Playing Catch Up:

Wow. It’s been a very long time since I blogged. Sorry :/ . I just forget about it when I do have the time then remember when I don’t. Anyhow, I figured that since 2014 is winding down I’d look back, through pictures, at events I’ve been a part of these past 3 months.


October was a busy month. My birthday was on Thursday the 9th and I got to celebrate for two days because in Korea October 9th in a federal holiday. It’s Hangul Day. The day where they celebrate the creation of their language.

The day before my birthday, my staff bought my a delicious cake and they sang to me in English while my students sang to me in Korean. Then each student wrote me a little note. One student even wrote her’s in English. It meant a lot that she tried so hard.

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The day of my actual birthday was spend with my lovely friend, Tiana. We went on a bus to see a part of the city that we’d never visited before. We ending up hanging out on a pebbled beach and then eating Shabu-Shabu.

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The weekend of my birthday was really special. I went with three friends to a Lantern Festival in the nearby city of JinJu. There were hundreds of lanterns 20 feet high floating on the river. It was quite a sight to see.

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The last week of October was amazing. I spent it in Japan with my fellow missionary class for Mid Terms. We got to explore in Osaka and Kyoto which was nothing short of a spectacular trip. I have a lot more pictures and stories but for now, I’ll just share these.

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October ended with my favorite holiday, Halloween. Unfortunately, Halloween isn’t a big holiday here but I was able to carve a pumpkin and watch the Peanuts Special on my laptop, so I was happy.

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November was a much calmer month. First, I finished my second semester of Korean class.

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Then, spend the next three weeks hanging out with my students full time. We did many activities such as…


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Had a Thanksgiving program:

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Wrapping projects:

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and put up a Christmas trees:

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As December begins I’m thankful for the warmth inside my apartment and the joy of my friends and students.

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I was so blessed to be supported by so many friends and family from home on Giving Tuesday. Thank you again for your love.

If you feel like sending a Christmas card my way, I’d sure appreciate it:

Michelle Ivy
105, 42 Kkachigogae-ro 197beon-gil,
20-4 Ami-dong-2-ga, Seo-gu
Busan, 602-827

This beautiful alter was created by a teacher at our school for Advent. I love it. Merry Christmas to all!!

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Greetings from Korea!

            Hello everyone! I realized that lately that I have been having trouble keeping my church family up to date with my activities and life here is Korea so I apologize. As of late, Korea has continued to show my lots of love as well as lots of confusion and frustration. My largest barriers have been the language and cultural norms that, as an American, I have trouble getting used to. Korea is constantly surprising me in its’ ability to mesh Eastern and Western customs. For example, I was in Seoul last month visiting with fellow missionaries there. One of my Korean friends told me I could stay as her home so I wouldn’t have to stay at a hotel. (Anything to save a buck 😉 When I arrived at her home I realized that she didn’t have any beds but small mats on the floor that she slept on. This is very common in Eastern culture but I had never actually seen anyone slept on a hardwood floor every night. But, I was astonished because (unlike me) she had wireless Internet, a perfect mesh of east and west.

            My mission work is going well though and I feel like I’m really forming relationships with the girls who live at the center I’m working for. I feel as if my actual job is hard to describe because there is no word for the type of place I work for in English but I will try to explain. Similar to the American system, the Korean foster care system removes children from homes where they are not well taken care of or where the child is being neglected. The Happy Youth Center that I work for is a group home where the national foster system will put girls from 12 to 18 if they are removed from their homes. Often times the social workers will show up with the girls and give them a “trial period” to see if they actually like this new place, are willing to go by a strict schedule, and to test if they will behave appropriately. Unfortunately, some girls come here and are such a behavior problem that the teachers have to send them away to live elsewhere. Other times, parents will win back custardy and the girls will go back home. It’s a revolving door of girls and social works but you get used to the pace of things.

            The most heart wrenching part of the job is actually when the girls first arrive. Some of them scream and cry as if they were small children throwing things and yelling. Others are scared out of their minds, staring at the floor and curling into small balls. Two of our most recent additions came to us very malnutritioned. They were skin and bones and horrified of the white teacher who was speaking to them in broken Korean and English. However, within a few weeks they started to transform into new people. They began speaking and smiling, participating in class, as well as getting proper weight. The transformation is a true testament to God and the amazing work this center does for the girls who live there. There is great joy among these girls but don’t get my wrong, they’re teenagers and at times they put me to the test as one of their teachers. But I love them all the same and I’m so honored to be a part of their lives everyday.

