather normal now, but when I arrived, it had such an unfamiliar smell.  Its colors were unfamiliar.  It also had an unfamiliar vibe.  The internet on my ipod touch didn't work.  My boss wasn't where he said he would be.  That pit of uncertainty began to grow, as I began to wonder, "What am I doing here?"  He turned out to be late, which was ok.

It continued during that same day when I walked into my apartment for the first time, and I noticed how dirty it was.  I couldn't sleep that night until it was clean enough for me to take a shower in the bathroom.  I had that pit of uncertainty in my stomach the first time I walked into it.  I thought to myself, "What have I gotten myself into?"

For some reason, as I sit here writing at 2am on a Wednesday night in my clean comfortable new apartment, I am feeling that familiar pit of uncertainty, and I am attempting to figure out why, hoping that writing would allow me to feel a greater understanding of the reason.  Maybe it's because my now ex-girlfriend and I recently broke up, which is a strong source of uncertainty and change.  Maybe it's because I'm flying out to Tokyo this week.  I seem to feel that feeling most often in airports.  Maybe it's a combination of the two, and maybe they are connected.

It's kind of funny how I've been so busy in Seoul that I haven't even thought about taking a vacation until recently.  It's kind of funny how just as I broke up with my girlfriend, unbeknownst to the GEPIK teacher at my school, whom I recently befriended, he starts telling me how awesome Tokyo is, being that I have always been so interested in Japan, which at the time, was also unbeknownst to him.  After hearing him talk about it, I suddenly got the urge to fly there as soon as possible.  I love living here in Seoul, but I need a break.

And people ask, "Why Tokyo?  It's even bigger, and more bustling than Seoul."  I agree, and I won't dispute that.  But I believe fulfilling a dream can be a source of healing.  It can be a source of rejuvenation.  It can be a source of strength.  And visiting Tokyo has been a dream of mine, albeit a small one.

There is some uncertainty associated with the trip, but that is what makes it exciting.  I associate uncertainty with excitement for the future.  What will happen now that I'm a bachelor?  What will the next lady I date be like?  What will Tokyo be like?  What will I experience there?  What will I see?  What will I eat?  How will I travel?  Who will I meet?  Will I enjoy my time there?  Will I enjoy seeing that which is new and unfamiliar, because sometimes the unfamiliar can be rather unpleasant.  There is so much uncertainty happening currently.  Even though it is small, it is unmistakeable nonetheless.  

I am an eternal optimist, and to people like me, uncertainty breeds excitement.  Every time I've had that pit of uncertainty, good things have happened.  I may have been alone and uncertain for a short time, but God put wonderful friends in my life, and he provided me with wonderful places to work, to teach some great people.  He has provided me with wonderful places to live that are beyond anything that I could have imagined.

I've learned to embrace this pit with excitement.  I am excited about the future, and it starts with being single again as I heal from the wounds of my previous relationship, and it will continue very soon with a trip to Tokyo, as I fulfill a small, but hopefully significant dream.  It's exciting.

Stay tuned. Hopefully, I can send you a post on location soon.

I would like take this opportunity to send everybody who reads my blog a sincere thanks.  I have been in Korea for three years now, and the people who visit my site has grown significantly during that time.  I am suddenly feeling at a loss for words, and all I can think of saying is that I am humbled that many of you would take an interest in my life.  God bless all of you.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

About "Differences in Korean and Japanese Women"

When I first moved to Korea, I wrote a post entitled, Differences in Korean and Japanese Women.  It is by far my most popular post, and the biggest reason why my site gets as many hits as it does.  To be honest, I'm kind of blown away by that, being that it was inspired by a simple Christmas shopping trip to Myeongdong.

Please keep in mind that it was written two and a half years ago, and styles change.  I'm not saying that it is currently completely irrelevant, because it isn't yet, but I find that it is becoming less so as time passes.

I have a trip to Tokyo planned in the near future.  Hopefully, that can shed more light on the subject, so I can prepare a more current post.  Thank you for reading.    

Dating in Korea III: My Personal Experience

I have a confession to make.  This may sound shallow, but the biggest reason why I became fascinated with, and eventually came to Korea is because I became attracted to Korean women.

Deep down, aren't ladies the biggest motivation behind why any man does anything of significance?  You ask most of the great guitarists, and singer/songwriters of all time, and they all say the reason they learned to play the guitar and/or sing was to impress the ladies.  According to the movie, The Social Network, a lady was a huge motivation behind Mark Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook.  The infamous war between the Athenians and the Trojans, where the wooden horse was rolled out, was fought over a beautiful woman, Helen of Troy.

