Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paradigm shift: men wear skirts here

The last two weeks have been a lot of transition. We traded a small mountain village for a huge city; a freezing climate for a sweaty one; a team we had come to feel very comfortable with for a decentralized group we’re still trying to get used to. We have different roommates, different clothes, and an awful lot of mosquito bites. But God is good, all the time.

Our new location is wonderful and annoying at the same time. The food is different, the house is different, the people are different, the activities we do are different. Since I was so obsessively in love with Seoul, I assumed that I’d feel the same way about being in this big city, but that has not been the case. It’s not that I hate where we are; I just could never see myself living in a place like this long-term. It feels like nothing is easily accessible, and there simply aren’t enough Koreans here for me to feel at home.

One of my favorite things that we get to do here is working in a preschool. The slums we’ll be working in have hundreds of thousands – did you read that? hundreds of thousands – of people living in them, but there are only enough classrooms for two to three thousand children. One of the things the team here has been working on is setting up daycares for families in the slums so the parents are free to go out and find jobs. The slum we’ve been working in this past week has a WorldVision office, and the daycare had some gift boxes from Operation: Christmas Child. It’s surreal knowing that the kids we sing songs and play games with are the same ones that people in America see on commercials and have pictures of on their refrigerators. The world seems smaller, yet somehow America has never felt so far away.

The daycare is one of the most fun places I’ve ever been. Since I’m the only one who has any experience with preschool kids aside from the leaders, I was basically tossed in the room with a hardy “you got this!” It’s a teensy bit different teaching fourteen in my class in Korea to the forty-three we’ve got here, but the same basic principles apply; the sillier I act, the more they pay attention; the more they pay attention, the more they learn. The rest of my team stood around the room and helped when I asked for it, but it was mostly up to me to implement any kind of structured lesson. And I loved every single minute of it. When I left Korea, I thought that would be my last opportunity to teach little ones; I love that I’m getting this tiny reminder of how much fun it is to sing songs and be silly and call it a “job.”

While we're here, we'll also have the opportunity to work at some other really exciting places, like an AIDS orphanage, a leper colony, a restaurant, and a few other slums. I haven't been on any of the teams that have gone to those places yet, but I've heard really cool stories from all of them. Life is a little bit slower here; rides and translators don't show up until an hour after they said they'd arrive, but I'm learning to hold plans loosely and just see what comes next. I don't want to miss out on this season because I was constantly checking my watch.

In other news, I’m going to get glasses soon. When I was in Korea, my vision started to get blurry, so I asked a friend of mine to take me to the optometrist. Every test the doctors did came up just fine, and they sent me away with some eye drops and a question mark. Whenever my vision has started to blur in the last eight months, I’ve put in my drops and told myself there was nothing wrong. I’ve noticed it a lot worse here, but I’m stubborn and didn’t bother mentioning it to anyone. The other day, we were rehearsing for a skit where I play a nerdy bookworm (I think I was typecast), so I borrowed a pair of glasses from one of the girls on the team. The second I put them on, the whole world became clearer. I ran through the house, reading labels and looking out windows while my friends all wondered how I could have possibly not known that I needed glasses. I’m really stinkin’ excited to get my glasses and not have to walk up close to things to be able to see them anymore. Luckily I discovered this in a country where glasses are less than thirty bucks a pair; if I had to pay hundreds of dollars of them in America, I’d just go right on not being able to see far away.

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