Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sherlock Holmes

Here are a few observations I've made.

While riding the bus today, I suddenly realized that when the bus jerked to a halt, everyone's head bobbed in unison. I thought it was funny.

Sometimes, there is nowhere to sit on the bus. So I stand and hold onto one of the plastic rings. I imagine I'm surfing.

Today, I scared one of the secretaries for the second time. I usually try and come to work a little early. I walked around the corner and she wasn't expecting anybody so she jumped and gave a little squeak. Am I a bad person because I chuckled inside?

I walked through the snow the other day and really enjoyed the "pop" sound every time I stepped. I intentionally began walking in fresh snow just so I could hear that satisfying sound.

I bought some strawberries from a street vendor and gave them to my treasured speaking class.

The kids stumbled upon my journal. At first, they thought that they'd hit the jackpot. Then they realized that I wrote in cursive. It might as well be another language too them. They were sad. It reminded me of when I was a child. My parents would write a list of the Christmas gifts they were going to get me. Then they'd stick it on the refrigerator... Problem for me was that it was written in cursive. I vowed I would learn cursive before the next Christmas. Unfortunately, my parents wised-up and stopped taping the list to the fridge. But I'm pretty sure that's why I prefer to use cursive to this day.

I ran out of stickers to give to kids who get 100 percent on their tests. So now I do origami for them. Ninja stars for the boys and flowers for the girls. I'm sure my little sister, Jenna, would ask for a ninja star though.

My student Annie is a Harry Potter fanatic. She claims he is her boyfriend. Someday, maybe I'll have the heart to tell her that he's not real.

Today, in the middle of class, my student Mark yelled, "He is dirty!" I glanced over just in time to watch Daniel pull a big one from his nose and flick it at John2. I think I almost wet myself, it was so funny.

There is a machine that yells at me every morning as I walk to school. It is some sort of game... I think you're supposed to punch it or something.

Today, I walked through the middle of 4 white doves. I have never seen them before. My first thought was that they must have escaped from a magician... then I realized God must have sent them to let me know I was blessed or something (and I probably shouldn't try and kick them). I almost busted out the camera, but after careful consideration, decided this was something I just couldn't photograph.

The lady at "Isaac's" (a sandwhich shop) is very friendly and is trying to teach me. She tells me the Korean name for things... I'm not a very good student... I don't think I've really learned anything from her yet. On a side note, I think she might be a Christian. There is a Bible verse on the wall printed in Korean and English.

Rice wine, some light food, a round table, and a couple of friends makes for some deep, thoughtful conversation.

I have always trusted in my parents advice, and I will continue to do so. However, today I realized that I've entered a place where my parents have never been. At my age, my father was married and had a kid (if I did my math right). Does that mean that from this point on, it will be difficult for them to understand me? (did they ever understand me?) Before, they could always say, "Been there, done that, here's what I learned."

My surfboard.

Rice wine and a side order of deep conversation.

A wiseman once said, "Leave behind all these boys' philosophies - these over simple answers." (Lewis)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quotes, Kids, and (ice)Cream

First, some quotes I have recently found thought provoking.

"...relationships and the economic metaphor... We value friends. We invest in frienships. We have earned their trust. Shouldn't we exchange this for the free gift metaphor?" (paraphrased, Miller)

"There's no addiction like self-addiction." (Miller)

"Reverence for God, that is true wisdom." (Augustine)

"Going back is the quickest way on." (Lewis)

Now for the kids and icecream...

Who eats icecream on a snow day? Apparently not the person who bought this.

A wiseman once said, "A lie: Life is a story about me."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Lessons in Language

So I have taught myself to read Korean characters (though I am still quite slow). The Korean written language is hailed as the most efficient and scientific written language in the world. It consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. I wonder what language we'll use in eternity?

Here is how you spell my name:
라 이 언 (ra - ee - un)

Because many of the kids call me "Lion", I often say my name is:
서 저 (sha - ja)
This is Korean for "lion".



A wiseman once said, "I am all things to all men."

Friendly debate with Myself

Have you ever had an argument with yourself? Well, sometimes I think about questions people might ask me. Then I try and figure out how I might answer. Last night, before I finally drifted off to sleep, this is what went through my mind.

(anti-me) Give me one good reason why I should believe in God?

(me) Give me one good reason why I should not believe in God?

