...And We're Back! What has happened since the last blog entry, Part 1

It has been nearly a month since my last blog posting. I wish I could have been more timely, but I have been in places where Internet access has been limited. First, I was staying in Uijeongbu at my friend Tain's house for a while, and I had no Internet access there while he was away. Then, I went to China for two weeks and I had no laptop with me, and access to my blog, Facebook, and Gmail were limited by the fact that China restricts access to those websites and one must have a VPN (virtual private network) to gain access to them. I have a VPN, but it was spotty at times in China, and I did not want to write a lot only to have it lost in the ether somewhere. Besides, there was much to do in China, and the few moments of downtime to be online were early in the morning or late at night when I was sleepy. I decided to wait for my return to Korea and my reliable Internet connection at home to write about the events of the past three weeks. I will see how far I get tonight...

The last time I wrote, we had just finished the doctrine of hamartiology in Bible college and Tain was blowing out candles on his birthday cake. That weekend, I went into Seoul to pick up a book to help me learn Korean, and then wandered around the vicinity of the bookstore. I discovered a place to eat,

a place to buy Tain some funny socks for his birthday,

a place making floss-like traditional Korean candies for another birthday present for Tain,

These guys talk the whole time they make the candy and are very charming. Sometimes they sing.
and a robot outside a noodle shop.

I walked down an interesting street where someone was selling thimble-sized cacti,

where someone was posing in front of an interesting mural,

and where a band was playing as part of a street festival celebrating traditional Korean crafts, food, and culture.

Oh! And I got a dessert for a buck, too, a waffle with strawberry whipped butter filling.

We celebrated Tain's birthday at his home on Sunday night, with Tain making a lot of Thai food (his favorite "style" as they say here in Korea) and me, Pastor Steve, his daughter Emily, and William as his guests. It was very spur of the moment, but I was entrusted to deliver an ice cream cake by Esther, my "Korean mother" with whom I live here in Seoul. I was so concerned about getting the frozen cake to Tain's house in one piece that I forgot my backpack on the Line 6 subway train when I transferred to Line 1, and I didn't realize this until I got off the train in Uijeongbu. I decided it wasn't worth worrying about, that the cake was more important, and I quickly walked from the station to Tain's house to deliver it. The dinner and the dessert were delicious.

The next morning, Tain was off to China to prepare for the conference there and to visit people. I went to Bible college to begin learning the doctrine of Christology and then went to the subway station in hope that my backpack would be in some sort of lost and found. I had been told that my bag may be at the far end of Line 6, but by God's goodness, it was in the lost and found at the station right beside my house. I was thrilled. because one of my favorite shirts was in the backpack, and the backpack itself was new, and I needed it for my trip to China. I think I had a sheepish grin on my face when a gentleman carrying my bag approached the information booth where I was standing. Ah, it is the small things in life that can mean so much! Later that afternoon, Pastor Steve drove me to KONIS (Kids of the Nations International School), the English language pre-school/kindergarten where we have been invited to have a Bible study twice a month. 

Because Pastor Steve already had a Bible study commitment that day with a group of doctors, he dropped me off to lead the fellowship time with the staff by myself. Fortunately, I am used to ministering to teachers, and our study of the doctrine of faith from The Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford went well. We related the principles of faith to our lives as educators and to my personal testimony, which they had asked to hear. This is a beautiful group of dedicated teachers, so I enjoy my precious time with them. On my next visit, I will bring a report of my adventures in China. Tuesday was Bible college and afternoon Bible study at Caffe Tiamo and a delicious meal out with Petros, Sujin, Samuel and Hannah for Dawn and I. One cool thing about many Korean restaurants is the realistic food models in display cases like the one below in front of the restaurant where we ate. You can see exactly what your food will look like before you order it.

Wednesday was Bible college, doing laundry in preparation for the China trip, and a celebration of my birthday by the Wednesday night worship team after the evening service, complete with chocolate cake. Thursday was Bible study time with the students of the Yeomyung school where we gave a new Korean-English NKJV Bible to each of the thirteen students, courtesy of the generous givers at Grace Mission Church.

