this is the view outside my window. the soundtrack of my mornings is a symphony of construction workers with an interlude of yogurt-opening banana-peeling breakfast beats. i was going to say i’m used to the noise now, but to be honest, it never really bothered me in the first place so there wasn’t much to get used to. anyway, i wonder what they’re building?
it’s been almost three months since i’ve been in seoul and i feel like i’ve learned so much. about myself, about god, about north korea and about so many things in between. like how to catch bugs in my room with my bare hands (on the first try!). how to pack my own lunch box with the ingredients i have. how to be present in the present, to recognize the power that exists in little every day choices, to set gratitude as my default heart setting. i’m swimming in thanksgiving every single day because those are the waters that jesus has rolled out before me. i’m soaked in it and i hope its scent sticks to my hair, my clothes, my heart, the way chlorine in a pool lingers on your skin even after you shower. there is a lot to be grateful for!
despite the fact that i told myself, “i’m going to blog and vlog and really document my time here this year!” that hasn’t really happened. haha! public documentation has never been my strong point. nonetheless, i hope to somehow be able to share the many things i’ve learned/am learning/will learn with people in a meaningful way.
on more of a general update note: i am really loving my internship with LiNK, my mom is back in korea and my dad is coming to visit next week (woo!), my niece is still the best and is now starting to CRAWL what in the i miss her a lot, north korean people are some of the most incredible people i’ve ever met, i ate nengmyun today for lunch and it was really good, and i’m currently at my favourite cafe called WAFFLE IT UP where they sell waffles and gelato and drinks and the design is all wood and pretty and they have blankets in case you get cold and want to curl up in one while you’re studying in the ~quiet place~ which is the silent study section that i often hang out in.
it’s been a little over two weeks since i’ve moved into my nest and started my internship with LiNK and i’ve started to get a sense of rhythm in my day-to-day life. i’ve always been a bit stingy when it comes to spending money on myself, but i decided that while i’m in korea, i’m going to !TREAT MYSELF! a little bit. the first thing i did after i decided this was go to the store and buy a mega pack of 요구르트 (little yogurt drinks) to stock up my mini fridge. treat yourself: to each their own. hehe.
this past saturday, two of my friends and i decided to make the trek out to ~the garden of morning calm~ (아침고요수목원 in korean) which is in a small town called cheongpyeong. it took us a couple hours to get there from seoul via subway and bus, but it was totally worth it! i love gardens and this one is BEAUTIFUL and MASSIVE and they have a store where they sell snacks and ice cream bars which is completely touristy and a bit interruptive of the whole lost-in-nature feeling, but ice cream bars right? come on.
okay wow. the first thing we saw when we got to the garden was snow falling from the sky. snow? huh? in the middle of spring? yes, my friends. CHERRY BLOSSOM SNOW. it was raining pink petals in this place like some kind of korean drama. ooooh. aaaah. take in the wonder.
there are many trails in the garden and this one led up several flights of stairs, giving us a great viewpoint. gah! majestic. flowers and trees and streams, nestled in the mountains. creation is beautiful.
i climbed a tree!
though you can’t really tell in these photos, it was saturday so the garden was PACKED. people came with their friends, their kids, their picnics, their selfie sticks, etc. (funny non-garden related story about lots of people: the subway stations in korea get really busy and crowded so one time i reached up to scratch my head and i hit a woman in the face. she gave me the dirtiest look. i felt bad) (maybe that story wasn’t very funny) (i’m sorry, woman at subway). i can only imagine how much more beautiful the garden is at sunrise when there’s no people and the light is just beginning to wash over everything. truly the vision of morning calm.
march was living at halmuni’s house, eating 꽈배기 (braided donuts covered in sugar) and coming home to a fridge of 요구르트 (little yogurt drinks, but not like western yogurt. google yakult to see what i mean). it was learning how to play 민화투 (card game pictured above) and watching korean crossword game shows on monday nights. it was coming home by 5 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm at the latest, packing one of halabuji’s old shirts into my suitcase, peeling roasted chestnuts. it was full of family and questions of identity and what it means to connect.
march was foot long ice cream cones and bingsu in a cup (who remembers my passion for bingsu?? being in korea has re-ignited the fire. amazing). it was reuniting with friends, welcoming those visiting seoul and being welcomed back by those who call this place home. it was feeling embarrassed in front of my family because my spice tolerance is not as high as theirs (“but all koreans like spicy food?”) and then deciding that whatever, it’s not like they make bingsu spicy (that would be so… weird…). it was going back to new philadelphia church, re-visiting my old favourite places, forgetting to photograph things but remembering to journal everything.