(anti-me) That's easy. Poverty. If there was really a God, he would fix poverty.

(me) What if I told you he already has? He's cured a poverty of the soul, the spirit, the inner-man. Physical poverty is simply a symptom of our spiritual poverty. If you don't accept the cure, then you will will never be healed. Until the whole world chooses to accept the cure, the symptom of physical poverty will continue to exist.

A wiseman, the Son of God, once said, "You will always have the poor..."
He also said, "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me."

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I took a walk around town. This is what I saw.
(click on any picture in my blog to enlarge it)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Prayer, Rabbits, and Hand Phones

I was pulled out of class the other day by my director Steve. At first, I thought the inevitable moment had come. I was busted. Perhaps I had accidentally leaned on the podium a little or maybe a parent had complained that I wasn't assigning enough homework.

But instead, he asked me to correct the spelling and sentence structure of a student's diary entry. The entry was a prayer addressed to God. Steve said he didn't pray, so he wasn't sure how to correct it. That's why he had grabbed me. At that moment, I felt truly honored. I was being asked to correct a prayer to God.

What do I know about prayer?
What right do I have to correct a prayer?
Why do I pray?
Does God listen?
Does it really accomplish anything?

I have done quite a bit of research on this subject and have come up with some solid ideas, but they are much too in depth for me to write about here.

For now, I will say... all I know is that God wants me to talk with him, and he says I should pray all the time. So I think that's what I'll do.

Here are several more photos from one of my conversation classes. This class is great. The girls are full of energy and that gives me energy. Someday, I plan to have a daughter.

Annie (The drama Queen). She is one of the best speakers in the class, yet everytime it is her turn, she throws her hands in the air and cries "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I am die!"

Classmates taking "hand-phone" (not cell phone) pictures.

Annie the natural comedian (Koreans would call her a gagwoman).

A wisegirl once cried, "I am die!"
and a foolish teacher said, "Poor, baby... Now please begin your interview."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Entertainer

I might just change my name to "Ryan the Entertainer" (said with a loud echoing voice).

I have come up with some of the dumbest tricks to help kids focus. And to break up the monotony for them.

Juggling has made me a hero. I get requests to juggle from kids I don't even know. I use it as a bribe... "If you work hard today, I will juggle for the last 5 minutes of class." It works like a charm.

I also do crazy human tricks... like making my arm look like it's broken. Sometimes I act silly... I sing the words in the book instead of reading them, or I read at hyper speed (one class in particular finds this highly amusing).

Today, I tried something new for my two "flexible" conversation classes. I hooked my ipod up to some speakers and played parts of 12 different songs from various genres. I asked the students to write down how they felt and what they thought about during each song. Tomorrow, they will answer some related questions for their interviews.

I have also created a popular blindfold game (I mean "special test") that helps students learn how to give directions and use complete sentences. I also use a number of other modified initiatives I learned while facilitating. (All of these I call "special tests").

One of these days, I just know I'm going to get caught... but I will push my luck as long as possible. It's so strange when you find yourself checking the window before you begin an activity. It feels like I'm breaking some rule (which I am), when I'm really just being creative and helping the students focus and learn in a different way.

Sally and Nancy (basically third graders) continue to carry my books for me. I'm approximately 20 steps away from their classroom, but they insist on helping me. Their young class is one of my most difficult and exciting.

Corporal punishment is allowed here. I never plan to use it. I believe there are much more effective ways to manage a child. Some of the teachers don't agree with me. If a student is behaving badly, they will force him to stand in front of the class with his hands held over his head for several minutes, or do pushups, or wall sits. Maybe I'm just an old softy.

Jean said today, "The kids are always touching you. That is very good. It means they like you. They want to be intimate." Ummm.. I guess that is a good thing, right?

Why is receiving compliments such a difficult thing? How does a person balance humility and confidence? Is it okay to receive praise?

A wiseman once said, "A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; wherever he turns, he succeeds."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Change and Trust

For the final essay topic, in the other writing class I teach, I asked,
"If you could change anything about yourself, what would you change?"

Many children wanted to be better at studying, others didn't want to have to wear glasses, others wanted to be funny, some wanted to be more positive and magnanimous, but the majority (all girls) wanted to be more beautiful.

