Why I Teach

(This has been edited for grammar, eliminating redundancies, and clarification of certain ideas – that being said, I’m still not satisfied with this, I think I can do a better job and will likely further add content to clarify and create depth)

As I prepare to begin a small group here in Korea and finally get back into the saddle of ministry on a more long-term basis, I’ve found myself doing a lot of reading, reflecting, and writing. Hopefully this has helped enable me to articulate why I actively pursue opportunities to teach and why I want to do so for the rest of my life. This is something I want to tell my small group, but this is also something I’ve found myself wanting to tell a lot of people that I’ve encountered along the way: the confused supporters, the naysayers, the confusingly overwhelming champions of my “cause,” and many others. I add this last part because for as much love and support as I have received, a lot of it seems to be based on incorrect or incomplete ideas of what I am aiming to do, why I want to do it, and what ideals I’m actually upholding (academic integrity and critical thinking don’t always uphold an Evangelical Christian worldview).

Knowledge can empower. I have lived my entire life seeing people being hurt by the things they did not know and watching people hurt others because of things they did not know. I have been both a giver and a receiver in the ignorance just described. Knowledge, when used correctly (and how to use knowledge well is yet another thing to teach), can pull people out of hardship and enable us to change the broken systems around us. When it comes to finding a voice for the voiceless, as much as I like the idea of being the voice for them, I find it better to teach them to find and be a voice of their own. Knowledge can do that.

I want to be a champion of the truth and the openness and variety of the world. For a long time I had been allowed a view of a Christianity and a Jesus that only thought in the same ways that my teachers and I did. I had been given an existential box, and as anyone who was around me my senior year of high school can attest, I was wildly swinging between fighting as hard as I could against anything that threatened my box and accepting and working with the concept that it was ok to be wrong (epistemic [what I do and do not know] humility was not my strong suit, and there are some days where it still isn’t). If I had wound up going to any public or secular private institution for my bachelor’s degree, the chances are that I probably would not be a Christian today… or at least I hope that would have been the case because the alternative would have been that I welded my existential box shut from all external input and in my opinion that would be a fate far worse than its opposite. Instead, I went to a Christian institution that blew my box and my world into a million pieces. I was taught the vastness of Christian faith and life and belief… and the vastness of the world. For having lived in another country around other people who believed so differently than me, I was still very narrow-minded and thoroughly convinced that everyone else was wrong. When finally brought to a different perspective, I became frustrated that I had been allowed my previous perspective for so long when there had been so many opportunities to prevent it from forming or to correct it. For a variety of reasons I had been allowed to continue in my ignorance, part of that being that youth ministry is a really difficult job and you don’t always have the time and availability to overhaul a student’s broken perspective. I want to help people to better believe what they believe and to better practice what they practice. I want them to know the options available to them, even if those options go against what I personally believe is good and helpful. I want them to know that we won’t always know everything, and that we make some pretty big mistakes sometimes. I want them to know that God is so much bigger than the categories we try to use to comprehend Him, and that can make things messy sometimes. I want them to know that they are loved and why.

I want to be a source of love and comfort and right relationship. The three highest priorities I have been given are right relationship between humanity and God, right relationship between humanity and itself (so for individuals a right relationship with themselves and a right relationship with others), and right relationship with the rest of Creation. Right relationship means not just the absence of conflict but the presence of love and care. So often I have seen and felt the many sources of pain present in day to day life, and I want to help redeem that and I want to help people to know that they are never alone and that they are loved and cared for, not just by God, but by the people around them. I want to create a place where it is safe for people to be vulnerable and not always right or ok and open to moving toward something better, and I believe a small group is a place to do that. Teaching isn’t all about bigger, broader, and better data sets. It is also about leading, living, and learning by example and by being part of a deep and trusting relationship with those you are alongside.

Finally, becoming a teacher is the best thing I could do with my talents. In my mind I have plotted the overthrow of governments and the upheaval of political systems, and raised up a hundred governments that stood for justice and the value of its citizens in place of those overthrown governments. I have mentally designed the downfall of dictators and corrupt politicians and lobbying groups and corporations. These are all things that I believe myself perfectly capable of doing, but they would require me to break all of the values that I hold dear and become the worst of all examples, mimicking the God I believed in as a child when saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Instead of tearing down and destroying and attempting to recreate in my flawed image, I want to build up something worthwhile that helps bring life and love into the world. Teaching and mentoring and befriending is how I believe I can do that. If I can do one thing, it is to foster right relationship between humanity and God, humanity and itself, and humanity with the rest of creation.