march was waiting. it was receiving. it was remembering the love of God and crying. and then it was remembering again the next day and crying again (haha!). it was getting the internship with liberty in north korea and joining the spring intern team as a resettlement assistance intern. !!!!!!!!!!!! craziness so so nuts. it was an open door, it was gratitude, it was ??? and !!!! it was moving out to a little one-room in seoul, my first ever time living solo with no family or roommates. it was a new beginning, and because nothing i’ve said so far relates to the above photo, it was also discovering this line of special kakao products at the face shop and feeling bummed that i had just bought sunscreen before seeing this because i could have gotten cute kakao sunscreen instead.
april will be building my life here in seoul for the next five months. it will be finishing internship training and going deeper into the job (though my brain already feels full of things to process from the first three days!). it will be learning more about korea (north + south), about life, about God, absorbing, and growing. it will be enjoying the open rooftop at the place i live and drying my laundry in the sun. it will be ~BINGSU~ and shopping (!) and remembering to take more photos. it will be, i hope, a promising month.
a more substantial blog post coming soon, but in the meantime here’s a vlog from a few weeks ago on my first korea shopping haul for emory lu! (many more shopping hauls happened after the filming of this video and will probably continue to happen because it looks like i’ll be hanging out in korea for awhile longer- but more on that next time!).
korea week one:
– i drink a lot of milk here. banana milk. strawberry milk. there’s a carton of chocolate milk in the fridge right now.
– every night i sleep at least 9 hours. sometimes even longer! at halmuni’s house, 8 pm feels like 11.
– it’s been interesting being back in korea and noticing the things that have changed and the things that haven’t but feel like they have because maybe i’ve come back with a different perspective. and then there are things that are the same and feel the same. for example, my favourite brand of strawberry milk was 서울우유 (seoul milk- as pictured above) and i can confirm that it is still number 1 in my heart of strawberry milks.
– today i went to a paper art museum with umma and my uncle. the woman selling tickets asked if i would like a child priced ticket. she said, “it’s for anyone still in high school!” “but i graduated university,” i said.
– here’s a tanka (a 5-7-5-7-7 poem) about how i’ve been feeling these days:
i’m an astronaut
and my spaceship’s called ‘question’
we’re out here floating
drinking up the milky way
lost but caught in nets of stars
– i am sitting in my big blue suitcase, hoping this will inspire me. inspire me in what, i’m not sure. figuring out what to pack maybe. how many plaid shirts will i need? how many plaid shirts do i have? too many. why so many? i feel inspired to get another. it must be the suitcase.
– this coming tuesday (that’s two sleeps from now) i’ll be flying out to south korea. umma already left three weeks ago, two days after halabuji passed away. she said, “why don’t you come with me?” she went first while i renewed my passport and finished up my final few shifts at the ice cream store. the last scoop i made for myself was a peanut butter chocolate chip waffle cone, kids size, a perfect companion for a drizzly walk along main street with my forearm still speckled with fudge. see, i’m nostalgic already!
– three potential dates i could come back home:
1) apr 2nd which is when umma is coming back. i have a ticket booked already to return with her.
2) some time in august if i get the internship that i applied for in seoul.
3) if i stay a little longer to spend more time with halmuni. maybe may. maybe june. maybe ????
– timing is a strange thing. i gave in my one month notice at earnest because as much as i loved it, i felt that i needed a new challenge. about a week later is when we got the phone call from korea about halabuji. he passed away in his sleep on chinese new year. “since you won’t be working anymore, why don’t you come?” tentative tickets were booked. 2016 is the year of the monkey which is the same year that i was born.
– last tuesday during a morning ice cream shift, i was picking up garbage and cleaning up the block when i found a folded up note in the planter outside. it was a 1000 won korean bill. i put it in my pocket to keep. i think it was god saying, “i know you’re sad about leaving this place. here’s a dollar to buy yourself an ice cream bar in korea.” he knows me well.
– i’m really happy leonardo dicaprio won an oscar tonight.
– three things i hope for in the upcoming months of who knows what:
1) time to rest
2) the softness to trust
3) lots of bingsu
final staff brunch // photo credits to bekah
“don’t worry everything is going to be a-ok”
– a photo of luna from three months ago
and while we’re reminiscing about when she was a two month old…
우리 할아버지에게 –
저랑 이야기를 많이 나누시고 같이 바나나 우유를 마셔줘서 감사합니다. 저를 위해 힘든 계단도 올라오시고 걱정 해주셔서 진짜 감사합니다. 저는 할아버지를 생각할때마다 감사한 마음으로 생각해요. 할아버지는 가끔식 노인이 돼서 아무것도 못 한다고 했는데 저는 한번도 그렇게 생각하지 않았어요. 저 한테 하나 뿐인 할아버지라서 너무 소중했어요. 할아버지는 저 한테 영원히 소중한 사람 일거예요. 같이 보낸 시간 잇지 않을게요. 아주 많이 보고싶고 감사합니다.
goodbye halabuji, i love you with all of my heart