Why? Why do we struggle to love ourselves? How do you tell a little Korean girl that a warm, loving spirit is a hundred, a thousand, a million times more beautiful than a pretty face? How do you tell her that God thinks she's a precious jewel?

In my interview class, I asked the girls to describe the man they wanted to marry someday. Their list went like this: (because then he'll become rich) 3.handsome 4.big house...

During the interviews, I was pulled out of my depressed state (because of this sad list) when Mickey said "I must be able to trust him." Upon further questioning, I learned that she had spoken with her mom about my question. Her mom had written an answer (in Korean), Mickey had translated it into English, and then Mickey used it in her interview. That made me glad.

Trust. I wish that was number one on all their lists. I pray they learn to trust God... and that they someday meet a man who they can trust.

Here is an essay from my writing class...

If I could be change anything about myself, I would be change me.

There are two reasons about it. First, nowdays, most korean appraise about shape. But I am not satisfied myself. I am not satisfied appearance, personality, brain, weight, height etc. There are so many things that I am not satisfied. I think my face is ugly, heavy, short, my brain is very bad. I don't like it. I want to be pretty, tall, thin and smart. And I am very weak. I often have colds. It is very pain. I want to be strong.

Second, if I am pretty, tall, thin and smart, they are envy me, I think it will be very happy, because many people interest about me.

So if I could change about myself, I could be change me. Because nowdays, most korean appraise about shape and many people are envy me.


A wiseman once said, "A wife of noble character who can find?"..."Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Hero gives one more chance

For the final essay, I asked, "What are the characteristics of a Hero?"

This is an essay from one of my students without any corrections from me...

There is many hero in our life. I think each people have their own hero in there mind. I also have hero. My hero is the Almighty God who loves me so much. Maby, our family's hero will be God.

In bible, there say that he love us so much as he sacrifice his son and save us in us sin.

We are a criminal before his sun die. We couldn't go to the kindom of haven, becaus every body have a sin. But now, we can be forgiven by him when we pray him "Sorry God. Give me one more chance." This things also tell us about his love to us.

Many people know I think. I'm really bright and I never have been desperate or sad. I'm all ways happy. Some times, I am angry, but most of time, I'm happy. Where this happy come from? The answer is God. He give me power and happyness. He also make me brave and never think about desperate.

All of thing that I tell here is true. When I think of him, I'm very comfort. When I think him, my sadness or other bad things disappeared fastly. So he is my best hero. Thank you for reading my sentences.


It was once said, "A man's hero is also his God."
And someone else said, "All of thing I tell here is true."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Round about Seoul

Brian, one of my flatmates, and I decided to get out of the apartment and poke around Seoul for the day.

The 7000 Bus to Seoul

Subway Sandwhich (made of people).

Eric, this one's for you.


Two locals. Probably thinking about mugging me.

Double Trouble

This guy sang and played "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (in Korean of course).

This dude (yes, dude) was just awesome.

Our ride up to Seoul Tower.

Packed in like sardines (why doesn't anybody ever say "packed in like sticks of gum"? The world may never know.)

More sticks of gum. Ha!

Stealth shot of myself (is that even possible).

They have street portrait drawing people here too!

Dad, do you ever look like this?

Seoul Tower

Had to get a photo of the cotton candy lady.

Finished up with some night shopping.

A wiseman once said, "Happiness recedes from those that pursue her."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Peanut Butter saved my life

So I never realized how versatile peanut butter is. Did you know you can eat it with just about anything? Currently, it is one of my staple foods. I'm not sure what I would do without it. Probably eat shoe leather.

I want to understand that I can't ever truly understand.

lectio divina (spiritual reading). Augustine describes it as having four parts.
1. read
2. meditate
3. rest in the sense of God's nearness
4. resolve to govern one's actions in light of new understanding

Augustine says "spiritual reading is an act of prayer". I would like to practice this form of prayer. It speaks to me in some way I don't quite understand.

"You cannot corrupt God with your sins. Even when you try and hurt him, instead you do horrible damage to your own soul." (paraphrased, Augustine)

I was thinking that it might be nice to leave this world at the same time as a friend. I mean, I can't wait to experience God's presence, but it might be a bit scary, and having a friend there would be comforting. Maybe "scary" is the wrong word. Maybe "overwhelming" is a better fit. I think I'll just be so overwhelmed by God's awesomeness that I'll freeze up and stutter a lot.

