Saturday, March 22, 2008

Take Me To Ooooolsan!

Arriving in Ulsan didn't go exactly as planned, but my memories will be all the sweeter as a result! I arrived at the Incheon airport as scheduled and planned to take a four hour bus ride to Ulsan. No problem. There are clearly marked "Bus Ticket" booths outside the terminal. Cake walk. One ticket to Ulsan, please.

I find the bus stop and start wondering about my destination. Is Ulsan on the way to "Osan"? This ticket price does seem rather cheap for a four hour ride. My first lesson in the Korean language: the u is not short. I visited the ticket booth again. I need a ticket to "Oooooolsan". Ohhhh. Again, no worries- I've now got the right ticket.

I find the bus stop for Ulsan (but I say it again outloud to remember..."ooooolsan"). Excellent. There is only one person on the bus, and many people standing outside. Must be waiting for the bus to load up. I'll have a seat and try my hand at interacting with the locals. I find myself chatting it up with an old Korean man. He's on his way to Daejeon and he likes to travel to America. It was a pleasant chat, until I looked up and saw the tail end of my precious bus vanishing from sight. I went chasing after it, sidestepping all the Korean men that I thought were going to Ulsan. "Oooooolsan, Ooooooolsan!!! Pllllease!!!", I'm desperately begging every bus driver I see to somehow understand me and help me find the elusive bus. Alas, it's gone, and I'm on my way back to the lovely ticket booth. I'm left with another group of Korean men, speaking to me as if I know exactly what they are saying. In China I could tell them I really don't have a clue what they are saying; here I just stand there and look at them sheepishly.

I ended up taking a bus to Seoul and then connected with another bus that took me to Ulsan. At 2AM (instead of 11PM), I met my long lost friend, Snowy, and her husband, Jun, at the bus station. We've had a great time so far, and they have spoiled me rotten. More details to come later- I smell Snowy's fried rice. Time to eat!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bring on the Kimchi!

I'm packing up for Korea. Tomorrow I will fly to Seoul and then catch a bus to Ulsan, where I will find my long lost Korean homestay sister, Snowy. I can't wait to see her. I think it has been at least five years since I last saw her...walking into the house all bundled up with her frosty glasses, just slightly overwhelmed by the Canadian freezer she found herself living in. What a gal! The thought of her brings a smile.

I'll stay with her family for the weekend and then on Monday or Tuesday I will catch a bus to Jeonju, home to Craig and Leah! It will be awesome to experience their Korean world. I'm hoping to also see Rachel and Robin at some point. I'll stay in Jeonju until Friday, when I hop another bus back to Seoul, and then back to HK. I'm excited to be seeing a new country and culture, and there is a sense of adventure in going on my own and knowing that I'm leaving the comforts of English for awhile. I officially know zilch in Korean.

Enjoy the finest sporting weekend of the year, friends!! The Madness begins tomorrow; how sweet it will be. Go North Carolina.

I'll catch up to the blogging world sometime during my stay in the Northern Orient. Farewell!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Flu Days

Early this morning I received a text that the government was shutting down all primary schools until after the Easter break. Our holidays were supposed to start next Thursday, instead our kids will be off for over two and a half weeks! Hoofta.

It is a cautionary measure as they want to guard against a possible flu epidemic, and in a city that was hit hard by SARS five years ago, you can sense there is likely political pressure behind the move. Better to be proactive, though, especially when you've been through something like SARS.

So, I'm alone in my classroom this morning. It feels strange, and though the flu situation is not a good one, I must say I'm glad to have four days of prep!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Where's the A535?

I've got that soreness that is most definitely a result of basketball. I've missed it! Reminds me of my first basketball camp. I was tagging along with Tim and his buddies to a camp at CBC- Athletes in Action. I was ten, and I remember waking up the second day and discovering the effects of lactic acid for the first time.

Anyway. My friend Jill and I have been on a hunt for a women's basketball team here. A tennis friend connected me to one his buddies, whom we met up with for a bit of street ball. He then pointed us to a team, and last night we joined their practice. This was likely the highlight of the weekend. I haven't been a player in a practice since the the day I said goodbye to my acl in University. It was awesome to get out and run the floor again. Ah, I have missed it so much. They seem to be a nice group of girls and they were fun to play with. I'm looking forward to more, though I'm not sure how I will balance tennis and basketball. Not a bad thing to have to figure out, though! Love it!

It's about time I got back into it- it's March after all!! Time to work on the brackets!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Passing on the blogging love...

My favorite new development in teaching this year is our classroom blog for student writing. I have a simple blog for communication with parents, but this year we're trying a classroom blog. It's a neat set-up for teachers. Each student has their own page. They love it! My favorite part is that before anything is published, I can first do small edits and give them feedback on their writing. We can continue revising and editing until it's ready to be published. I really like that the kids get into reading each other's writing and commenting on each other's thoughts. Blogmeister also gives you the chance to collaborate with other classrooms around the world. I hope to explore that option soon. Helping kids improve in writing takes a lot of work, but this has been a positive experience so far.