            I hope to write again soon and update my blog more often but for now, I hope everyone is enjoying his or her last bit of summer.



Some photos to enjoy 🙂


eating with other teachers:

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photo shoot in traditional Korean clothes:

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Enjoying Korean baseball with new friends:

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At the Korean War memorial in Seoul:

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in the eye of the storm.

I apologize for how long it’s been since my last blog post. Things are constantly changing and transitioning so setting a blog schedule has proven to be ineffective. Anyway, in these next few posts I will attempt to describe my latest adventure to the Philippines.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a Non-Voting delegate of the Texas Conference for the Global Young Peoples Convocation and Legislative Assembly of the United Methodist Church. For all of my non-Methodist friends, I will attempt to describe what this means in my next post.

The convention was being held in the Philippines so I was excited to visit a new country and reunite with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. My journey started last Tuesday night. I left my Korean class at 5:10pm as usual, travelled home, picked up my baggage, and walked down the street to catch a taxi. I live close to a hospital so taxis are always outside waiting for potential passengers. My driver was kind and appreciated my limited Korean skills. The trip was only about $15 for the hour trip. It’s quite a deal, especially when you don’t tip either. I then waited in line for my boarding pass and entered the secure terminal around 7pm. My plane wasn’t supposed to board till 9pm so I was really early. I ate a Dunkin Donuts sandwich, the only real food option, and watched some Korean soap operas with the locals. The flight boarded on time and the flight was overall quite uneventful. Although, I helped the men next to me translate their customs forms because they were only available in English. I felt very accomplished by being able to do this. We arrived on time at midnight and the adventure began.

As soon as I entered the terminal I felt as if the security I’d always felt in Korea was gone. The Philippines felt much different and more dangerous. I can not tell you why but I’ve always learned to trust my instincts. Anyway, I picked up my luggage and moved through customs without any issues. I then proceeded towards arrivals and looked for my group. I ended up walking in a circle three times before I finally saw them through the crowds. It was there that I met two new friends, one from Alaska and another from Florida. We talked for a while and watched as the rain began to slowly gain strength. We finally got into the van and found some other Texans inside. We then waited some more, Filipino time, and finally left the airport around 2:30am. By this time the storm was strong and the van was swaying with the wind as we drove. The van avoided downed trees and debris with every turn. At one point, the driver had to get out of the vehicle to move a huge tree out of the road so we could get by. I’ve been through a lot of crazy things in my life but this was one of the most frightening. I really didn’t know if we’d make the hour drive safely. Fortunately, with God’s provision, we pulled into the retreat center around 3:45am and were quickly ushered into a cafeteria/auditorium like space. It was here, on the floor, that we would spend the rest of our night in our wet clothes. We were told that the other guests had been moved to the basements of their buildings because the windows were breaking and the roofs were being torn off of the buildings. My new friends and I found a small space and took up residence. I took a doormat off the floor and used it to cushion the ground just a bit. We kept a positive attitude by snuggling under our raincoats and turning on the movie Tangled. We couldn’t hear much though because the rain and thunder were so loud. It sounded like bowling balls were hitting the side of the building. I’d never experienced anything like it. Someone graciously set up a wifi hot spot in the corner so, two at a time, we were able to send emails home to our families letting them know we were safe. I finally feel asleep around 5am for about an hour and a half. The storm was loud but I was so tired I couldn’t fight the exhaustion.

The space where we were held:

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Exhausted at 4am:

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My home away from home:

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Trying to get wifi:

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My friends sleeping next to me:

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I woke up to the sounds of people coming into the cafetorium. We were in the eye of the storm so they were moving the other guests from the basements into the big space with us for safety. It was then that I was reunited with my missionary friends: Sarah, Jay, Danny, and Joy whom I hadn’t seen in a year. I was glad to be with them in the uneasy time. Once the move was complete, the room was full of about 400 people. Yes, 400 people and one toilet. They began a role call which took about an hour and then we were treated to breakfast as the second half of the storm passed over us. The rest of the day was spent sitting together in the space talking, singing, eating, and trying to avoid the smell that 400 unwashed people make. Around 5pm we ate dinner and were told that we were moving to a different retreat center because the one we were at was too damaged to stay.