Now I need to unpack that thought... What do you mean, Ryan? Don't you experience God's presence now? How can a Christian not be in God's presence every moment of his life? I don't know. It's sort of a strange paradox. People always talk about going to heaven and finally talking with God face-to-face, but in the next breath they say how powerfully their life has changed since meeting Him. There must be something special here I am missing. Something about how blessed are the ones that believe without seeing. This is by no means a closed case. I need to let my mind and heart work on this one a little more.

I wonder... Will Jenna ever read these scribblings of mine?

A wiseman once said, "All my years are contained in God's today." (paraphrased, Augustine)

From the mouth of a Child

I asked one of my classes to give me some proverbs, pieces of wisdom, for my little sister Jenna. This is what I got (printed exactly as I got them, misspellings and all):

Old men are twice children.
Two dogs strive for a bone, and a tired runs away with it.

A newborn baby has no fear of tigers.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Finding's keeping.
-no name

Out of sight out of mine.
It is no use crying over spiltmilk.
Old man's head. Young man's hand.

Nature admits not a lie.
-no name

Time flies like an arrow and time lost never returns.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Never judge by appearances.

Near road give up far road go.

A barking dog never bites.

Knowledge is power.

No news is go news.
One good turns deserves onother.
Knowledge is pawer.
Even though the sky is falling, there is a way that you can survive.
-no name

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tired (pronounced "tee-red").

Mentally, I'm exhausted. Physically, I'm exhausted. During "intensives", I essentially work a 12 hour day with a 50 minute break for lunch.

My throat is a bit sore. My feet are tired. My thoughts are sluggish. Thankfully, I feel I am surviving quite well, but I definitely look forward to the regular schedule when things slow down a little.

Many of the other teachers are really struggling with the load. Tempers are hot and words are angry.

I would like to be deep. Mostly because it helps me sort through my thoughts; it stretches me mentally; it challenges others; and I enjoy it. But you know when people start talking all spiritual and deep and they end up sounding silly. Well, I'd like to avoid that.

So I try and pray every morning on the bus. I pray for my family, friends, co-workers, my students, and myself. Sometimes, it's really really hard. I suddenly discover I'm saying the same things over and over again. "Sorry God, I just said that... okay, back to my list of people..." I either get distracted, or I'm just tired. Maybe that's why people close their eyes when they pray.

Have you ever tried to sit and listen to the silence of God's voice? Well, I have. And it never really seems to work that well. Why do I have so much mental noise? On the other hand, I've learned that taking the time to listen has always been worth it.

Somehow the children here are supposed to be encouraged by this saying...

A fool once said, "Get some sleep, dude."
(oh yeah, that was me talking to myself)

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Why do I take photos?
There is the beauty of the photo itself. The thrill of the hunt. The butterflies in the stomach when you know you've captured something amazing.

And then I started thinking... when I enter eternity, will I stop taking pictures? I mean, it will be pointless, right? Will people still paint? Will people still throw pots? Will there still be art?

Perhaps I take photos because they are little pieces of eternity. Pieces of timelessness. We're not meant for time. We were built to last forever. Photographs somehow remind me of that.

A wiseman once said, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Genuine Thoughts

Be real. That's something I often tell myself. But what does that "really" mean? I thought I was real all the time. Perhaps "Be genuine" is closer to what I mean. I want to be honest with myself about how I feel. About what I think about. That is what I want others to see. That I am, what I appear to be.

A wiseman, the Son of God, once said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."

What is in my heart? Maybe the better question is, "What is flowing out of my mouth?" Because that will tell me what is in my heart. So what is the answer? Words of praise? Words of love? Words that build up? Words that teach? Words that are genuine?

I believe some might call this "ironic".

A fool once asked a wise child, "May I take your picture?"
And the wise child gazed at him slightly lifting her brow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I often receive small gifts from my students. A wrapped chocolate (or sometimes an unwrapped chocolate). An orange. A donut. A cracker. It's sort of silly, but I think it's cool.

I feel very comfortable here. When I enter shops or stores and find a communication barrier, I don't feel flustered or embarassed. I simply grin and shrug. Somehow, things always seem to work out.