Thanks for reading, grace and peace unto y’all,

Andrew

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Facing Fear

I wrote this post on the night of Thursday, September 12th, 2013, but didn’t manage to finish the editing and refining process until recently (Thursday, September 19th). The reason why I am writing this is because I know I’m not the only one who struggles with fear and anxiety, and because I haven’t been able to relate well to people who felt fear in the past. Plus, it needs to be out there and known for the people who interact with me, but it’s generally a bit of a problem to randomly bring up in group conversations. Finally, my friends and community need to know how much I do value and appreciate them and enjoy their company even when I’m an internal mess of fear and anxiety. Now, let’s get this show on the road.

So, this article is going to be a bit of a “part II” to my “Depression in Christian Life” blog post. I certainly wasn’t intending for there to be a follow up post, but tonight I was given the opportunity for a bit of an epiphany.

However, before I continue with that, it’s going to be necessary to give a little bit of personal back story. I’m going to be a bit vague on the details of where and when out of respect for the wishes of the other parties involved, but that shouldn’t affect the point. When I started college, my ultimate goal in life was to become a youth pastor. Most people would ask me what I would do afterwards, and I would tell them, “There is no afterwards, I’ll probably be a youth pastor until the day that I retire, and even then I hope to hang out with the youth at my church and serve as a mentor and friend.” My entire identity was shaped around this idea and when I thought of myself, I thought of myself as a youth pastor. That was my primary vocational role and goal. Later on in college, I realized some of my gifting and calling to academia and that it would be worthwhile to pursue, but my primary goal and aim was to still be a youth pastor. I figured that once I got older and a little more physically unsteady I could use my savings to complete my education and become a professor at that time; being a youth pastor was a huge part of me. Fast forward a bit, and a while after I graduated, I finally landed my first full-time youth pastor gig. Things were a little shaky, and I figure that’s because this was my first full-time gig. However, within a month and a half of my having started my job at that church my time at that church was ended. I didn’t see it coming. I thought things were going well and I was preparing for a summer program that I was excited about when I was called into the senior pastor’s office. I didn’t have much of a relationship with the senior pastor at that church, if only because the senior pastor was very busy and we didn’t often cross paths in the midst of that work. The person I was most frequently in contact with and building a relationship with was the associate pastor. So, when I walked into that office the only reason I knew something had gone wrong was when I saw the look on the face of the one person in the room who I was sure was my friend (and that person has continued to treat me as such, even to this day). My world was destroyed that day.

Along with all of the logistics of living in a new town with a new lease with no job, the way I perceived myself was damaged. In the ending process, I was informed (this is paraphrased) that I would make a good teacher, but was not someone who should be in charge of a youth group. The goal and person I had spent more than four years of my life at becoming was devalued by the people who had offered me my first opportunity to fully live into that existence. By the end of the day, I had seriously considered suicide and had made sure that I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in an entirely different but much more familiar city. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know who I was. This wasn’t because I no longer believed that I could be an effective youth pastor, but because I eventually came to realize that the kind of youth pastor that I would like to be is incompatible with many churches. My goals for youth ministry would not be able to accomplished within the current context of youth ministry as I am now. My talents are in creating depth and intelligence and knowledge, in building relationships and using those relationships to empower others, and in taking a long view of things when setting my goals. I’m not very good at growing numbers and I sometimes struggle to understand what creates a fun environment for certain age groups. So, it’s pretty obvious to me now that I have a lot I need to work and grow on if I ever want to return to full-time youth ministry. That being said, I doubt I ever will. I can no longer trust a church to help me provide for myself or any hypothetical future family that I might have and I still have difficulties trusting church communities at all (for example, when I started returning to church, I had to fight off panic attacks simply sitting in the back pew). I have been told by many of my mentors and people who referenced me for that job in the first place that it was the church’s fault, not mine for the loss of the job, and that makes sense to me, but it hasn’t helped me rebuild much trust in those possibilities or communities.

Now to the present. Ever since I’ve moved to Korea I’ve found myself experiencing a deep seated sense of unease and fear, and that fear has occasionally made starting a different chapter in my life here in Korea a little bit difficult. It has been severe enough that I will find myself sometimes delaying going to social events that I usually look forward to or skipping them entirely if the fear is bad enough. I have found myself drawing comfort from solitude because it’s the one place where there aren’t any hidden expectations that will cause people to reject me, which is highly unusual for me, as I am both historically and currently, a people person. Tonight, I finally figured out the source of that fear and discomfort, that is my epiphany. The question I have been asking myself in the back of my mind is this: “when will it all fall apart again?” which is then followed by “what will I accidentally do or not do to make it happen?”

