Sunday, April 28, 2013


Our tiny little church, the Sacheon Branch, had a picnic in Namhae yesterday.  Namhae is a lovely nearby island where our Branch President, Lee Jin Man, and his family live.  Both husband and wife are artists, and run an art school for children on the island.  They also raise chickens, turkeys and a pretty impressive garden.  Delightful people, with hearts to match.  
President Lee Jin Man finds art in everything.  
He immediately started playing with the seaweed on rocks and calling it hair! 
Look at this seaweed covered rock he turned into a face.
He and Sister Eum, his wife, scoured the area for interesting things to bring home, 
like this awesome piece of driftwood.
Sherry Anderson's the best American-style cook around; 
and Sis. Eum's the Korean-style cook in our little congregation.  
(I'm the least domestic--just bring snacks and draw on stuff like eggs.)  
The guy in the background there is Andre, from the Ukraine.  He works with Kenny Anderson at KAI and just broke his arm in a biking accident.  Our Branch President's hand, however, was injured permanently decades ago and he always keeps it wrapped; 
just incase you're wondering what's the deal with all the bandages...
During and after a potluck picnic under the pavilion, with more food than we could possibly eat,
we took some photos, of course.  Closest to the camera are Lee Jin Man's 2 oldest kids and Kim Soo Ni, a talent pianist and teacher of the same.  Although I can't really "talk" to her, she's been a favorite since I first met her.  He Bom, the one making a peace sign, plays beautifully too.
Kim Soo Ni's son, the guy on the right holding one of the eggs I drew a face on, 
recently returned from a full-time mission is Seoul and 
speaks better English than any  Korean I've met.  
So, like it or not, he gets to do most of the interpreting in our American/Korean congregation.
  Then I thought we were all just going for a walk.  This is Sherry Anderson, Kim Soo Ni and me. 
Hate to admit it, but I kept thinking, "I've got to get out of here."
Sherry and I are flying out on Tuesday morning and it was supposed to be a fairly lay-back Saturday
to pack and unwind before the crazy, brief trip to the US.  Sherry will be home in Dallas for a month, 
but she had already packed and travels alot--she's got it down to a science.
Still, I shouldn't have fretted that a 3 hour activity turned into 5,
because we found tiny crabs under all those rocks!!!
Now, the Koreans knew they'd be there 
and gathered them up to steam, sauce and serve after church today...
NO, I've not tried them yet.  
They were adorable and I can't eat something I fall in love with.  
It took a lot of tries to get a couple of decent photos of these fast moving, harmless little things.  
They're too small to hurt you with their claws, but they super fast and difficult to get on film.
See that little guy in there?  As soon as a rock was lifted they'd scatter, 
swiftly scuttling off to hide under another rock.  Here's another photo of the underside. 
Those claws look scary, but they useless for defense, inflicting no pain.
Another find was a gorgeous, perfect starfish.  
I put it back in the water after making it model for a half dozen photos.  
Hoping it survives my heartless fascination with its beauty!
 Oh, do you see that orange bag being carried around by Kim Soo Ni?
Guess what's going in it?  Yep, baby crabs for dinner!  Everyone of our Korean
friends were hunting and gathering those itsy-bitsy crabs...

except maybe Lee Tam Che.  He found a huge centipede and brought it back to show us 
with chopsticks, so who knows what he was playing with when I took this photo.
Anyway, the company was delightful, the scenery peaceful, and 
I don't think I've ever seen such tiny crabs, or a real starfish up close before.
The day was perfect! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April's Eye Candy!

