Settling In

Settling In

At Jefferson Elementary School, while I did not necessarily fit in with the kids around me, I did find places where I did fit in.  GATE stood for the Gifted and Talented Education program. Students recommended by teachers and administrators were assessed for the program and, if qualified, became participants in a curricula designed to stimulate academic achievement and research-based skills.  As I recall, it provided me with a lot of unique learning opportunities. My favorite memory from GATE was when we had a scientist come in to visit who had brought all sorts of samples from her ocean studies.  We sat and read a book about ocean creatures and she would bring out physical samples for us to look at and touch to understand what the book was talking about.  I was amazed by touching whale baleen and thinking about how much water needed to be filtered out of a huge gulp of the ocean to get at a bunch of tiny krill.   Continue reading “Settling In”

Third Culture Kid

Third Culture Kid

Somewhere between the first three to six months of being back in the States, the adventure of moving to a new place and all of the exciting activities that accompany it had drawn to a close.  Life began to settle into new patterns and with each day that passed my life began to feel “normal.”  Everyone in the family started going to their new schools: elementary for me, a combined middle and high school for my brother and sister and seminary for my parents.  The routines of the morning became commonplace again: waking, eating, lunches, backpacks.  It was good to be settling into routines again, but that’s not to say it was easy though.

One of the biggest changes was adjusting to living on a missionary budget in the United States, and it meant a lot of belt-tightening including sacrificing the little things.  We didn’t buy something we needed unless it was on sale and we got hand me down clothes from friends or from the “missionary barrel” (used clothing from churches).  Buying a toy was a special treat on birthdays or as presents from others.  Mom clipped coupons and comparison-shopped for supermarket deals.  We ate a modest diet of made-from-scratch meals with few snacks, and eating out was a very rare treat, made possible by supporting churches or birthday gifts from family and friends.   Continue reading “Third Culture Kid”

Tourist in Your Home Country

Tourist in Your Home Country

May 2, 1986   Chicago – United States

It was the last flight home after our two-week whirlwind 12,600 mile trip home.  Mom, as only a Mom would do, had prepared me for my journey back to the United States by warning me of a new danger I needed to be aware of: drugs.  “If someone offers you drugs, you need to tell them no and walk away,” she said sternly.  But in an act of hypocrisy, before we had even landed, Mom was telling Dad that after landing she needed to visit “the drug store”.  My attention was peaked and I began to plead with Mom not to go (in light of all of the horrible drug effects that had been previously described to me).  At that point Mom stopped and informed me about the difference between street drugs and prescription drugs.  In South Korea, it seems she had always used the word, 약국, “ Yak-kuk”, to refer to a pharmacy and now she was using the American term “drugstore.”  This was going to be the first of many things I would need to learn about my home country.  Despite the fact that I had been born in America, I had left for South Korea when I was two years old and my home country was all but foreign to me in memory.  My parents, siblings, friends and media had taught me about the USA, but this was the first time I was going to experience it for myself.  Continue reading “Tourist in Your Home Country”

Globe Trotting Kindergartener

Globe Trotting Kindergartener

Most missionaries leave their home country for the mission field for a period of several years (usually four) in what is called a term.  At the end of their term, they return to their home country for furlough, a year where they can re-connect with their home culture, churches and family.  After their furlough year, some missionaries return to their previous field, while others due to changing politics, needs elsewhere or a myriad of other reasons, are sent to a new field.  The number of terms a missionary serves becomes a symbol of their service, much like the stripes on a soldier’s shoulder.   But one of the main effects of the term system is that from the moment the missionary arrives on the field, they, as well as the people they serve know when the missionary will return home for their furlough; barring any problems, of course.  Continue reading “Globe Trotting Kindergartener”

{South Korea} Safety & Security

{South Korea} Safety & Security

One of the greatest things about North America is the relative safety and security you feel in everyday life.  Stepping off the jet bridge from the plane and into the airport, the feeling of relief is palpable.  Looking around, everyone is going about their business without the least concern that anything bad could happen to them.  In the United States most of us readily have services like the police, fire department and advanced medical care available within several minutes notice.  Most of us live without fear of being kidnapped or attacked by another nation.  And even with the various attacks over the past fifteen years in America, I have not once talked to a person living in fear or changing their plans due to a security concern.  But choosing to live overseas often means giving up any assurances of your safety and security.   Continue reading “{South Korea} Safety & Security”

{South Korea} Food

{South Korea} Food

In South Korea, the question of what constitutes food was vastly different from the American diet that I was familiar with.  Through centuries of hardship, isolation, occupation and famine, the general rule was that if it was already edible, could be made edible or could be preserved in any manner to be edible later, it was food.  With great creativity, the Koreans developed methods to use the entirety of any animal or plant as well as unique methods of preserving and cooking to prepare their food.  The variety of their foods, as I recall, rivaled even that of the Scandinavians–any food item from seafood to vegetables could be eaten raw, cooked, pickled, fermented, dried or even rotten.  As such, the flavors of Korea were bolder, aroma was more pronounced, textures varied and meals were more balanced: spice with sweet, sweet with sour, sour with bitter and bitter with salty. Continue reading “{South Korea} Food”

{South Korea} The Second House

{South Korea} The Second House

Up the road and clearly visible through the window of our first house was a mountain often covered in the rolling mist indicative of most Korean mountains.  Ahn mountain, was a constant backdrop of our childhood experiences in South Korea, where at its base we lived in two different homes as well as attended two different schools; Seoul Foreign School and Yonsei University.  The mountain, located at the northern reaches of Seoul at the time of the Korean War, played host to continuous battles from both sides.  Soldiers from Communist China, Russia and the ethnic Chinese Koreans that made up the Korean People’s Army (KPA) would push south, and take portions of the mountain while South Koreans and its allies, from 21 other nations including the US and Australia would push north to retake the mountain.  Heros were made and many died during the attacks, adding to the thick history and mystique of the area.  Continue reading “{South Korea} The Second House”