It’s weird realizing that even though my body and physical life has left that particular valley behind, my soul still hasn’t. Even though I’ve been told it’s not my fault, it still feels like it is. It feels like it can be simply summarized as a “you aren’t good enough” statement, and I’m irrationally worried that I’m still not good enough for life over here, or life at all. If I make the wrong mistake, if I say the wrong thing, if I put my foot in my mouth at just the wrong moment (I used to do this a lot, but now I don’t as much if only for fear that my speaking will ruin everything) that my plans here will fall apart and that it will happen again. I’m not sure what would be worse, having to go back to the U.S. because I screwed some unknown and unexpected thing up, or having a job here but having no one to spend time with because I said the wrong thing at the wrong time.

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I hate being so afraid. I hate being unable to just power through momentary instances of fear like I’m accustomed to doing. Stoicism and the practices of self-discipline haven’t been doing it for me anymore. I know that I don’t have control over a great many things and I do my best to own up to that fact, but it still hasn’t stopped me from being afraid. It’s even more frustrating because both my job and my friends here haven’t given me a reason to feel this fear. They have been wonderful to me and very open and accepting and yet I’m still having moments where hiding from the world seems like a smarter move. I’m an extraordinarily people energized person who has suddenly become afraid of people. Just tonight I had a moment of panic when I realized that I’d been acting in a rather petulant manner. A friend started a game where a dichotomy was proposed and for the purposes of the discussion that it would create, you had to give an answer within that dichotomy, but my oversensitive BS detector pinged so hard (on account of the false dichotomies) that the point of the game (relationship building and discussion rather than victory) sailed right over my head. At the point where I realized what I’d been doing, my fear kicked in and I started talking like even more of a dummy. At that point, the question came back “When is it going to fall apart and what will you do to cause it? Well, this is it, they’re just going to be fed up with me,” is what wound up going through my head as we talked, but they still gave the appearance of at least accepting my company and at the end of the day, nothing was said about it. My fear is wrong yet again as it has been every single time so far, but that still hasn’t stopped it from remaining as a persistently annoying houseguest with no intention of leaving.

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Yet again, this is one of those areas where my upbringing in the Church hasn’t been a lot of help. The topic of fear was generally discussed in terms of is obsolescence, not of its realities. It was usually a lot of anti-fear Bible-verse lobbing. “If God is for us who can be against us?” “We were not given a spirit of fear…” Etc. Again, it fails to address the realities of day-to-day life and turns into a lot of finely-crafted leather-bound serif-font word vomit (oy the hyphens!) when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road. There are some ills that a Bible can’t cure, which is to be expected, given that it was never intended to be the end-all cure-all in the Christian community. That function and expectation was added much later within the history of the Church, and only by certain groups within it. A lot of the things I’ve had to learn about fear have been the hard way, now more so than ever. As it turns out, when you take someone who is habitually afraid of almost everything and put them in a new environment, the fears from their old environment don’t go away (at least not right away) and some new ones get added in. Of course, along with that is one of the downsides of the theological system that I subscribe to: free will. I am free not just to succeed, but also screw-up in the worst ways possible. God doesn’t have my future set in stone, though He does have an ideal path that He would like for me to follow. So, of course the fear is that my not-good-enoughness can and will get in the way, and that my not-good-enoughness will be too much for me to recover from it a second time.

Of course, the way people face fear is largely subjective but of course the first step is usually to realize that you are in fact, afraid. Unfortunately, it has been so persistent for me that I only realize that I’m acting out of fear after having hidden away behind a book or the internet for hours on end when there was something more important to do involving people. My usual strategy with things I have been afraid of has usually just been to get a running start and go for it. This works well for things like cliff jumping, bull-fighting, and opposing alien invasions, but for more long-term things like day-to-day life and going to group events when you are at your relational best in individual settings, it hasn’t turned out so well. The place where I have most often found peace is the recitation of liturgy. Sometimes that liturgy is a certain prayer, such as the “Serenity Prayer,” other times it is the recitation of the Creeds, that have been a part of the life and practice of the Church throughout most of its history. However, this is not enough. So, of course, some of the usual methods: listening to calming music (I recently created a playlist specifically for when I’m agitated), going for a walk, exercising, and surrounding myself in music even when I’m in public but don’t want to interact.