Today, I accidentally made a little mistake. I wrote down some students' names using a red pen and they started whispering and giggling. They started saying, "Teacher write bad!" I said, "What are you talking about? My handwriting is excellent." I then learned that if you write a person's name in red, it means they are dead or will die. It's bad luck. The kids quickly put a black pen in my hand and asked me to write over their names.

At my school, there are a total of six foreign teachers and three Korean teachers. The Korean teachers teach grammar, because it is easier to teach English grammar if one speaks Korean.

When I give or receive something, I must use two hands. If I am unable to grab the object with two hands, I must place my free hand on the elbow of the arm that is taking the object (I know it sounds confusing, but it's really quite simple). This is a sign of respect.

Koreans rarely smile in public (I can't even recall a time I saw a Korean laugh in public).

Koreans cannot be friends unless they are the same age. If there is an age difference, Koreans call each other "older brother, younger brother, older sister, or younger sister". They would not use the word friend.

The Korean teachers, Jean, and my flatmate John.

It snowed for two days. Then most of it melted.

I'm working on my sneaky candid shots. I took this photo by hiding my camera in my jacket. Not bad, eh?

A wiseman once said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
And Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

A Day in the Life...

7:00 AM: My alarm goes off about this time... I promptly reset the alarm for 7:15.
7:15 AM: I get up and take a shower.
7:30 AM: I make some pancakes.
8:00 AM: I take the elevator down from my apartment on the 10th floor.
8:10 AM: I get on the number 98 bus (standing room only) and pay 850W (85 cents).
8:30 AM: I arrive at Ewha, the language school I work at (on the 6th floor).
8:45 AM: I grade some essays.
9:00 AM: I have my first class of the day. Reading level 98 (levels go from 96-106).
9:05 AM: I take role and write down the names of the missing students. I write their Korean names using the Korean characters. Then I shut the paper in the door. One of the secretaries swoops by and rips it out of the door... it disappears like magic. Sometimes the children jump in surprise.
9:10 AM: I check that everyone has done their homework and initial their homework sheets (which have also been signed by their parents).
9:15 AM: We open our reading book and each child reads a paragraph. Sometimes we must read the same page several times so that everyone gets a chance.
9:30 AM: I ask comprehension questions and explain words or concepts I think the children may not understand.
9:35 AM: I write down the homework for the day.
9:40 AM: Crazy music begins playing... this signals the end of the class (it seriously sounds like circus music or something).
9:45 AM: Quick break. I put together needed materials for the next class.
9:50 AM: Class number two. Reading level 99. This class is full of energy. Some classes sit in silence and it is a real chore to get them to participate... but not level 99. No, they are nearly out of control... so of course I love them. I attempted to teach them "Eric's game" today. I called it a "special test"... not a game. It was a disaster and very fun.
10:30AM: Quick break.
10:40AM: Class number three. Reading level 97. This class is difficult because the children barely understand English. We read things like... Good dog, Rover.
11:20AM: Quick break.
11:25AM: Class number four. Reading level 103. The reading is extremely difficult. The kids are older. They barely understand what they are reading. I spend much of the class helping them summarize the reading. I have also given them tips on how to answer reading comprehension questions. The first day, I busted out the "process of elimination", "method of inferring (reading between the lines)", and "scanning (or skimming)". I just made the stuff up as it came to me. Jean, observed my class and afterwards told me that she was very impressed by how prepared I was (I wanted to laugh. I hadn't prepared a thing.)

... Anyway, I think you get the point. I get home around 9:00 PM. Eat, email, and then sleep.

A wiseman once said, "A lazy man eats no bread."

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Today, my fellow teacher, John, asked one of the Korean teachers what she believed. She replied, "I am a Christian." John then asked her, "Why?" To which she didn't answer.

I started to think... What would my answer be? And why do these basic questions stump me over and over again?

Shouldn't I have a convincing two or three sentence response by now? That's when I realized why I didn't have an instant answer...

My Answer:
Do you truly have time to hear about the WHY of my belief? Are you willing to sit for awhile? Are you willing to learn about me? Because my answer is my life. The people I've met. The experiences I've lived through. Evidence for God's existence began as a single snowflake and grew into an avalanche. I have no simple answer. I know only that God is, and forever will be, a mystery. "And He cares for me as though I am the only one, and He cares for you in the same manner" (paraphrased, Augustine).

Andy, Erick, Shawn


Kate and ... others

Annie and Cindy

John and Nancy


God once said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."