Friday, September 3, 2010

Those aren't tater tots; they're squid.

Hello, America! Before I dive into yesterday's adventures, I'd really like to thank everyone who sent me some form of encouragement yesterday. Life felt unnecessarily hard all day, and I was literally checking my facebook and my blog every hour or so to see if I had any new messages or comments. I heard from people from high school I haven't talked to in years, friends of family members I've never met, and, of course, the people who have been holding my hand from the other side of the world all week. It's a little embarrassing how many times I've read the comments and messages - I know there are 18 on my last post, 9 on the one before it, and 8 on the one before that, and I've lost count of how many messages are in my inbox. Every single one of them has been so encouraging to me, and it's really amazing to know that so many people are behind me even when I'm feeling terribly alone. I sincerely hope that Kimi's right and it's mainly just the jet lag; I know I'll be homesick and sad at various points throughout the whole year, but I feel a little like a failure that I couldn't even make it my first week without crying. I'm going to blame it on the jet lag.

I didn't get lost going to work yesterday, so that's fantastic! The schedule was off again because we had our Star of the Month assembly, but that just means every student in the school was in the gym, all saying and doing hilarious things at the same time. I didn't think to start writing things down until the program was nearly over, but here are a few gems:

"Is dentist a sport?"
Mr. Spencer: "What's your favorite healthy food?"
kid: "Gooood mushrooms."
Mr. Spencer: "What is a habit?"
kid: "It's a bad thing that you do all the time and you should STOP DOING IT!"

The assembly was actually a lot of fun, and I'm kind of looking forward to taking the kids to it every month. I think it's the only time all the kids are together in one space, and a hundred-plus Korean kids in one room guarantees some hilarity.

Also, we took this class picture:

Hana refused to be in it because she was dressed like a soccer player and thought she looked silly. She wouldn't let me take a picture of her all day... which of course means that's the ONLY thing I wanted to do all day. Since she was so adamant against you all seeing her in her soccer garb, I'll hold off until next week to post a pretty picture of her. (For the record, though, she still looked adorable.)

After the assembly, YJ brought me a map of the subway and three sheets of paper (all in Korean) and told me to go get my health check up. I was already pretty fragile... so... I started crying. I waited until he left the room (thankfully), and I tried really hard to hide myself, but Hana still caught me. I showed her what I was supposed to do, and she became very indignant. She stomped off to the principal's office and demanded that someone go with me to help me find the hospital. A few minutes later, YJ came back in and explained that he was very busy and couldn't go with me. He highlighted the correct route on the subway and nodded encouragingly... and Hana told him no. She insisted that someone go with me, and if everyone was busy this week, we'd have to wait until next week. YJ begrudgingly agreed to let me go next week and left. I... cried again.

This time, we had some kiddos in the room, so Hana stood behind me at my desk and I typed out everything so she could read it. I tried to explain that I just feel so helpless here. I don't have a bank account, I can't ride the subway, I don't know how to order in a restaurant, I can't read ANYTHING, and I don't have a cell phone to call someone if I need help. I took cold showers all week because I didn't know how to turn on the hot water, and I couldn't ask the landlord for help. It's fun and humorous for a while, but you get to a point where you just think "okay, that's enough. I'm ready to actually do something for myself now"... but you can't. No matter how long I stare at a street sign, I don't know Korean. Hana is so wonderful because she lived in Canada for a year during college, so she knows what  it's like to up and move to another country where she didn't know anyone and couldn't get around. She said she was lucky though because she spoke the language, and she can't imagine how hard it must be for all of us. She's been an absolute dream come true. Yesterday she noticed I liked the juice we were drinking at snack time, so she slipped the rest of the bottle into my bag, and she wrote me a note to give to my landlord to ask him to fix my hot water. I'm kind of scared that one day she'll just disappear - she's too good to be true.

I don't want it to sound too much like I'm throwing myself a pity party. It's true that I don't know how to do hardly anything, but thus far, I've managed to get around just fine. I haven't needed to take the subway yet, I still have some cash left, and I don't have to go anywhere alone really. Kat's been with me at some point every night, and the two people I met at Jubilee have both been really great. I had dinner with Heather two nights ago, and I'm meeting Joanna today for lunch. Kat's coming to meet me after lunch and we're going to Itaewon (there's a bookstore there I'm dying to see). When I think logically about it, I've had more support than I ever dreamed, and I'm being cared for very well. Unfortunately, I'm a girl, and less than 1% of my brain power is devoted to logical thinking, so things like subway maps sometimes cause me to burst into tears.

I've kind of lost track of where I was heading with this post... Umm... here's a funny picture of Brian playing golf:

And here are some funny sentences the kids wrote on their homework:

Write a sentence using the word "crack"
When the crack in the Korea, we go to the airplane.
Write a sentence using the word "mighty"
Miss Nikki is the mighty teacher.
Write a sentence using the word "horn"
My mommy has a horn when she is angry.

And while I'm just listing random things, one of my students lived in Chicago last year. She was telling me about her life there, her school and her friends and her church. Guess where she went? Willowcreek! Smaaaaaall world!