However, once again, the most effective thing I have found to help me with my fear is the presence of a trusted and loving community, which is of course difficult when your fear keeps you from the biggest thing around that can help you. That community will help you to build that thing that best overcomes fear: trust. The reason why I was able to recover at all from what had happened is because I had people that I trusted, people that I could go to and rest and be safe. Much like there are safe places to be depressed, there are also safe places to be afraid. It is an odd thing to say, but returning to the life you used to have, or a life you’ve never had before, will take courage. It won’t be an absence of fear, but it will be the ability to regularly overcome it and say, “Today, I will not be broken” and on the days where fear snuck up on you and took your time, you can say, “I may have begun my day with fear, but I will not go to bed with it. Tomorrow, I will not be broken.” As I write this, I know for a fact that I’m not there yet. Apparently recovery isn’t over once you’ve left the valley, it’s something you get to walk with for a while. So, while I once counted myself sufficient to overthrow corrupt systems and bring reform, for now I get to overcome the challenges of walking out my front door and actually going somewhere with people who will have expectations of me. For the moment, all I have to say to that is this:

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Moral Responsibility and the Value of People

Imagine, if you will, a young woman from your church. This young woman is active in the worship band, has volunteered in the nursery, and is a leader among her peers in the youth group. Then she gets pregnant.

Imagine a young man with a mental disorder. He does his best to take his medication, but the medication is expensive and it’s difficult for him and his family to afford it, because his condition makes holding employment difficult for him, and has been draining on his parent’s economic resources as well. He takes his medication, but even when medicated, he still sometimes struggles to interact socially and has occasional difficulties with more severe episodes of his particular disorder.

Are either of these people someone we’d be happy to see on our own time and schedule? Are either of these people someone we’d be happy to see in our church come Sunday morning? Are either of these people someone we’d be happy to see coming to join us at our table at lunch after the church service when we didn’t invite them?

Having grown up in the Church, I’ve heard a lot about personal responsibility for one’s actions (and I still do hear it on occasion). I’m all for personal responsibility for our actions. Owning what we do is an important step in the process of becoming wiser and more mature. However, the thing about personal responsibility that I’m not such a fan of is when it is used as an excuse to increase the pain and consequence that is already present in another person’s situation. Mistakes get made, and as a general rule, they don’t need any help from us to bring about consequences. Consider our young woman. As many who have children or have had children can attest, having kids changes the course of your life. You are no longer free to just go about as you please, your time is no longer your own, and some of the things you were wanting to do in your non-child life have to be put on hold indefinitely if not cancelled outright. If our young woman is lucky, her parents will be able and willing to help her raise the child and she will still have the opportunity to go to college, thus drastically increasing her ability to provide for the child. However, if she’s unlucky, then she will be in a community that will encourage her parents to punish her for her disobedience and recommend kicking her not just out of the church community, but out of the house as well. If we are that community, then we have stoned the young woman in every aspect but her body. We, as a people who worship and emulate a risen Savior who has overcome a world that is defined by sin in so many ways, have allowed sin to cover up the worth of this young woman and to cover up the relationship we had with her… and this sin that covers doesn’t belong to her. There is a time and place for discipline, but in a place with such drastic and life altering consequences, there are better ways to go about ensuring that good lessons are learned.

Then consider our young man. Time and time again within the Church, I’ve heard people talk about mental disabilities as a matter of willpower and prayer. “If they just thought about it hard enough, disciplined themselves, and wanted it badly enough, they’d be ‘fixed’ and able to live a good life.” I’m not a psychologist, but common sense empowers me to point out the error in this assumption. If the brain isn’t working properly (chemical imbalances, physical damage, etc.), then to rely on the brain to fix itself is probably a bad game plan (and if you still think it’s doable, I have a self-help book to publish and then sell you). As for prayer, it certainly helps, but generally not by producing a cure. As a belief system that affirms and believes in the miraculous, we have sometimes gotten into the bad habit of asking God to fill our stomachs when there is already food on the table and all we have to do is eat it. In this case, it’s a little less obvious because medical care and medication is expensive, and there is still much we don’t know about psychological disorders, but there is still treatment available. To reduce him to someone who is simply to be prayed for, or shunned and feared because we think his condition makes him more of a threat or a problem/inconvenience than a person, does not do him any good. Furthermore, he sees this fear and the stigma that’s attached to him. He knows what it is, and what it means. Mental disability doesn’t make someone stupid. He knows that you’re afraid, and it makes him afraid and it makes him hurt, because he’d probably give up a leg and kidney just to be able to form something that resembles some of the good relationships that he sees around him. Unfortunately, this social isolation generally increases the difficulties in dealing with the disorder. If we continue this isolation, then we have chained up this young man in the wilderness in every aspect but his body. We, treat this man like a leper, like the demoniac on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, and in doing so we tell him, you are not welcome at the table and deny him fellowship.

