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:
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.