During my three years in Korea, I've had three girlfriends, all of them being Korean.  The first one was Tae Hee, whom I wrote about in previous posts.  I remember our inherent chemistry being so strong that she had a really difficult time speaking a coherent sentence in English, and I knew absolutely no Korean at the time, but despite that, we were able to laugh a lot, have an amazing time together, and really enjoy each other's company.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  I learned during that time that we humans have a means of communication that is every bit as strong as the respective languages we speak verbally, and that is attraction, kindness, affection, and care.

Tae Hee was gorgeous.  She had long thick flowing black hair, and she sort of curled the bottom of her hair with one large curl, the way many Korean ladies do.  Her skin was extremely fair, and she did not have double eyelids (larger eyes) that many Korean ladies desire, and get plastic surgery to acquire, meaning that her face looked distinctly Asian, almost like the women you see in those ancient paintings.  She had such an infectious Korean laugh, and she was socially poised.  She was well-dressed, extremely elegant, and as feminine as they come.  We dated for around nine months, and I don't think I was ever more infatuated with a woman than I was with her, which was why I was so devastated when we broke up.  It wasn't because of the lack of language.  Actually, she made such a strong effort.

I remember riding in her car with her, and although she was a music lover, she would have English tapes playing over her sound system.  The kind many of us have heard where a generic monotone American woman's voice would say random statements, and the user was supposed to repeat them aloud, and Taehee would do just that.  It was really cute.  She put a lot of effort into it, and I admired her for that.  The voice would say statements like, "I really love cucumbers."

And she would repeat in a strong Korean accent, "I really love cucumbers."

"I found this great shopping site online."

Again she would repeat in her cute, but strong Korean accent, "I found this great shopping site online."

In the generic monotone American woman's voice, "That is absolutely disgusting."

In a Korean accent with her voice cracking trying not to laugh, "That is absolutely disgusting." And as she repeated, she would point at me, then laugh really hard in her laugh that was so Korean and so infectious.

She was a lot of fun to be around.  She would do these impressions of me, and I still laugh whenever I think about them.

Anyways, and again, we didn't break up because of the language barrier.  We broke up because the difference in our beliefs.  When I knew our relationship was over, I was devastated, although I tried not to be.  Like many men, I tried to hide it, even from myself.  I would still see her sometimes, and when I would, it would be so difficult.

My most recent girlfriend, Boyeong, was the daughter of a Korean pastor.  We were set up by a mutual friend, and we both agreed to meet each other on a blind date at a local cafe.  I had no expectations going into it.  To be honest, I was expecting her to be ugly.

As I was on my way to meet her for the first time, she wrote in a text, "I'm sitting in the corner wearing a green jacket."

Upon walking into the cafe, I looked in the corner at the lady wearing a green jacket, and I was pleasantly surprised to notice that she was very attractive.  She was tall, and slim with a beautiful gracefulness in how she moved.  She also had fair skin, and her face had strong Korean features, but it also had an unexplainable beautiful uniqueness to it.  While TaeHee's style was more elegant, Boyoung was more modest and plain, which I really liked also.  

It's kind of funny.  They were seemingly opposites in terms of personalities, personal style, and the way they dressed.  TaeHee was more socially poised, despite her lack of knowledge of English, while Boyeong was more introverted, and socially uncomfortable, despite the fact that her English was fluent.  She lived in Toronto for six years of her life.  Taehee projected an air of maturity around her while Boyeong had sort of an endearing girlishness.  But at the same time, Taehee was a little clumsy and ditzy, while Boyeong had an innate common sense.

With Taehee, I knew that our relationship would not work out when she said, "I trust in Buddha."  Despite that, I was willing to give it a try, because I was so infatuated.  With Boyeong, when she started talking about her beliefs, her family, and how she was raised,  I thought to myself, "In terms of background, this is the type of lady that I am looking for."  

Boyeong, in her introvertedness, sometimes seemed sort of distant and standoffish, but there were numerous moments where I knew she genuinely cared.

One such moment was on my birthday.  Being that she was sort of casual, in terms of style, on that day, she was dressed up, wearing a skirt, and looked amazing.  Until then, I never realized how stunning she looked when she was dressed that way.   Her tall slim figure, and the natural gracefulness in the way she moved really made her look beautiful when dressed up.  

She had a birthday cake in a box from one of the bakeries in one hand, and a large bag containing a gift in the other.  We went out to eat at one of my favorite restaurants in Gwangju, and afterwards, we went to my apartment, which was small by American standards.