If you’d like to understand a little more about what it feels like for him, watch this video:

Now for a little lesson on psychology and sociology (from a layman’s point of view; I am in no way a subject matter expert): our environment influences what we do. This does not remove personal responsibility for our actions. At the end of the day, it is us in control of our bodies. However, the combined impacts of social influence, emotional state, culture, personal history, immediate physical environment, and even how much we’ve had to eat recently (among many other factors that I can’t name off the top of my head) can tip the probability of our acting in certain ways so far in a certain direction that it is almost guaranteed that a certain set of actions and reactions will happen within us. This same idea is known and intentionally applied in everything from the police eliciting a confession to us causing someone else to laugh at a joke. These principles are present everywhere in our daily lives, though often on a less obvious and intentional level as we interact with others and even ourselves. What this means is that the proper combination of factors can lead someone to act in ways that are generally considered to be outside of their character, beliefs, and upbringing (for example, our young woman could very well be very firmly against premarital sex, but due to immense societal pressure on her to have sex, the cultural assertion that her value is based primarily in how she looks/functions as a sex object [in starting a topic for another day, this cultural assertion exists in our churches as well], lots of stress from high expectations, the natural and healthy human desire to be loved and accepted, teenage hormones, and particularly pushed emotional buttons can bring about a decision making process that leads to sex rather than what she has been usually taught to recognize as the “right choice”; or it could be that she just got sick of everyone always telling her what to do and how to think and dress and be). Again, somewhere in there is a choice, but it’s like trying to choose to drink the one part of a waterfall that is clean, fresh spring water when you are getting the entire deluge of a river filled with fish crap dropped on your head. You may seek the proper outcome, but the chances of you successfully bringing it about are pretty low.

FAILURE

The caption reads: “Failure, it takes a lot of work sometimes”

Now, understandably, part of the Christian value system is to stand against sin and encourage a sense of personal responsibility. We know that we are called to be a holy people, set apart for the purposes of God, but is “standing up” sufficient to accomplish these purposes? This question is answered well by N.T. Wright (a well-known Anglican Theologian) in his sermon “The Road to New Creation”:  

“Religion in the western world has been less and less about the renewal of creation and more and more about escaping from this wicked world and going to a better place, called “heaven” – going there ultimately when we die, but going there by anticipation in the present through prayer and meditation. This essentially other-worldly hope and spirituality has fought its corner robustly against the materialism which has insisted that the only things that exist are things you can touch and see and money you can put in your pocket.

But if you turn Christian faith into simply the hope for pie in the sky when you die, and an escapist spirituality in the present (emphasis mine), you turn your back on the theme which makes sense of the whole Bible, which bursts upon us in everything that Jesus the Messiah did and said, which is highlighted particularly by his resurrection from the dead. A religion that forgets about new creation may feel some sympathy for the battered and bedraggled figure in the ditch, but its message to him will always be that though we can help him a bit, ultimately it doesn’t matter because the main thing is to escape this wicked world altogether. And that represents a tragic diminishing and distortion of what Christian faith is all about.”

It often seems that in our never-ending struggle to stand against sin we like to bolt our doors and shutter our windows and in doing so pretend that the reality that is having insufficiency, shortcomings, failures, and simple not-enoughness will stay outside even though it is already in our house. These things have been inside for as long as we have been alive. Brokenness is a reality not only in our world, but in our own community and in our own lives personally. When we react to shun it, to push it away, and to deny its association with us, we fail to own the reality that is being in the world. As a balance to this, we have the ability to value people and to value the relationships we have with them even when shortcomings enter the picture. We are all in need of mercy and grace even still, and denying others a community where those things are embodied (in the many ways that we deny this to ourselves and others) prevents us from accomplishing the whole mission of the Gospel. If we were to place these values of standing against sin and valuing people amongst our others on a priority list ordered by what can best help us to accomplish the past, present, and future goals of the Gospel, with no priority sharing its place with another, which would come first? The maintenance of a particular identity for our community? Or an embodied community of people who have also screwed up, but are set apart in their never-ending search of moving toward the fulfillment of the Gospel in their lives and in the lives of their community? Are we going to be willing to address the powers and principalities that influence many of the struggles of humanity, or are we going to continue to focus on the symptoms rather than the source? It is not that personal responsibility is unimportant, it is that there are things more important than that which must be accomplished first.