What a week--the attacks in Boston kept me pretty riveted to the internet for part of the week, since, as you may know, my son's finishing up an MFA in screen writing at Boston University.  But most of the week was so, so lovely!  The weather was mostly warm and sunny and I want to share.
They're everywhere--the brightest Azaleas I've ever seen.  
Pots are making a showing in front of homes and businesses.
Here's one of the prettier residential gates in town.
 Dotted with these gorgeous bright flowers, the rock walls I already love are inexplicably appealing.
Pink and red aren't normally colors I'd think go together, but here's proof I'm wrong.  
After feeling awed by Wednesday's walk, on Friday Sherry Anderson and I brought cameras.  
We walked through San Sung park again, home of the tall pagoda, and these lovelies greeted us.  Even though we walk together 2-3 times a week, we're both surprised by 
how dramatically these colors deepened, seemingly overnight.
While many of the more delicate cherry blossoms have already blown away, there are plenty of other flowering trees.  April's blossoms are richer, fuller and mixed with reds, russets, and pale greens.  The combined effect makes Spring, hands down, my favorite season in Sacheon!
We walked through 2 parks on Friday.  San Sung is closest, and the pagoda is just visible behind the small pavilion, rocks, flowers and trees in this photo.  But the second park Sherry introduced me to beyond San Sung (neither or us knows what it's called) has some special features, like exercise equipment, so Sherry references it as "exercise park."    
But its most charming features include wood-supported, 
earthen stairs and cut in walk ways, lined with flowering trees,
and pergola-style roofed sitting areas (there's a word for these in Korean too--don't remember it). 
Gnarly, twisted climbing vines in full bloom with wisteria-type flowers 
will make these densely shaded havens soon. 
In between the bright red Asian maple and cherry blossoms, Sherry's using a giant hula-hoop.  My friend, Erin, introduced me to these last year.  They're so fun, but my sides are bruised because not used to them!  I took photos this time and left the hula-ing to Sherry!
But I've gotten over being scared of swinging over the mountain side!  
It's a steep drop, and at first, I couldn't stomach the butterflies.  
But as of Friday, I finally learned to love it!  
Thank you, Sherry--Weeeee!
Gardens and Farms are coming back to life.  This is one of my favorites.  It's around San Sung park and planted not just in rows, but teers.  Typically Asian, but not typical anywhere I've ever lived in the US.    
Saturday was windy, cold and rainy, just as April likes to be, wherever there are four seasons.  But, I met a new pair of friends in nearby Samcheonpo, who are here teaching from Canada.  They've been in Korea for about 3 years, but just moved to the area.  We didn't go on the hike we'd planned, but had a great time getting to know each other anyway.  So, to celebrate meeting Bharathi and Don (happy birthday, Don!) and close out a chilly Saturday, I went through photos from 
gorgeous Friday to post and share instead!
"We do not remember days, we remember moments."  -Cesare Pavese

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Signs of Spring and Young thoughts

It's gorgeous here right now.  Green leaves appear on long barren branches and arch over walkways, surrounded by  multi-colored azaleas, lilacs, and flowers pushing through and around rock walls at the base of budding bushes and trees...Spring in South Korea is something to behold!
My friend, Sherry and I do long walks to nearby parks 2-3 times a week.  They're always tucked into hills and mountains and today's walk was particularly lovely.  I'll remember my camera on Friday.

Today, however, I want to quote a bit from my students' diaries and post some of their photos along with our recent staff day trip to nearby Kwang Yang and Hadong.   I've never seen so many trees in bloom before, or forsythias!
I'm going to a job interview in Utah in less than 2 weeks.  No guarantee I'll get placed this year, but I feel like I have to go.  This has caused no small amount of tension, but I'm not sure that another year away from family is the best course to follow.  Whatever happens, Korea continues to be a wonderful experience and I want to share glimpses into the scenes of the land and minds of the students I love.

Correcting weekly diary entries convinces me that majoring in English was a good idea.  I love reading what they write.

This entry summarizes the life-styles of most of my students.  It's edited, but well written by one of my elementary school students (all diaries authors are elementary school aged):  "I'm the busiest person in the world!  After school, I go to the piano academy at 3:30 pm.  Then I have drawing academy at 4:20 pm.  I have English academy at 5:10 pm. (as her foreign teacher, I see her once a week, but she attends daily).  I come home and eat dinner at 7:30 pm.  I did my homework until 10:00 pm.  Now it's 10:30 pm. and it's time to sleep already.  I hope there will be something exciting tomorrow."  Most of the kids, especially the middle-schoolers, don't get home until late at night.  This is why we play games in my class!

