The First Couple Weeks in Korea

The first weeks here have been very busy, so my blog post has been put off. But how do I begin to explain these first weeks? Now it has been almost exactly three weeks since I’ve gotten to Korea. Getting to Korea was a long journey, and much of these weeks have been introductions to everything. There’s a bit of a backlog, but for posterity’s sake I’ll explain what I’ve been up to.

Week One

The first week was full of jet lag, site placement visits and initial things like opening bank accounts and getting to know each other. The other volunteers and I are living in a historical missionary village that is in the middle of Hannam University. The house is very large with a full size basement, and an attic as well. It’s still a bit weird to think that I’ve only known the people that I am living and serving with for a little less than a month.

We spent every day with Kurt, Hyeyoung, and their young son, Sahn. My initial impressions were realizing that I didn’t know how to say very useful things, but that my Mango language preparation was a very good idea. Three separate people told me I was beautiful, which is appreciated, but also a bit of a culture shock for me. At the end of the week we had the opportunity to do some pottery in the mountains. We learned a lot about Korean hospitality and just how kind and generous people are.

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This is when Kurt met Linda and I at the airport. We were the first to arrive
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My new bed on the first day I arrived
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Happy to see my site placement for the first time!
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This was our initial visit to my site placement.
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At the master potter’s place
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I made a set of teacups for our house. The master potter made them look a lot better than they do in the photo by the end.

Week Two

We all started our Korean language class for the first time. Will, Emily, and I are in one class, and Linda and Alexis are in another. We are taking classes at the university we’re living at. Our classmates are Chinese, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Filipino, and Mongolian. Class is conducted mostly in Korean. Will, Emily, and I’s class is also conducted a bit in English. We are lucky in that regard. Our Korean class is every week day from 9am-1pm. It’s been a while since I’ve been a student! I’ve been enjoying the class though.

We also were shown how to get to the grocery store. and the department store. We tried a variety of new foods, and got to meet our Buddies. Buddies for us are the Hannam students that will be accompanying us to our site placements. They are our fellow volunteers and people we rely on (especially now) for translations.

Our other experiences included going to Noraebang (the Korean word for Karaoke) for the first time in Korea, going to a Hanhwa Eagle’s baseball game, and celebrating Hyeyoung’s birthday.

This week was also a continuation of orientation. We covered things like culture shock and reverse culture shock. Every day we had a devotion, and also came together as a house to write out our house covenant. A house covenant is a bit like a room mate agreement for the five of us volunteers. The end of the week marked the end of our orientation and the beginning of our new life together. We ended it with singing as a final worship.

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We’re on the Hannam Church bulletin board!
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Hyeyoung’s birthday celebration
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Many of the women buddies, and the women volunteers together
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Some of the guy buddies and Will
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Noraebang with Hanbyeol
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Hanhwa Eagle’s baseball game
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Me trying on some glasses in a store. The glasses are made for Asian faces! That means the glasses rest on my nose and not on my cheeks for once in my life. The circle style is “in” right now.
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Kurt leading our orientation final worship

Week Three

This week’s big change was that we begin working at our site placements. Our schedule is now about what it will be for the rest of the calendar year. I volunteer Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at my site, and on Thursday we all go to Linda’s site to help with the soup kitchen.

Linda’s first day was eye opening (she started on Monday) and Emily got lost on her way back on her first day, so I was bracing myself for a rough first day. I arrived with my buddy Mirae, and spoke with the director for a bit. I will need to facilitate one fun game oriented English lesson a week. She seemed concerned with my lack of Korean ability (I suppose I would be too). Shortly after I spent some time learning and playing a card game called Sleeping Queens. The children were delightful and one little girl wrote me a letter. My lesson day following that was not as smooth as I anticipated though despite the wonderful first day. It will take some practice. The children are friendly and glad to play games with me and the buddies.

Aside from work, we had a chance to join the Dream church to go chestnut harvesting. Chestnuts have been a mystery to me until this trip. They have a spiky outer shell and contain up to three chestnuts per casing. The spikes went through the two layers of gloves I had and the gym shoes that were meant to protect my feet. We went to help the villagers there harvest chestnuts. We were informed that many of the young people move out of the small village now so there aren’t many people to harvest chestnuts any more. It also offered us a very unique opportunity to experience something I wouldn’t have even thought of. Despite the painful needles, the opportunity to harvest chestnuts was really valuable. Getting a chance to meet the young adult group of the Dream church was in itself worth the trip.

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The letter from the girl at my site. It approximately reads “Alyson, even though you can’t speak Korean, it has been a lot more fun with you here”
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Chestnuts! “Pom” in Korean
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The Dream church took us chestnut picking

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It’s hard to contain all that’s happened in Korea all at once. At least now you know that I’m still alive. Until next time!

~~~

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