It is perfectly sensible to take a stand as a community against systems of injustice and bent thinking that leads to a slow self-destruction, but we need to remain aware of the bigger picture. We have been set apart to proclaim a Gospel in which Jesus, the Risen Savior, is the one who defeats sin. We do not accomplish these things by hiding ourselves from both the shortcomings and the people that have them, because we’d only be hiding from ourselves. Our relationships allow us the chance to hope and bring about a reality in which we can be not enough, and still find hope in the Gospel in spite of that not enough. Sin is best resisted and shortcomings redeemed in a community that is willing to see the shortcomings within itself and move to bring the person of Christ into the reality of that insufficiency.

Notes:

At least among the Wesleyan community (and this is one of the many places where the applicability of my statements may fail in regards to the whole of the Christian community) we hold to the value that all people are made in the image of God, and that some of that image remains intact. Following that idea, the ways we treat people and encourage grace are important. The importance of the restoration of the image of God is what brings about our stand against our fallenness without having to resort to social isolation on the occasions of evident sin or disability.

People can act in singular instances in ways that are inconsistent with their usual character. Probability based on social, societal, cultural, emotional, and psychological influences can almost doom a person to a particular course of action. What is more important, being against sin and encouraging responsibility for one’s actions, or valuing people and embodying the love that was first shown us in our own insufficiency? Where do those fit on our priority list? How do our actions help/accomplish our goals? Do we address the realities at hand? Are the powers and principalities ones that we can see?

(Part of that idea [the stand] is rooted in escapism and pie in the sky, denial in the present; we like to act as though if we can lock our doors and shutter our windows then sin will stay outside and not be involved in our lives)

Life through the Windows

So, as of last Friday, I’ve been in Korea for seven weeks. There are days when it feels like it hasn’t been that long and days that feel like it has been longer. I’ve been doing a lot of teaching, which I’d imagine is no surprise, but I’d like to again express my sincere respect for educators… This can be one of the most frustrating and/or most rewarding jobs someone ever performs. I’ve just come off of one of the most difficult weeks (of student discipline) in the memory of my co-workers (who have been teaching there for years). I’d like to say I kept my cool and didn’t let it affect my teaching, but it definitely did. Having students who so blatantly did not care and were using our program as an excuse to get out of school was one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced. Off all of the age groups that I struggle with, middle school is probably my worst. Within my own experience of that age, I have more regret than almost anything else, but no way of communicating to them how they can avoid those same mistakes. I’ll figure it out eventually, and my primary job is to teach English, so as long as I can do that, things will work out.

Life has been fairly repetitive, as life tends to be once one enters into the regularity of 9-5 employment, but I’ve gotten to have a few adventures since I’ve last posted. A week ago, a friend and I went up to Seoul to pick up some books he purchased, and I got to spend the day navigating the subway system up there. I’m looking forward to going again and actually taking in some of the sights up there, but getting the books through several subway transfers was an adventure in and of itself. Just yesterday I went to Korean waterpark with some friends, and let me tell you, that place was PACKED! I’ve heard stories about places like that being crowded, but the sheer volume of people was enormous. So, for future reference, if you are going to a waterpark in Asia, be prepared to have minimal personal space, even when trying to navigate the not-so-lazy river. A few days go I also went to the International Health and Well-Being Food Expo here in Cheonan. That was a lot of fun, but there wasn’t much food there that I would have called “health food”… more like soul food (Side-note: I GOT GYROS!!!!!). Korea, the only place in the world where even the health food is fried. (Check out these giant beans):

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I have probably mentioned this before, but Korea is pretty much composed of my ideal geographic features: forests, hills, and valleys (often times with rivers, streams, or canals running through them). There is so much beautiful scenery here, even with all of the urban sprawl necessitated by a numerous but densely packed population of 50 million in a space the size of the state of Indiana, but covered in hills, so flat space is at a premium. They do a very good job of nesting their buildings with the hills and the hills with their buildings, but sometimes it can block the view.

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I continue to be very thankful for the friendships I’ve been able to develop since coming here, and look forward to continuing to develop them. I am surrounded by so many amazing and wonderful people. Life is good here in Korea, even when your middle schoolers give you trouble.

That’s all for now, peace unto y’all,

Andrew