400 people in one room:

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My friends: 2014-07-16 16.01.27  2014-07-16 13.59.15     PHIL2 PHIL1

The damage:

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My friend Sarah and I sat together for warmth on the bus and caught a little sleep as the bus traveled an hour to our new retreat center.

On the FREEZING bus:

We arrived around 8pm and stood outside in the courtyard as they verbally read out room assignments. Sarah took some lovely pictures of me sitting on the ground with my feet in the empty fountain. I was so tired, I was falling asleep as I sat there.


Eventually my room was called and I joined 9 others girls in our two bedroom, one bathroom suite. We waited for cots, took showers, and headed to bed around midnight. It was an extremely long day but I was happy to sleep in a real bed. – end of day one – 


“Seoul” Train Style.

Sorry I missed writing post these past few weeks, things are now in full gear and life is as busy as ever. I’ll try to catch up this weekend but for now I thought I’d talk a bit about my trip to Seoul a few weeks ago. The main point of my trip was to meet with other missionaries in Korea and learn a bit more about the Korean Methodist Church. (Hint: It’s like the United Methodist Church but the Korean version.) I learned about their history, ministries, and some of their theologies. I won’t bore you with the details but it is quite interesting.

My first afternoon was spent with Esther Kim (a Mission Intern from the c/o 2012) and her friend DK. The three of us walked through local markets, ate Vietnamese food, and visited some tourist sites. We visited the Gyeongbok Palace and learned all about the emperors of Korea before the Japanese invasion. We also visited the Seoul N Tower where we were able to see the entire city and buy postcards.

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The next day, I met with Hong Duk Kim as well as Rev. Susan in the Korean Methodist Church offices. Rev. Susan helped me to learn about the history and culture of the Korean Methodist Church. She also took me to lunch and we discussed the hardships of being in a foreign land. She provided me with plenty of advice on how to deal with hard situations and how to make the most of your time while you’re in mission. I still hear a lot of her words echoing through my head as I face challenges today. After lunch we took a walk around the Ehwa and PaiChai school museums (Methodist schools located in Seoul). Lastly, I got a tour of the Chungdong First Methodist Church (the first Methodist church in Korea) and got to see videos of Appendeller (the first Methodist missionary to Korea) and his family while they worked as missionaries. That evening I rested in my hotel and finished the book, The Fault in Our Stars.

My hotel room:

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The last day, I was fortunate enough to visit NCCK and learn about their work toward unification on the Korean Peninsula as well as all around the world. They are wonderful hardworking people who have a passion for God’s work. Esther Kim, DK, and I then took an official tour of Paichai School (the boys school), a tour of the old and new city hall buildings, then finished with lunch and a visit to The Scranton Women’s Center of the United Methodist Church. The women there were very welcoming and told me that I was invited to any and all events that I’d like to attend. Everyone I met felt like family and gave lots of encouragement.

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After that we hurried off to the train and I headed back to Busan.





Days 4,5 and 6. UN Memorial Cemetery. 일 4, 5, 6. UN 기념 묘지입니다.

I’ve learned that living in Busan is like living in Chicago or DC. It’s a huge city with it’s own subway system that takes you almost everywhere. It’s clean, prompt and quite nice. I feel funny when I speak English on the subway because I feel like people stare but I guess it doesn’t matter. They stare regardless cause I’m white. Some people love to be the center of attention, I’m typically not one of them but I’ve learned to just own it.

The week after I arrived was interesting. I kept trying to figure out my address and after a few days of translating and looking at maps, I believe I have finally succeeded. I can not receive packages at my Korean home address so I’ve only included my work address. Here it is:

Work (Korean):
웨슬리마을 신나는디디딤터
Michelle Ivy (미셸 이아비)
부산광역시 서구 구덕로 185번길47 (아미동2가 37-4) 602-827

Work (English):
Methodist Busan Happy Youth Center
Attn: Michelle Ivy
47 Gudeok-ro 185beon-gil,
37-4 Amin-dong-2-ga, Seo-gu
Busan, 602-827

The first few days of that week were interesting because I didn’t a Korean cell phone so my boss/co-worker liked to drop by my apartment to give me things/invite me to eat/check on me. It was nice but I learned quickly that I should always have on appropriate clothing just in case I have “visitors”. On Monday, my landlord came by to change the locks. I had on short shorts so I grabbed pants off the drying line really fast. Oops.