I taught the group another new praise song, hung out for a couple of hours in a nearby cafe, drinking a banana kiwi smoothie, eating a slice of chocolate cheesecake, reading the true story of a man's escape from North Korea,

and then returned to the school to eat lunch and sit in on some English classes with Dawn Doorenbos during the afternoon. It was an eye-opening experience for both of us, first as teachers witnessing how English is taught, and then as missionaries seeing the variety of needs among the students. We both are interested in volunteering in some teaching ministry capacity in this school. A little love goes a long way. Friday brought an end to the first pentamester of Bible college, and our classmate John invited us all out to lunch at the Chinese restaurant downstairs from the church. I ate black bean sauce noodles, jajangmyun, and loved it. You have to try it, if you get the chance.

After lunch, I went home, collected my clean laundry from the drying racks (no dryer here in my house and in many Korean houses), and packed for the trip. I also readied my room for its next guest, Pastor Bob Hotchkiss who would be visiting from his new home in The Philippines. Once my bags were packed, I took the subway north to Uijeongbu so that I could catch the airport limousine bus with Pastor Steve and Emily the next morning. I met another of William's school friends that evening. He was spending the night, because he wanted to be close to the Christian school where he had Saturday detention the next day. I have enjoyed meeting William's Korean friends, because they are comfortable speaking English around Americans and unfailingly polite as Korean young people. 

Saturday morning, WIlliam was up and out the door early to prepare for his cross country race. His friend Eric was still sleeping when I left the house to go to the bus stop. I wondered if I should have woken him so that he would not be late for detention, since lateness would mean another Saturday detention. Fortunately, William called Eric in the nick of time, so he wasn't late. Riding the bus from Uijeongbu through Seoul to Gimpo airport impressed upon me the largeness of this city and its continual growth. 

I think I could live here a long time and never see the whole city with all its old, historic and new, modern neighborhoods and architecture. With the popularity of Korean culture exported abroad in movies, music, and television programs, tourist visits to Seoul and other parts of Korea are increasing in number. You can see people from all over the world in some of the downtown shopping districts, and many of the visitors hail from Korea's neighbor, China.

I had never been to China before this trip, except for a 36 hour layover in Hong Kong during a teen summer harvest trip to Thailand years ago, so I didn't know what to expect. We (Dawn, Emily, Pastor Steve, and I) flew from Seoul to Beijing and were met by Tain and Kikko (who had arrived from Finland earlier) at the airport. We took a train and the subway into Beijing and walked the short distance to the hotel where we were staying. The rooms were rather spartan, sort of efficiency apartments, except the only furniture in Pastor Steve's and my room were two beds and two chairs along with a large wardrobe, a table with an old TV on it, a refrigerator, a countertop for simple cooking (there was a rice cooker in the cabinet below and a small ventilation hood above the cabinet) and a little bathroom with a washing machine and shower in it. Hooray for the washing machine, because we needed it halfway through our trip. Included in the bathroom was a package of travel amenities including a brand new sliver of soap and a teeny tube of toothpaste:

I took this picture of the view from my window:

This view was nicer than the view from the other side of the building which was of the street and a little junky recycling center across the way. After a little time to unpack, we went to meet some friends for dinner, my first real Chinese food dinner. We walked to the restaurant and sat at a large, round table with an enormous glass lazy Susan in the middle. The wait staff brought dish after delectable dish and placed each one somewhere on the circumference of the wheel, and we took food with our chopsticks and placed it on our plates (or in our mouths) as it passed by. American Chinese food cannot compare to the real thing which is so fresh and interestingly seasoned. We ate the famous Peking duck, among other dishes, and drank tea with our meal. Nobody left the table hungry; just the opposite. However, our Finnish friend, Kikko, managed to persuade some of us to stop at a 7-11 and buy an ice cream bar for dessert on our way back to the hotel. It was exciting to meet people that I had only heard about or seen on Skype during Bible college, and to meet Chinese brothers and sisters that I had never known before that evening. It holds true that we are one in the Spirit and that there can be a mystical, instant connection with other believers. As I closed my eyes that evening, I looked forward to finding out what else God had in store for us on this trip...


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