I abided strictly by the Korean rule of no shoes allowed inside.  I had no chairs for guests to sit in, so we sat on the floor with our shoes off, and rested the cake on the edge of the bed as if it were a coffee table.  She didn't realize how amazing she looked, sitting on that wooden floor, so elegantly dressed, and lighting the candles on my birthday cake that was on the end of my bed, but I did.  I proceeded to blow out the candles, and she gave me the present.

I removed the wrapping paper, and noticed it was a dark green polo brand sweater.  I was so excited to receive it.

Her voice was feminine, quiet, and unique.  After seeing my face, and noticing that my excitement was genuine, she said in her almost perfect English with a slight Korean and an equally slight Canadian accent, "I can tell you really like Polo."

She was right.  Then we proceeded to have a romantic evening, before it was time for me to take her home.

That relationship didn't work out either.  We simply weren't right for each other, and like Taehee, I have no ill-will towards her, and I wish her the best.

I feel like I am so blessed to experience Korean culture in this manner, to have acquired personal stories and memories about the beautiful people that I've met here.  My relationships are easily my most memorable, and most treasured aspects of Korea that I have experienced, and I will never forget those memories that were made here.  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seoul: Kind of Tiresome, but Still Good

I have been living in Seoul for almost a year now, and I feel like I am becoming more integrated into the culture of the city.  It seems like I am always "on the go," and I'm not accustomed to living life like that, being that I am a Louisiana boy.  Lately, I've been feeling rather fatigued when arriving at my apartment after a full day of work.

Currently, I am holding two jobs.  I am still a full-time elementary school teacher.  I no longer work at my school at Incheon.  I recently got a new job at a school in Anyang, still teaching for the After School Program.  I am also teaching business English near Gangnam in the mornings, a job that I started recently.  (It's legal.  I have an F-4 visa.)  Holding two jobs can be a lot of work, and can be tiresome, but nonetheless, it is rewarding, and I am loving what I am doing.

Regarding my business English job in the mornings, I am the personal English teacher of a CFO of a company here in Korea.  Many times, I am self-conscious, and am wondering whether or not I am doing a good job, but recently, she gave me a compliment that I really enjoyed receiving.  She has a really large vocabulary, and her grammar mistakes are minor.  She just needs more confidence in her ability, and my objective as her teacher is to instill that.  She asked me in a Korean accent, and in the careful thought out manner that she normally speaks in, "Have you ever considered teaching as a volunteer for orphans, or the poor?  ...  Because you are a very good teacher."

I was especially happy to hear that, considering, lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed.  I live over an hour by subway from my business English job in Gangnam, which is an hour away from my school in Anyang, which is where I go immediately after, and that is an hour away from my home in southwestern Seoul, and on many nights after work, I have church and social commitments.  On busier days, I am on the subway for over three hours, sometimes more.  On some days, I find myself leaving my apartment at 6:15 in the morning, and returning at around eleven in the evening.

There is something relaxing about being on a train with my headphones on, listening to my favorite music, and flipping pages through an ebook quietly, while standing amongst all the people who are doing the same thing, and all entering and exiting the train, going to and coming from different places as the train regularly stops and goes along the same line that I am on.  There is also something about traveling/commuting, especially when waiting is involved, and especially when it is around so many other people, that induces fatigue upon the body.  And that is my greatest struggle at the moment.

I have made a lot of friends here, as God has really blessed me through my church, Onnuri English Ministry, but many times, I feel a need to sit home and recharge during my off time, instead of being social.  Both of my jobs involve a considerable amount of heavy and close interaction with lots of people, and so does my commuting.  The more I learn about who I am, the more I realize that I am extroverted, but at the same time, even the most extroverted of people need some time alone to recharge.

Lately, since living here, I have reserved my Saturday mornings for relaxing, watching NBA basketball, having a large breakfast, and drinking coffee in my apartment.  I sit, and relax until I am hungry again, then I order delivery.  After that, I usually take a nap, then I wake up, and usually, at around dusk, I am ready to see people again.

On a random weeknight, while winding down from an especially long day, while having my nightly devotional, which includes prayer and daily bible reading, I told God about my jobs, my commute, and my fatigue.  I spilled my heart out to him.  And as I was doing so, I believe he spoke.  I felt it deep within my heart.  He said, "This is preparing you for something else.  Be strong."

I immediately felt invigorated.  I know that I am here for a reason, and despite all of the difficulties, it feels good to be achieving a dream.  It feels good to be living life confidently and successfully, while having to put forth a considerable amount of effort.  And it feels especially good to be living life with a purpose.