Then next day, I had a woman come and check the hot water heater. I have no idea why but I just said ne (okay/yes) and gamsa-hapnida (thank you) and stood in the door until she left. My next adventure that week was on of the Busan Bus tours. I decided on finding the bus and than eat. I ordered a Pizza Pretzel and an apple juice from a coffee place close to the bus. It was about $10 so it was kinda expensive but it has since become one of my favorite weekly splurges. I go to Tom N Toms Coffee and get juice and a pizza pretzel. 🙂 My mouth waters thinking about it.
After my lunch, I boarded the bus. It also cost about $10. The driver was funny. I told him I was from Texas and he said “The Rangers” cause we have a player on the baseball team from Busan. I’ve gotten pretty used to this. Usually I say Texas or Dallas and people say “Rangers!” Anyway, I was excited to see all the places the bus tour visited and introduced visitors to. The tour had the option of getting on and off as you wish but I chose to stay on until I got to the UN Burial Memorial.
When I first walked up to the gate, two Korean UN guards asked me what country I was from I said “America” and they said welcome. I was a bit surprised by this, if I had said, “Iraq” (not that I look or dress anything like an Iraqi woman would) I wonder if they’d have let me in? As I walked I saw there was a Muslim man praying in the area where the Turkish soldiers were buried, I assumed he was Turkish but I could have been wrong. Turkey is still on my “to see one day” list. I took lots of pictures and some selfies and even talked to a Korean woman who introduced me a local newspaper printed in English. She showed it to me and said she read it daily to practice her English. She said I was brave to travel by myself, which I also get a lot here. She then told me that 90% of the soldiers that died in the Korean War were Americans and pointed out some photos of interest. Afterward, I said thank you to the guards who saluted me and bought some juice from a soda machine while I waited for the bus. Here are some pics from the UN Memorial Ceremony.


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Days 2 and 3.일 번호 2 와 3.

The first saturday after I arrived, began after getting virtually no sleep whatsoever. I was so exhausted but I was excited to get out of the motel room. I changed into the cleanest clothes I had in my bag (yoga capris and a t-shirt), brushed my teeth, and ate the breakfast food we’d bought the night before. I had a yogurt filled croissant and some orange juice. I also had a muffin sandwich with cheese and egg but I was too nauseous to eat it. I watched some show about a British kid genius contest until it was time to face my first day in South Korea. I was picked up by my boss and coworker and we drove around a bit to see the bay and mountains. They were breathtaking but I was so nervous about the money and days to come that I couldn’t fully enjoy it.

Views from my Motel Room:

