If you believe that people choose their lifetimes based on learning they need to accomplish, then it is not a far stretch to figure out what lesson my ebbulient self needs to learn in this country which prizes emotional suppression and reservation above (it seems) all else. If you don't, well, it seems that to be successful here I am going to have to learn that lesson anyway, so in the end it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Like it or not, I am having to rein myself in here. And it is positively exhausting.
While sitting on my bed (at my kitchen table) last night, finishing the last of the cold tofu and squid in my fridge (!!) by candlelight, I was reflecting on how absurd it was to use the gas stove to light the candles. A bit of overkill really, yet very effective. Akin to using a fire hydrant to fill up a sink for dish washing. A lot of life seems to be like that here - highly effective in its way but to my thinking completely inefficient. For example, every store accepts credit cards, but most of them accept only their own credit card or one from the little local bank down the street. So people end up carrying around fifty million cards wherever they go, for "convenience". This may be effective, but is it really efficient? Of course not. Or now that the delivery industry has taken off, any food you want can be brought right to your door but in real dishes which then need to be picked up later by the restaurant staff. I suspect that whatever environmental impact is being saved on reuseable dishes is more than counteracted in pollution from the delivery vehicles making twice as many trips, and all the newspaper you wrap it in to let them know you are done. Or at work, in reprimanding the oldest staff member regarding the behaviour of the younger staff members rather than just speaking to them directly about your concerns...
I visited the Seoul immigration office this week - time to get my alien resident card before my 90 days is up. So now I have no passport, which feels very uncomfortable in a foreign country, until I pick up my documents next week. I was surprised by the enormous diversity of the people waiting to be processed, since I had expected mostly young, unattached, north american english teachers but found myself instead to be very much the minority. Although the drive in was long and tedious in the heavy traffic, the processing itself went quite fast. Most of the time was taken up by fingerprinting, but at least the man who did that for me was pleasant and chatty. To me, anyway. I had to laugh later when my friend Rebecca was with him and I heard only, angrily, "this IS my hair colour!" through the partition. He didn't even help her get the ink off her fingers. Me he practically walked to the soap dish!
I am constantly astounded by the beauty and multitude of roses blooming everywhere here. Bushes heavy with flowers pop out from even the most inhospitable looking little squares of dirt, brightening up the city immeasurably. I am told that most of the roses that we get back home are imported from Korea (although since that tidbit was told to me by someone I have found to generally be full of crap, I'm not sure of its accuracy), and looking around I have little trouble imagining it. It is really lovely.
I got a message this morning from a friend at the local church, where I was planning to head in for the weekend (luckily, as it turns out). Seems that this is communion Sunday and I am scheduled to preach. Surprisingly, after the initial disbelief wore off, the message delighted me completely. See, in my thinking, you don't spring news like that on a visitor. You would only pull that kind of (lack of) communication on someone you genuinely like and accept in your community, assuming (correctly for the most part) that they will take it in stride and at some point return the favour. So I am feeling particularly loved at the moment, and like I am really a part of the congregation here rather than just an exotic extended visitor. It is a good feeling to be part of something. Even if it means that I have to come up with something useful to say on short notice. Lucky for me I believe that it's not up to me to come up with the words anyway, and that God is probably not all that concerned about the timeline on this one!
And on that note, I will get back to work. The last of my report cards are waiting to be written (really hard to keep all the students straight when their names are so similar - for example, in one class I have 4 students - So-Hee, Seo-Hee, Hyun-Hee and Hee-Young...), and I have class preparation to do as well. It being Thursday means the week is almost (blissfully!) over, and that tomorrow I make my weekly pilgrimmage into the comfort of Seoul. I will talk to you soon, and hope this finds you all well and happy. Know that I miss you a lot, and think of you often.