Friday, February 15, 2013

100 Things I Love About Korea: #76 - The Year 2004

We arrived in Korea at the end of July in 2004.  Bill Patch hired me to be the pastor of small English speaking congregation at KNU, and to do this I also had to teach English at KNU.  Sarah also worked at the KNU hakwon (after school language academy).
When we arrived, we were blessed to come to a furnished apartment.  Jean Johnson (a church member and KNU professor) graciously stocked our fridge with a few bags of groceries.  Over the next few days, she also led us around Cheonan to do some initial shopping and money exchange.
We would not be paid for several weeks, and we soon realized that we didn't bring nearly enough money to set up house AND to continue eating until we got paid.  Alan Rosegrant (another church member and KNU professor) was aware that this is a common problem, and he graciously approached us with the offer to lend us a few hundred dollars to get us through the first month.  We humbly accepted.
Our upstairs neighbors Woody and HyoJin Morris were also a great help in getting to know the area.  They showed us around some and introduced us to the wonders of Korean bathhouses.  Their son Hansel was one year older than Emma, so they had lots of good times playing together.

My college roommate Jay Johnson was just finishing his 3-4 year "tour of duty" in Korea with his wife Erin.  They were a welcome support base of friendship.  We played lots of boardgames and soccer, and they even sold us their Christmas tree when the left.  (We still have it, by the way, if anyone wants it!)
I also need to give a shot out to Mike and Shannon Bobo, who jumped into the deep end of relationship by being our accountability partners right from the get go.  Thanks a million guys!
Also, I lost 20 pounds in the first six months because of the healthier lifestyle in Korea.  Without a car, we were exercising way more, and I was also playing soccer 2-3 mornings a week.  It also helped that most (fattening) western style food was either inaccessible or very expensive back then.

Life in a Zoo?
Culture shock started right away as we learned to deal with no AC, lots of mosquitos, and 6 am public announcements over loudspeakers.  I also distinctly remember how my perception of Korean letters slowly changed from chicken-scratch to familiar shapes to actual words that I could understand.  Our apartment was on the first floor in an area with lots of foot traffic, so people were often looking in our windows.  We were living in a literal fish bowl.  That added another level to the culture shock.

The church was very supportive, welcoming and kind.  But mostly I remember feeling overwhelmed with the weight of the task - learning to teach English AND learning to pastor AND learning to live in Korea - all at the same time.  But nonetheless, our entry into Korea was blessed with good memories, good friends, and the adventures of establishing a new home and a new life here.

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