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We arrived that the Methodist Busan Happy Youth Center where I will work. I was given a tour and, finally, coffee. Soon my UMC supervisor from Seoul arrived. His name is Hong Duk Kim and he is a Korean from Tennessee. So we talked about the states a bit and then got down to business. He translated between myself and my supervisors so that all party’s understood the details and expectations of my stay. He also reassured me not to worry about the money and he’d make sure I was taken care of. Thank God. Fortunately, my site and I have been able to work successfully with him to get my rent paid and my language course paid for on time. I feel very taken care of.
After he left, I met some of the girls who live and go to school at this shelter/center. They were very sweet and excited to see me.
They could not get over my blue eyes and blonde hair. They kept asking if I had in contacts or if I dyed my hair. haha
They all successfully introduced themselves to me in English “hello, my name is…..” Unfortunately, I’m not used to Korean names so I think I’m going to struggle learning them all. But they have all been struggling with “mi-chelle” as well, so we’re all learning.
After lunch of curry rice, more Korean than Indian style, we left to visit my church. My co-worker wanted to make sure that I knew how to get there and introduced me to the staff before the next day when I would travel on my own. We got on the subway and I learned how to put money on my little gadget/card. And how to read the maps. It’s a big city so they have many rail lines. The trip went quickly and we soon arrived at the HUGE church I was to attend. The people were very nice but they seemed to not understand why a missionary was in Korea. To them, Korea is a Christian country that doesn’t really need missionaries like other parts of the world. I understood their confusion and tried to explain the best I could. After visiting the church we took the subway back and both practically feel asleep. We then had dinner at 5 with the girls, Chinese food, and then we headed out to shop for my apartment.
I had no idea how traumatic and overwhelming this experience would be for many reasons. First, if you’ve ever been to Europe and been in malls where the moving sideways connect the floors, you have an idea of what this place looks like. If not, it’s like a five story Walmart that sells everything you can imagine. It’s called a Lotte Mart. The traumatic part was trying to get used to people’s traffic patterns here. First of all, “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” are not in the vocabulary when you run into people. It’s practically unavoidable in crowds regardless. Personal space don’t exist here. People walk in front, behind, and beside you very close and it feels like you’re being “cut off” but it’s completely normal. Being from the south where you MUST say “excuse me” after bumming someone, this will take some getting used to. I also was stunned by people trying to sell me things in the store. You’d be standing in front of the shampoo and a Pantene representative would be having you smell bottles as you tried to pick. It was overwhelming and extremely invasive by American standards but I realized it’s pretty normal here.
After about two hours of bumming, pushing, and haggling I was exhausted and ready to leave. We all were. I’m sure we spent close to $500 on bedding, pots, pans, dishes, toilet paper, etc. And we loaded it into the car and traveled back to my apartment. We unloaded everything into my apartment and I went to bed. It was close to 10:30 and with almost no sleep since before the flight I was ready to rest.

Sunday was a nice day. I traveled an hour and a half by subway to get to the area where my church is. It’s huge, the size of our southern mega churches. The church is located in more of the foreigner part of the city so I really expected to see some Americans at church but I was disappointed. But luckily, there is an English worship service and Bible Study that I thoroughly enjoyed going to. Everyone who attends is Korean but they enjoy worshiping in English, I suppose. After church we had lunch in the basement of the building. It was a huge cafeteria that served lunch for $2! It’s traditional Korean food but I’ll take it.
The food here is actually quite tasty and my stomach takes to it well. But the portion sizes are huge. And Koreans eat very fast. Every time I sit down to eat I find myself trying to stuff my face as fast as possible with chopsticks and a spoon. I feel horrible wasting food but eventually I find myself gagging from the quantity and speed of food consumption. I’ve reassured my supervisor that I’m just not a big eater and there is nothing wrong with my health or the food.
I then got back on the subway and watched the movie “Once” on my iPad as I took the hour and a half trip back. An old man next to me seemed fascinated cause he watched the entire time he was riding.
After church I rested and had cereal/granola and yogurt for dinner and went to bed when it got dark at 8.

This is my new home. It is quite small, like dorm room living, but I like it.

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Day 1. 일 번호 하나

First, I wanted to start this post by talking about what I’m doing in Korea. Majority of the Americans here are teachers or in the military but I’m a bit different. Yes, technically I will be teaching but not in the conventional setting. I will be teaching English and becoming a part of the Happy Youth Center community here in Busan. The Happy Youth Center was built in 1950 by the United Methodist church as a refuge for teenage girls who have been or are at risk of being exploited sexually. Most of them are run-aways who have no contact with their families but a few still communicate with them from afar. I arrived here one week ago and I’ve tried to blog on my phone in real time, because of this, the tenses I write in change from past, present, and future. I’ll try to clean them up for clarity but no guarantees. Enjoy:


Thursday at noon I said goodbye to my dad and I boarded the plane. I got an aisle seat and the middle seat was open. Score. The lady in the window seat told me she was Filipino but lives in DFW. She was traveling home to see family for the next three months. The food on the flight was good and plentiful. Lunch was tasty but I wasn’t really hungry. After lunch, I watched the movie Her but I was not impressed. I was actually a bit bored, and not sure how it got an Oscar nomination. After Her I turned on a different movie called That Awkward Moment with Zac Efron. It was okay, not great, but not bad. After the movie I thought I’d try to sleep but, considering it was only 4pm in America, my sleep success rate was zero percent. After a couple epic rounds of Tetris and listening to The Beatles, my nose started bleeding hard core. Luckily, I was able to clean and stop it without anyone noticing. I believed the nose spray I’d taken that morning initiated the bleeding.


