This has been a good, but difficult week. I don’t know if Jill and I will have the typical “honeymoon” phase of culture shock. We are enjoying much of the newness that we are experiencing, but everything is so different than we are used to, and because we know that we will be here for a while, it can be very overwhelming. We are having to learn to be very flexible. And as both of us like to be in control, it has been emotionally draining to realize we have very little control. Everything from communicating to eating has been difficult. I am enjoying much of the food, but the diet is so different that there have been some days where Jill and I just went to McDonalds to cope.
This week we met our head teachers, and I loved my teacher! She is a sweet Korean women named Mrs. Jeon Yang-ok (pronounced Mrs. Chon). She liked to smile and laugh, and I think we will do just fine working together. I will be teaching at Cheonan Buk Middle School which is in downtown Cheonan. I’ve only seen the school from the outside, but I’ve never been more excited and nervous to start a new job!
We’ve experienced so much this week that it has been a whirlwind adventure. From singing Karaoke at a Noreabong, to always using chopsticks, to learning to get around in communication and geographically, to visiting a Buddhist temple in the mountains, we have been drenched in this new culture!
One stressful thing about Korean culture is that nothing is really planned in advance. Often, we find out about things at the last minute. For instance, in one of our sessions for orientation, the schedule stated that we would be learning about how a Korean church usually works. But when we arrived for the session, we found out that they had invited a bunch of Korean pastors from Cheonan, and they had assigned us each with a pastor of the church that we would be attending for the year. We were totally unprepared. It is one thing to unexpectedly meet someone on the street through a friend, but to not be told that we would be meeting a Korean pastor, AND that they expected us to go to their church for the year was incredibly stressful.
We’ve been trying to trust God in all of this. I’m trying to realize that this is just how Korean culture is. It isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just different, and if we can learn to be flexible and trust God, and keep a healthy prayer life, I think we will learn to love the Korean people. I know that the director of our program was just trying to help us, and probably thought it would be easiest for us if they just showed us where to go to church.
We ended up going to Tang-Jung Church of the Nazarene this Sunday with our new friend Ho Kwon. He speaks English and is studying theology here at Korea Nazarene University. He attends the church we were given to attend. Our first Sunday was an overwhelming experience, because the whole service is in Korean. They wanted us to introduce ourselves, so they had us come in front of the congregation and Ho translated while we spoke. After service it is normal to eat lunch with the congregation, so we went into their fellowship hall and sat on the floor and had rice, a spicy soup, a couple different types of seaweed, and kimchi. I actually liked it! The church is full of children, and they were so curious about Jill and I, so they crowded around us and stared and said “hi”, and asked us questions that Ho translated for us. The children helped us relax and enjoy ourselves.
Our first week has been no walk in the park, but God has been good to us, and we are being transformed for our roles here in Korea. We have made many new friends (both foreign and Korean), and all of our needs are being abundantly taken care of.
I had a dream last night that I was a foreigner trying to sneak my way into a new land. I was caught in the waves, and the guards of this land were throwing spears at me to keep me out, but in my dream I had no fear, only a desire and anxiousness to gain access to the new land.
Emotionally, and intellectually this is how I feel; like and outsider trying to get in. The Korean people aren’t what is keeping me out, it is ignorance of the culture and language that is not allowing me to feel like I’ve arrived. If you’ve ever experienced the shock of jumping into ice cold water, you will know a bit of what we are experiencing right now. It is such a change of environment that we are basically in a state of shock.
Pray that the shock will pass, and that we will become acclimated and successful in this new culture. Pray that we would discover the role we have to play in ministry here. We are going to be in prayer over the church that was chosen for us, and try and figure out if this is the right fit for us.
The whole month of February we will have TESOL training, which is a university level course that will certify us to be good teachers of English as a second language. Our first day of teaching will be March 2nd! Pray for us…and our students!
Know you are in our prayers! Feel free to comment!
Love, Andy and Jill