This group comes into my room as early as they can to play basketball and dodgeball (with a squishy ball Tom sent--pictures posted earlier) before the bell rings.  Little "Alex" in front's adorably small--such a cool little dude!  Super charming and determined, he comes straight from Taekwondo to English class.  "Elly's" the only girl in this group of boys and she's awesome!  Sometimes being the only girl is hard and the boys gang up on her--with 7 brothers and no sisters, myself, I can empathize and she's a favorite of mine.  I adore the boys, but am fiercely loyal to this little girl.  Man, she's tough--except when she's not!
"My precious thing is time," writes "Kyle," to address his assigned topic:  What is Your Most Precious Thing?  "Time can not be bought with money and time is special to me.  Time has many good and many bad things...a very bad time was when I made mom angry by hitting my sister."  Wise for his age.  

Another fun diary this week, was Esther's.  One of my most insightful and prolific writers, quiet, soft spoken and serious minded as she is, Esther not only defines exactly what UFOs and aliens are, but writes a "letter to an alien in a UFO."  "To an alien:" she writes. "I'm Esther, I want to see you; so, I want you to come here.  Here is Sacheon..." and she writes out her exact apartment address. "So you can come here anytime.  Do you have long arms, or a big head?  Do you have hair, or not?  Everyone has questions for you.  But, maybe, if you don't want noise, you should not come." Koreans, especially many of my students aren't quiet people.  "But, if you want noise and you want to come, I can see you!  Bye~!  from Esther."
The pinwheel heart photo is from the staff outing, but it expresses a youthful perspective that captivates me!  The dancing cross-dresser with a bunch of middle-aged ladies...
and the "pink lady"guy...

 ...exhibit a particularly Korean zaniness which shoves the blues into oblivion.

My students express themselves not only creatively, exhibiting inquisitive natures, but they're quite candid sometimes.

"Hi Joanna, I'm Duncan."  Sometimes they write directly to me, knowing I'm the one who'll read it.  "You are a good teacher." Duncan generally shows up late, expressing his hatred for school, so this is high praise indeed.  He details my redeeming qualities; "Your voice is good and you're tall."  Being short is a serious offense here--they tease the one male teacher, Jack, mercilessly for his lack of height.  Jack is a superb teacher and returns their taunts by grinning and calling them "evil creatures from hell."  Well, Duncan turned some of that "hellish" candidness on me as this diary entry continues: "But you are old."  Sigh.  Yes, that's a fact.  He tries to redeem the comment; "But you are a some pretty.  I like you.  But I don't love you." This declaration is followed by a bunch of symbols which I think are equivalent to texting "lol."  He's in 6th grade, now, so hey--gotta make things clear, right?  He ends with "Thank you," and from what I can discern, "Why do you teach me when I don't think."  This photo is of the author, "Duncan."

But, then there's "Kate," who basically fills any room she enters with puppy dog sunshine.  She's never cloudy, always exuberant, and it was my lucky day when she decided she liked me.  Reading her diaries is a delight every time!

"(Teacher!  I love this!)" she writes following a dry assigned topic on cell phones.  Using an arrow and yellow highlighters for emphasis, she quotes; "Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  TODAY IS A GIFT That's why we call it the Present!" Just in case I can read Korean, she translates for clarity into hangeul on the side and adds, "I love Joanna teacher ALWAYS" and draws a heart.  

I'm thinking The King and I may end up being one of my favorite movies because of these type of things.  These girls aren't Kate, (I can't find a good photo--have to amend that!) but this thing of forming a heart and making the ever popular peace sign, says it all!
The plethora of cherry, plum, persimmon and apricot blossoms perfectly complements the surplus of young, enthusiastic and verbose students around here.  Every day reveals something new and beautiful!