Category Archives: Korea

Happy Chuseok

Soon after arriving in Korea last year, I learned that Chuseok is one of the country’s most important and beloved holidays.  It is often described as Korea’s Thanksgiving. For the most part, the country’s holidays follow the Gregorian calendar, but this isn’t true with Chuseok.

The date for this observance floats each year because it’s based on the lunar calendar.  This year the holiday is being observed September 29 – October 1.  Chuseok is a celebration of the harvest.  It’s also a time when Koreans all over the country travel to their ancestral homes.  Ancestral worship begins early in the morning and is followed by a visit  to the tombs of immediate family members.  So it’s no surprise that the campus is almost deserted.

For my students, the holiday weekend presents an opportunity to eat their favorite foods.  Fruit and grain are in abundance, along with beverages.  According to my students, many homes also serve an assortment of meat dishes.  One favorite traditional dish is songpyeong, a crescent-shaped rice cake that is steamed on pine needles.

On Sunday, my husband and I plan to attend a big Chuseok celebration at a large church in Seoul.  Before my husband preaches at the afternoon service, we’ll eat a special lunch at the church, followed by another special event .  It should be a great day.

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Happy Birthday, Dillon

Dillon

One of coolest people on the planet is Dillon, a student at my university and a former assistant.  His Korean name is Yi Jong Hun.  Today is Dillon’s birthday, and this post is dedicated to him.

My husband and I met Dillon when he was assigned to work with us last semester as our assistant.  Dillon immediately proved himself to be indispensable.

God gave our young friend an abundance of gifts.  Dillon is talented in the visual and performing arts.  He now leads the praise and worship at the university church, where hubby delivers the Sunday sermon.  Dillon shows up each Sunday at the newly-formed church without fail, bringing his guitar and angelic voice.  When we recently lost our keyboardist, Dillon stepped in with his MacBook, which contains for each Sunday’s hymns.

Dillon is fluent in English, which is another thing that sets him apart on this campus.  He can even pray in English.  This really impresses my husband, who says it’s not easy to pray in another language.

When he worked as our assistant, Dillon carried a lot of responsibility.  First and foremost, he was our translator.  Virtually all of the university communication is in Korean because so few people speak the language well.  So every time we received a notice or correspondence  — every time signs were posted — we asked Dillon to translate for us.  He also recorded grades and handled other projects.

When we first arrived in Korea, we needed to transact business, such as open a bank account and purchase a cell phone.  Dillon went with us, making those transactions so much easier.  We learned quickly that we could trust him with confidential information.  He is in his mid-20s, yet Dillon is one of the most mature and level-headed people I know.  In time, he became an extended member of our family.

Our multi-talented friend is shy and humble.  But hubby and I also see the wonderfully social side of him.  He has loads of friends.

When last semester ended, so did Dillon’s job as our assistant.  He continues to be a good friend, and we’re always happy when we see him on campus.

For us, Dillon is Korea.   To our dear friend, Happy Birthday.

Students and surprises

I have been in South Korea for three months.  My, how time flies!  I’ve seen some wonderful improvements the students’ English skills.  This is especially true of the freshmen, many of whom who had no clue what I was saying the first day of class.  They didn’t even understand me when I said they had a five-minute break or that class was dismissed.  Now they understand my jokes.

Teaching English to first-year college students is no picnic.  In both teaching and learning, students and teachers must overcome communication barriers.  Even assigning homework isn’t easy.  Typically, I’ll repeat the assignment a couple of times orally, and then I write it on the board.  For students who still don’t understand, I’ll allow Korean translations among the students.

In my intro class, many students did well on my midterm.  And several students flunked it.  It was a wake-up call for those young men and women who hadn’t put in the time studying.  However, I didn’t focus on that.  I told the shocked students that even though they hadn’t done as well as they wished on the midterm, it was possible for them to earn a good final grade if they worked hard.

I prayed for these students at the beginning of every class.  Each of them has God-given gifts, but I felt they needed to be reminded of that.  From time to time, I’ve surprised my students with assignments they thought they could not do.  They surprised themselves when they did a good job.  I never doubted them for one moment.

Today was my students’ day to surprise me.  A couple of girls stopped by the office to tell me that they were waiting for me in the cafeteria.  They had “treats” for me.  I walked over to the special dining area to find that the students had prepared a feast — homemade kalbi (beef) and potatoes, grilled chicken, mandoo (dumplings), fruit, and assorted drinks.  The students also brought trays of the regular school lunch and went to get my husband so that he could enjoy the festivities.  My husband called the surprise a “love feast.”

The food was simply delicious, as were the beverages the guys brought.  (I didn’t eat much of the school lunch.)  At the risk of sounding cliché-ish, I could feel the love.

After lunch, the students crowded around to take pictures with hubby and me.   The kids said they thought that I was a really good teacher and that they had learned much from me.  Also, since the end of the semester is near, the students asked for words of wisdom.

I looked at my husband.  He said, “Don’t look at me.  They’re talking to you.”

I reminded the students that they all had God-given gifts.  I told them that I remembered the first day of class, when they clearly had no idea what I was saying to them.  Now, I said, they are students who touch my heart with the writing and conversation skills they now demonstrate.  I told them I would miss them.  One student said that she hoped I would remember their names.

For me, these students put a face on Korea.  Yes, I intend to remember their names.