Well I had a pretty uneventful week. My Ghanaian friend came back into town, but I missed him–it appears as though the Daejeon auto companies don’t have a lot of good stuff this time around, so he headed up to Incheon before I had enough time to meet up with him. Bummer. Been making an effort to get out in the morning, but this morning my goal is to clean my house, because I’ll be gone all weekend at a monk festival! Yeeeeahh!!
Anyway, we have a new teacher here. Alex is at the end of his contract and so the new girl is here. She’s from South Africa and she looks like a lot of fun. I haven’t actually hung out with her except with our bosses, but she’s interesting and kind, so I think we’ll get along.
This weekend I hit up Seoul and hung out with Stephanie, which was definitely what I needed. I spent a lot of money, but it was a well worth it trip. First I met up with the TeachESLKorea folks and met some people who had been placed by my recruiter. They were all really fun and intelligent, and had some really interesting stories. I met one guy who was working in a technical High School–you know, for non-college bound students. This sounds like an amazing job! Sometimes I just wish I got a chance to touch kids who weren’t privileged. But I think my hagwon sits in the middle of the economic world here, so I’m usually pretty happy with the students.
The real kicker was Sunday, though, because on Sunday I went to the Heritage Mass Choir concert. It’s every month in this church in a really hip area of town, seemed like a lot of young worldly minded people. (There was even a sincere jazz club in the area!) The Heritage Choir is a gospel choir in Korean–and you’d think that would be kind of dorky, but these people can BELT this music. I was so impressed. And I had so much fun. It was really uplifting–even though I did cry the ENTIRE time–it was just so amazing to see so much passion in the music, and feel so connected. After I managed to stop balling, I started to follow along with the songs (church songs are simple for a reason, in any language). They had the words posted on the screen above the choir, and the audience was encouraged to sing along. So we did. In Korean. It didn’t strike me until later that I was reading a completely different language, and SINGING–doing something pretty familiar to me throughout my youth, but in an Asian country, in an Asian language. That moment kind of renewed my faith in life, and religion, and interfaith/interculture–everything.
The best part of the thing, though, was the sermon. Recently I’d been frustrated because some English speaker was leaving letters on my door saying “Please come celebrate Jesus’s death with me.” Or something–commemorate the death, I think were the exact words. Anyway I was so not ready to go and be all excited about death and violence and suffering. Ask me to celebrate Jesus’ life, and I’ll be happy to do so, but ask me to celebrate his DEATH, and condone suffering and violence, and then I get a little testy. Since that was barely the point of the majority of the gospel anyway. Sure he died. But then he came back–and truthfully, that’s more of the miracle, right?
Okay religious rant aside, I was going feeling a little testy towards Korean church. I hadn’t been able to find a church where the preacher made me feel inspired. In fact I felt more inspired by the speeches that characters on Grey’s Anatomy gave. But this sermon at the church was NOT a message of suffering and death–it was a message of hope. It was about giving and finding hope, and always spreading hope, and being witnesses to the hope of new life through Jesus’s LIFE. And hearing a positive Christian message really just made me so happy. (I know all this because one of the women in the choir was bilingual and was providing translation services to the foreigners sitting in the corner.)
On the whole it was an amazingly uplifting experience. I recommend it to anyone in Korea who has an ounce of musical appreciation or religious appreciation. The next one is on May 2. It’s Dongsoong Church at Hyehwa Station. (It’s up a hill a ways on the left of Exit 2, I believe.)