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September 30, 2007

The East Sea (Sea of Japan)

Over Chusok, Korean Thanksgiving, we were lucky enough to be blessed with not only a week off of work but also a trip to the east coast of Korea with many of our friends. We had an exceptional day on Naksan Beach which is located on the Sea of Japan. I feel that I need to mention that in Korea the Sea of Japan is referred to as the East Sea. If you know your history you can appreciate why the Koreans will not tolerate a sea that is so much a part of their motherland being named after their century old rival. Claiming that the sea is named the Sea of Japan is like a slap in the face to Koreans. So to be politically correct in our host country the East Sea was a wonderfully relaxing destination for a time away from Seoul.

We swam and body surfed, dove in the sand for frisbees and volleyballs, chatted with old friends and made some great new ones, slept to the sound of waves and gulls, got some good rays and just soaked it all in.

To top it all off we ended the day at a Korean salt water sauna (Asian bathhouse) to relax in the steam bathes and hot pools. It was such a soothing day.

September 22, 2007

The New Address

We are officially all moved into our new apartment. Our boxes are unpacked and we are settled in nicely. We are just waiting for the guest to arrive!!

( A very hairy Kimchi)

We have had a few requests for our mailing address so I thought that I would post it for everyone.

If you are thinking of sending us mail keep in mind that the English address may not get to us. Try both languages on the envelope. The best solution would be to print out our address and glue it to the envelope. The address is:

Korean:

서울시 중구 인현동 2가 3번지

덕수중학교

Postal code: 100-282


English:

Duksu Middle School
c/o Rachel/Trevor Olson
3 Bunji 2ga
Inhyundong, Jung gu
Seoul, South Korea
100-282

September 16, 2007

The New Pad

video

As keeping with tradition we thought that it would be appropriate to post a screening of our new home here in Seoul. We love our new accommodations and are very please with the location as well. We are now located in downtown Seoul, within walking distance of both our schools and our church, whereas last year most every location cost us an hour on the subway. I hope you enjoy your visit to our little home. Feel free to come visit in person.

September 15, 2007

The Other Side of the Fence

This is the view out of our front window. I would love to park a cushy lazy boy right here, sit all day and watch the neighborhood bustle around these quaint homes, narrow twisted staircases and rooftop gardens. If we watch carefully there is always something going on.

By night the view changes. Quaint streets transform into gold-lit allies while lights flicker in the homes on the hill.

Directly below is a stream of never-ending traffic. We opted to sleep in the back room to avoid its constant drown and yet, the street has its charms. If you look in the distance you can see Dongdaemun and by day you can make out the remains of the ancient Seoul Fortress Wall just on the crest of the adjacent hill.

September 12, 2007

Purple Haze

-The view from our street.-
We're all smogged-in here in Seoul.

September 9, 2007

DANGER

DANGER!! Snowmen with umbrellas!!

Your guess is as good as mine as to what this sign means. It's posted just two minutes up the mountain from our home.

September 8, 2007

A Ten Minute Walk

We knew that we were located in the heart of downtown but we had no idea that we were so close to one of our favorite tourist destinations. We put on our shoes tonight with the intent of snapping some nighttime shots of our spectacular new view. Ten minutes later we stumbled upon a familiar sight, one of the national theaters of Korea. Not a bad place for being ten minutes walk from your door step. Complete with a view of Namsan Mountain, a few beautiful gardens, sculptures and fountains this is now going to be one of our weekly destinations.


We quickly, much to our surprise, learned that it was ten more minutes hike to the base of Namsan Tower itself. Oddly enough with Kimchi in tow the tower seemed less interesting to Korean tourists. I guess that waygooks (foreigners) with a dog are much more fascinating than a beautifully reconstructed tower surrounded by breathtaking views and thousands of years of history. Who knew?