Last night, Kat took me out for some Mexican food. Yes, I know I'm in Asia, but I like Mexican food so leave me alone. I got to experience the bus for the first time (it's not nearly as intimidating as I had decided it would be), and we went to this big mall in Chungshankyodibonchoi (there's a slight chance that's not the right name, but that's what it sounded like to me). She kept trying to point out landmarks so I could find my way back to it, but I honestly wasn't even paying attention. I'm lucky if I can find my own kitchen most days, so finding the Mexican restaurant in a part of town I can't pronounce is out of the question. We shopped for a while after eating, and found this in a bookstore:

How is it that this is one of the coolest things I've ever seen and yet I'd never found one in America? Oh my gosh, just seeing it again makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

We went in tons of stores in the mall (including a Hello Kitty store to buy things for my momma), and every single one of them was new and exciting. Granted, we weren't going in the Samsonite store; we obviously picked the stores that looked like the most fun. Their toys are bizarre to say the least. There's a hamster-ish dude who looks a lot like a brown slipper with eyes, and I fell in love with him. Every store we went into, I picked up the biggest hamster thing they had and hugged him while I walked around. Kat kept telling me to just buy the darn thing, but I only have about $75 left in Korean cash, and I didn't want to blow $20 of it on a pillow with a face. But now that I'm thinking about him again, I miss him, and I'm totally regretting not purchasing one. Kat said if I don't get one before my birthday that's what she'll get me. I'll carry it everywhere, no joke.

As we were leaving the mall, I stopped in the middle of a bunch of huge buildings and just stood there. It's crazy hard trying to adjust to Asia; sometimes, I'll be walking down the street, and the fact that I'm in Korea just ambushes me. It sneaks up behind me and jumps on my back, shouting in my ear, "What the hell were you thinking?! Do you know you're in Asia right now?! You're insane!" But then sometimes, I stare up at the buildings and I watch the people flooding down the street around me, and it just fits. It feels like this is where I'm supposed to be, and it's scary and strange and sad and lots of other s words, but I know I didn't make a mistake coming here. For whatever reason, this is right where God wants me, and I'm just so glad I listened.

I can't wait to go to an actual Sunday church service at Jubilee tomorrow. I kind of feel like I'm playing a big game with God; he told me to move to Asia, and I did it, so now I have to track down the reason why I'm here. It's like a big scavenger hunt, really, one with kimchi and hamster-slipper toys, and I love that this whole big game is for me. God's been taking care of me since before I even left Ohio, and his people picked me up the second I landed. It's going to be a really hard year, but if life's always easy, you're not doing it right.

I'll leave you with my favorite thing from yesterday, knowing full well that you'll all be super jealous you don't live in Asia too. Until tomorrow, loves!


  1. Aw, hang in there Nikki! I really like your line "If life's always easy, you're not doing it right." That is SO true. I have no idea how hard it must be to not know the language or very many people there, but I can sympathize with being far from the people you love... It will get easier, and you'll continue to have such amazing adventures!

  2. Yes, hang in there Nikki! I agree with Kelly and I too love your phrase about life. I think it would be crazy hard to be thrown into a new environment and not know the language... but that said, you seem to be doing wonderful even despite the language barriers... I mean you haven't hopped a plane to come home yet! LOL.... I realize getting comments on your blog, FB and email is so not the same as seeing American friends, but at least you know you have a strong support back home and it sounds like you are making friends super fast!! And about the crying etc. I think we girls have another excuse... you know being a girl and well, somethings effect us more than others and how do we deal? We cry.... I know, I have been an emotional rollercoaster for no reason sometimes. One thing is said and bam! And w/ you being homesick, jet lag, new country, a girl, etc. etc. add all that up and wham, all the emotions overflow! God does love ya crazy big time though, jealous for ya girl, and yes, He brought ya there and amen to this adventure! I will say it again, you dared to chase after that which God called you to, even though it was going to be hard and for a year in a strange new place, but you did it! I believe God is looking out for you and loves it that you followed Him! He also see's your homesickness and He is there, collecting every tear and holding you in His arms! Hang in there girl!! Oh, and great pics, love the kids comments!! My kids say the funniest things too and I wish I would have written them down! Future books could be in the making!! Brian is a cutie!!

  3. KOREA!

    Instead of that lolly pop please bring me brian and his golf club. Also he has the same sideways peace sign in that picture lol.

    I just want to say that I'm really proud of you. Really really proud of you. Chin up girly you can do this! I say that like I know how it is to be in KOREA! but I don't, I just know you and you can.

    Remember: 당신을 사랑합니다 (dangsin-eul salanghabnida) aka I LOVE YOU!


    아이스크림 (aiseukeulim) ICE CREAM

    You're tall I love you.

  4. You are incredibly brave for following God's plan and I'm very proud of you. What a great example you are showing. Plus I'm getting a whole lot of laughs from your stories (except the sad ones). I hope next week is better for you. Hang in there, kid. You're doing great, all things considered.

  5. Nikki,
    Loved your is so reflective of the ups and downs of your days now...I laughed, I had everything but DeNiro spying on you with a Hello Kitty nanny-cam.

    Love your philosophical "if life is easy..." motto. Wow is that not the TOTAL truth!? Seriously, if it was easy, where would be the opportunity for growth, learning and all of that? And right now, you are surrounded by learning potential with an off-the-chart high learning curve!

    Hang in there, and NEVER apologize for crying! My mother-in-law used to say "it's ok to cry; you pee less". (Of course, she also said it was good to put butter on burns too, which, of course, it isn', maybe you won't pee less, but it's still OK!)

    Looking forward to your next adventure....
    Sue Miller (Debbie's friend)

  6. shit! bahahhaha
    I am really jealous I dont live in Asia.
    I am super proud of you. And Im sorry its been a rough week. It will only get easier, I promise. I would be crying like a little girl all day and prob never leave the apt. So I think you're the strongest and the bravest.

    I know you're still getting adjusted but skyping soonish would be happy day!

    Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

  7. Praise God for Hana - she was definitely sent by him to show you love there in Korea!

    And yes the SHIT toys make me very jealous I dont live in Asia!