This is the moment we've all been waiting for! I have just received my first paycheck. Which means I have officially been earning my keep for a month. It honestly does not feel like I've been here this long. I have been experiencing a lot of emotions over this paycheck. Primarily joy. The long dark of no income is finally over!! (For those of you who don't know this is my first paycheck since August.) Shock and awe are strong contenders as well. Mostly though I was feeling extremely blessed.
Maybe it's been a combination of having money in the bank and a major holiday coming up but this past week I have spent a lot of time thinking about everything I have to be thankful for. (The first week of October is Chuseok. This is the equivalent of Korea's Thanksgiving) Specifically it all hit me as I was walking to school from the bus stop. I enjoy all my walks to my schools because the scenery is beautiful. One this particular journey the side walk is lined with flowers in a myriad of colors. I was admiring the flowers and reflecting on my life up to this point when I was suddenly mentally bombarded with all of the wonderful things to be thankful for. My apartment is clean and well maintained. All of the appliances work. The A/C blows cold. The windows seal well and are thick enough to keep cold air out. I come home and my apartment doesn't smell like pot or cigarettes. I walk down the street everyday and have not heard a single catcall or whistle. (I'll accept that people stare.) I have a job that is challenging and I enjoy it. The quality of my life had vastly improved and I hadn't even looked at my paycheck yet. Then I went shopping.
I was walking through the grocery store armed with my phone's calculator and my list when I nearly stopped cold from a startling realization. For the first time in my adult life I had enough money to buy everything on my list and then some while still staying in budget. You cannot imagine my glee when I looked at the spice jars and realized that I didn't have to choose I could buy them ALL. (I'm fairly certain the reason why some of the store clerks were following me was because I was grinning like a maniac and happily humming away as I threw basil AND oregano in my cart) Do you know what walking a mile and half with $80.00 worth of groceries feels like? Sore fingers and success.
The full reality of my new life finally came crashing down on me when I sat down to calculate the months budget. I'm no longer just scraping by. I have the potential to thrive. This has never happened to me before. I've always believed that God will provide everything I need and he hasn't disappointed me yet. I have to admit though that it's a nice change of pace to be able to sing his praises not during a storm. I pondered this latest development in my life and I realized something. I'm being set up.
In the bible there is one particular person I have always admired and identified with. Elijah; my personal hero. (Is anybody surprised?) At one point in his life he felt overwhelmed and ran away literally crashing under a tree in the middle of nowhere. (1 Kings 19:1-18. Read the full story for details) God didn't berate him. Instead he let him take a nap and gave him snacks. When Elijah was feeling up to the task, God took the time to show him again what was needed to be done. The job hadn't gotten any easier or prettier but now Elijah was feeling man enough for the task. This is where I am. The past two years have been extremely difficult for me. God knew that I was tired and close to walking. I've never thought of myself as a quitter but I was struggling with keeping focus on what was important and I was angry with myself because I knew I could be doing better. It was a vicious cycle and I needed a break. God has graciously allowed me a sabbatical.
This "napping" period has been critical because it has allowed me to better understand myself. For the first time in years I am in regular contact with people my own age and the disconnect has thrown me off. One question that several people have asked me is what do l like to do in the evenings/weekends. I don't know; I don't do anything because I've never had so much time to myself. The things that others enjoy doing are not even remotely appealing to me. I look at these other twenty somethings and realize that somehow I missed the "we're young!" stage. This doesn't really break my heart though. I don't regret how I've lived my life so far it just surprised me because I was confronted with how mentally old I am. (I'd like to say that life circumstances caused me to grow up faster but the reality is I've always been somewhat curmudgeonly.)
I've had enough time to myself now to feel confident in my service again. I've had my nap and God has given me enough snacks. (seriously I've had so many people shoving food into my hands these past couple weeks) I'm curious about what's next and I'm getting twitchy. I've enrolled in an online Korean language course so I can learn faster and more efficiently. (In theory) I love a good challenge and I know that God will deliver. Life is so exciting when you're playing for keeps!
Today marks the day that I have successfully (more or less) visited all of my schools thus concluding a week of education. It's been a crazy week and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. I'm sure the burning question is this: What are your schools like??? Never fear, I shall oblige you with an answer.
For starters I have three schools. My main school is Ancheon multilevel school. I teach elementary, middle and high school there three days a week. On Wednesdays I go to Paegun Elementary school. At Paegun I have an after school tutoring group. and on Friday's I am at Buwgi Middle school. At Buwgi I also teach the teachers. So I literally have all learning levels.
you must be thinking to yourself "Wow that sounds stressful. How have you not managed to crack?" Well it helps that the largest class I have is twelve students. I have three schools but they are the poster child for rural mountain communities. Honestly the most stressful part of my week was navigating the bus system. My schools are in three different cities none of which is my home town. Jinan is small the the cities my schools are in are microscopic. Everyday I leg it to the main bus terminal in Jinan which is about a ten minute walk. My morning's this week started out like this. I would hike to the terminal, stare at the bus schedule in determination (then desperation) realize that I still have no clue what it says; cave and go to the ticket window where I repeat the name of the city I need to get to in various accents until the lady figures out what I'm trying to say and hands me the ticket. Then I walk out to the bus lot and try to compare the symbols on the ticket to the signs on the bus until a granny gets fed up with my mystified expression and herds me to the correct bus where I then gratefully hand over my ticket and whip out the sticky note that has my final destination written on it in Korean. The bus driver then waves me into a seat and I sit there until he waves me off the bus while pointing in the general direction of the school. I then wander through the village waving my sticky note to anyone and everyone and the people band together to make sure the clueless ghost lady makes it to her final destination. This system worked fairly well for me in Paegun. A nice man actually followed me in his truck and pointed out where I needed to turn until I made it to the school grounds. I wasn't as successful in Bugwi because I didn't realize my note said elementary instead of middle school so I ended up on the wrong campus but it worked out in the end because one of the teachers there was kind enough to drive me the extra half mile to the middle school and explain to the teachers at the middle school that I was a lost child. So it was all good. getting back was basically a reverse of the process.
So after all of that I have to teach. No pressure right? Honestly meeting the children was the most enjoyable part of my week. Why? I hear you thinking? Because children are universal and they have never scared me. the boys and girls at Paegun elementary act exactly the same as the students at Hillcrest. Loud, kinda crazy, and can't stop touching. I had little girls take me by the hands and lead me on a tour of the school petting my hair the whole time and giggling while the boys ran ahead jumped off stairs and made crazy sound effects. The middle school students and I had a good time looking at my Facebook pictures as they tried to act cool and ask a million questions all at the same time. We all love Avengers and BTS. I don't know what overwatch is but Undertale is the best. High school students think they're adults in Korea as well. They tried to be sneaky with their staring instead of blatantly hanging out the window like the elementary students.
One of the veteran teachers here made the comment last night that I seemed to be adjusting rather well. I should hope so. None of this was new to me. The language might be different but people aren't. Also I made up my mind long before I came here to be content with whatever came my way. In this matter I think the Apostle Paul said it best. "11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:11-13.