September 7, 2007

The Curious Things of Today

The subway ride tonight, after a long week of work, was enough to spark some curiosity in my tired brain. Explain please...
  • Monks with cell phones and Rolex watches
  • My first day, being given a long narrow rod to strike students who misbehave
  • Old ladies standing while young ones sit
  • Kids sleeping in class
  • Cafeteria lunches with walnuts-octopus specials, a side of seaweed soup
  • Korean students fluent in Russian
  • Six cats seen within ten minutes in a catless country
  • Three car accidents in front of our apartment in less than a week...wait...make that four

September 6, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire

Dear Everyone,

So when I was complaining about the food at our seminar I had no idea that soon fishy food would be the least of my problems. Trev and I moved into Seoul from the retreat on last Friday. So, so, so much has happened since then.

First, we were greeted by our Korean co-teachers and were each taken around our new schools. We met the staff and we both got a glimpse of our classrooms, and consequently lives, for the next year. This part was great, it is what follows that has caused so much drama. The night before leaving the retreat we were told that our housing money had been dismissed and that we were going to be staying in school housing. There was nothing that we could do about the problem at that time as we were not in Seoul and were secluded at the center in Suwon. So we arrived in Seoul expecting to come to some agreement with our schools about our provided housing. We were secretly hoping that the house that they would be providing would be sufficient and that they would let Kimchi live with us. We could not have been more wrong. My teachers dropped me off at the Co-op, the school housing, after our brief introduction. We were greeted at the door by a man who told me that Trevor and I could not have people stay in our room, there could be no "outside" food in our room (whatever that means) and that we could under no circumstances have a dog. My kind and generous teachers who were as baffled as I was helped me carry my bags to our room and watched as I opened the door and burst into tears. Our accommodations were no larger than a small hotel room. My staff voiced their disgust and left us for the weekend to get some rest.

This is when we phoned Pastor Bill. He had been looking around for apartments for us the week before and when we had heard that we HAD to stay in school accommodations (no exceptions we were told) we had asked him to hold on the searching. He came right over and within 24 hours he had moved us out of the Co-op and helped us sign a contract on a very spacious three bedroom apartment that was in a neighborhood close to two subway lines and right smack in the middle of both of our schools. Not to mention he helped us find furniture from people in the church, obtain a cell phone (free of charge), buy new appliances and move all of our belongings from one end of the city to the other. God really does care for his children. I have never seen life move so quickly and smoothly as it did last weekend. We thank Pastor Bill and his family for all of their help, but the real miracles came from God.

So our struggle is not over right now we are praying that the government will give us funding for our housing like it says they will in our contract. We are in negotiations right now and as of today it looks as if we will get our funding. This is not for sure yet, but this is just another step where we have to trust that God will provide. He has brought us this far and I am sure that he is not going to drop us now.

We are happy in our apartment, it is a good fit for us. We have a few too many rooms but it is a welcome change from last year when we were so cramped. And now we have room and time to spend with anyone who may happen to pop into Korea. We love our new schools and although it will be a challenge to teach 700 plus students, who have a level 0 in English, how to speak it will be exactly what we both want to be doing.

Thank you for your prayers. God is faithful.
Rachel and Trevor

September 1, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Disgusting

Let's start with the good news. We are back in Korea for yet another year of adventures, learning and embarrassing cultural blunders. This coming year we will both be working for the Seoul Metropolitan Board of Education. We are excited about this change as its perks include holidays together, close interaction with Korean teachers, and life in a neighborhood which is close to our church.

Now for the not-so-attractive side of our new lives...

For our first week back in Korea we were stationed at a retreat center, south of Seoul, in a city named Yongin (close to Suwon). While the scenery was beautiful and the air was clean, the food left something to be desired... well a lot to be desired. Above is a picture of breakfast one morning. Now Koreans are not famous for their breakfasts but this is something else altogether. What you see above is a combination of all of the dinners that we had failed to finish the nights previous. If you look closely you can probably pick out that the chunks are large pieces of fish (skin, eyes, bones and all). And I am sure if you inspect just a little more carefully you will find that there are remnants of kimchi, old vegetables, pork, a few chunks of chicken and if you are lucky you may find a hot dog somewhere in the mess. Yum, Yum!!