Tuesday Night

The schedule has lightened somewhat in recent days. The basketball season is over (we lost in the quarterfinals in a heartbreaker) and another round of report cards is in the books. Beyond the busy schedule was a looming decision about what to do next year, and I'm glad to say (although it was a shaping experience and struggle) that I'm now on the other side of that. I had planned on moving back to Canada in the fall, but I have decided to stay in Hong Kong for another year. I felt that I was leaving this place too quickly and as best as I could discern, felt that God was leading me to stay. Though I'm sad to be away from home for another ten months, I am excited about the developing friendships and opportunities here.

I'm grateful for the slower pace. On Sunday I spent the day cleaning my house, making corn chowder and banana bread, and preparing for the week. Yesterday I had friends over and made apple crisp. Tonight it's 23 degrees and I'm going to take advantage by heading over to the tennis court. Guess I'd better get going! Maybe with the bit of extra time I'll think of updating the old blog more frequently.


Hong Kong's menu has got to be one of its finest attractions. A succulent melting pot of flavorful goodness. So, if you came for a week, what would you eat (just in case you happen to make this most excellent choice)?

Monday- A solid start with satay, spring rolls, yellow curry, and mango sticky rice at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Tuesday- We swing by the hole in the wall Shanghainese shop for cashew chicken, fried green beans, and, the obvious: dumplings!

Wednesday- I hope you skipped lunch: tonight it's time for the monster of all meals. Tikka, butter chicken, samosas, pakoras, masala, daal, chai tea...welcome to the Indian buffet.

Thursday- We're still busting at the seams from last night's feast, so we go for a far lighter, and much cheaper option tonight: won ton noodle soup from the Green restaurant on my block.

Friday- With a clear night view of the harbor, we head to California Pizza Kitchen, featuring some of the tastiest appetizers and pizzas in the city.

Saturday- This is the climax meal, right here. It's Habibi time! My hands down favorite restaurant in the city. Hummos, babaganoush, falafel, koshary, lamb shwarma, peppermint iced tea. You can't beat the flavor experience at Habibi!

Sunday- Now is your chance to try the innards of all kinds of animals. Why not? You can't skip out on dim sum when you're in Hong Kong! We'll try a few of the fun ones (chicken's feet is standard), but we'll stick to the barbecue steamed buns, pork and shrimp dumplings, and egg tarts!

We didn't have time for any of the American or Australian steak restaurants, or the Irish pub with great roast beef dinner, or the 24 hour breakfast and bottomless coffee restaurant, or the Korean barbecue, or Thai, or sushi, or Mexican....guess you'll have to stay for more than a week!! :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Jackie Pullinger....Faith in Action

This weekend I had the chance to listen to Jackie Pullinger. The Vine hosted a teaching series with Jackie speaking on "God's Heart for the Poor". Many of you at home may not be familiar with the story of Jackie Pullinger. As a 19 year-old, Jackie moved to Hong Kong from England in the late 60's. She lived in an area (I can see it from my balcony) called The Walled City. Her book, Chasing the Dragon, describes it:

"Until it was pulled down the Walled City was Hong Kong's most foreboding territory. It was a lawless place, dominated by the Triads, and which the police hesitated to enter. Strangers were unwelcome. Drug smuggling and heroin addiction flourished. A place of prostitution and pornography, extortion and fear".

Jackie (she speaks fluent Cantonese), gave her life to those in the Walled City and continues to serve the poor in Hong Kong today. The stories are incredible. As I listened, I thought about what has been said about who Jesus was- crazy, a liar, or, the truth. I wondered something similar with this woman- either she is nuts, or she is someone who is experiencing (and spreading) the power of God in a way I have rarely known. I know it's the latter. You can read more about her life story and impact in Hong Kong by sifting through the St. Stephen's Society website.

Her thoughts challenged me in a number of ways. Here are a few I'll share as thought-provoking:

-We have often replaced the giving of ourselves, our heart, with aid. For this reason, people may receive food, but their hearts and lives are left unchanged. She used the story of the good Samaritan as an example. He gave his own blanket. He gave his own donkey. We need to do the same to make a lasting difference with people.

-We don't see miracles unless we've given all we have. There's no need for a miracle when we've stored up secret stashes that could be used instead. She shared stories of multiplication miracles- Jesus and 5000 men, as well as her own experiences with the multiplying of food when there was not enough.

-Don't pray about things you know you must do; pray about how to do them.

-The important thing about giving is giving. Jesus gave without guarantee of our acceptance, a thank you, or a decision to change our lives. Give because you have the heart of Christ, not because you can be assured that it will be used responsibly.

-Be free inside- enough to give it all away.

There was a lot more, but this is enough for me today! She prayed for us- those of us with much- that we could be freed from the fear of poverty. I need that prayer, and I'm continuing to pray that, or try to. Any thoughts from you?

Mom's Adventures

Mom's blogging! I love reading about their adventures in India. They are definitely have a fresh set of experiences in Guwahati- a big, smelly, dirty city. It's not the wakeup-in-the-clouds experience that Aizawl was, but sounds more like classic India. Plus, they get Pizza Hut for a treat every once in awhile! Reading her blog makes me itch to get back to India. I hope I can make a trip next year; maybe this time I will bring a few of my colleagues with me to experience the wonders of India. There's not a place on Earth like it! Stop by Mom's blog and leave her a note!