After the nose bleed, I played Tetris for a while longer and watched The Book Thief. It was really good and I decided I’ll read the book as soon as I could. After that movie, we ate dinner of pasta with shrimp and veggies. It was very very tasty. The lady next to me got fish and rice and said it was very good as well. I apologize for my lack of descriptive adjectives. “Good” is all that my brain was able to come up with such severe fatigue. After dinner, I closed my eyes and began a tossing and turning drowsy fest. I finally awoke from my night’s “nap” around 2am Dallas time so I was really tired and out of it. But we were to land soon so I figured I should make myself more alert. Image

Boarding my second flight was quite a workout. An airport man met those of us transferring at the gate and proceeded to RUN us, what felt like, the entire airport to the security transfer point. Then we went upstairs and were in the domestic boarding area. At this point my shoulders were screaming and sweat was dripping off my body. But I made it to the gate, connected to the airport wifi to let everyone  know I made it and boarded the plane. This is when the reality of the fact that I’m going to be treated different, because I’m white, really sank in. I was always spoken to in English and handed an English immigration card. Even if I could speak Korean, I really wouldn’t have been given a chance to use it. A lot of gestures were used to help me to my seat. Although I know my Korean numbers and could have figured it out. I guess that’s just what happens when you “look” American. Regardless, I’m safe, exhausted, and ready to get to Busan. It was then 3:32am Dallas time and 5:32pm Korea time and my stomach thought it was time to eat…
All in all, the flight wasn’t too eventful but once I arrived the craziness began. First, they lost one of my bags. I had no idea what address to give, so Pastor Han (my co-worker/supervisor) gave it to him. We then got into the van and met the foundation director. She doesn’t speak any English so Pastor Han tried to translate as much as possible. I felt horrible and embarrassed because my bag was big and heavy that it barley fit into the van. oops. After the wrestle with my bag, we drove through traffic for what seemed like forever. Eventually they told me we were going to go look at my apartment and decide if we wanted to get it. My second moment of embarrassment was when I walked into the room with my shoes on. oops. Anyway, it was lovely and cute so we went to the office to look at paperwork. This was nerve racking for me because I had zero Korean Won, moneys, on my person. The haggling took forever and time ticked by. We left around 9:30pm Korean time. Luckily the leasing agent understood my situation and said I could pay the deposit and rent on Monday. After this I was beyond tired but we stopped for dinner. Pastor Han ordered a ton of bibibop for me to eat. I loved it but I was embarrassed I couldn’t eat it all and that she had to pay. Even though I promised to repay her. I enjoyed this food experience because we sat in the floor and enjoyed each other’s company. After leaving dinner we stopped for breakfast food, juice and bread, and proceeded to the motel. It looked fine and we rented it for the night. After haggling the price they said goodbye and left me for bed. Of course, I had basically nothing without my suitcase so I cleaned myself in the shower the best I could and put on my extra pair of clean clothes. I then investigated the bed…. my thoughts were as follows “first, the mattress was hard as a rock, second, hairs in the sheets😝, third I hope I don’t get bed bugs.” I then put a towel over the pillow and slept on top of the blanket with my jacket. All in all, it was a crazy long exhausting overwhelming day. I had a million questions and concerns but I tried to get my body to focus on sleep and push the rest away. My motel room and bathroom:


My 2am phone call changed things up. Apparently my apartment deposit was closer to $9,000 not the $1,000 I thought. At first I was told that this kind of funding was not going to happen and I started panicking. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and I was being taken advantage of. But after another 1.5 hours, and 4 to 5 expensive phone calls to NYC. Things seems to be under control and I hopefully I won’t have to pay a crazy wiring fee. I had a lot to discuss with Hong Kim, my GBGM rep from Seoul, the next day when we were scheduled meet. All I could do was praise God, someone else is going to help me figure all this out.

From about 2am to 4am my stomach was turning so hard it sounded like a water park. At that point, I was beyond exhausted but I was so worked up that sleep wasn’t coming easy. Plus, I had to be up in 4 hours. So I turned Frozen on my Mac and I’m hoped it’d distract me from things. The money situation was so overwhelming but I was trying to keep calm and let it come together. On the plus side, there weren’t any bed bugs…