Wednesday, January 31

the poor design seriously threats your soul

I was looking around a store yesterday on the way to meet a friend. The stairs down to the store had this sign above them. It's the name of the store and their motto, I guess. We should all take it to heart, I think.My friend and I had planned to meet here, at the relatively new National Museum of Korea, but she ended up having to work longer than expected, so I went on my own. It was pretty impressive. The national museum itself is huge, as you can see. They have all sorts of Asian art on three floors. The special exhibit there was ornaments decorated with jewel beetles. They had belts, headdresses, etc. that were decorated with the shiny backs of special beetles.They have one section devoted to their beloved language, which was also pretty interesting. The Korean language was invented by a king and his scholars to give the common people a way to write and read without learning the Chinese characters that the language used to be written in. The shapes of the Korean alphabet are made to look like the shape of your mouth or tongue when you say them. I think that's pretty cool. I didn't know that until a few years after I learned the alphabet, though.
The museum had great English translations, but there were still a few funny things to find, like this sign:
In the special exhibition part of the museum, they have some paintings on loan from the Louvre. It was an extra 9 bucks to see that and it was super crowded, but it was nice. I overheard one girl saying something like "hardly any of them have any clothes on!" (of people in the paintings).

Monday, January 29


I have thought I should change the name of this blog to "the snow chronicles" or something, because I feel compelled to let you guys know every time it snows. I woke up to beautiful snow this morning. I celebrated by walking to McDonald's where they now have breakfast food! This is a new thing. They have always been open for breakfast, but now they not only serve hamburgers (I guess they still serve those at breakfast time too), but they also serve egg mcmuffins and pancakes in Korea for breakfast. It was nice.
Yesterday, I went to see 미녀는 괴로워, a movie with the family I used to live with. Afterwards, we went to a new shopping center near where they live. We were walking around outside and saw this sign. It says "Danger of electric shock. Do not touch the tree." Except the word they use for tree (the trees have Christmas lights on them) is not the Korean one, 나무 (nah-moo), it's a Konglish word, 추리(choo-ri) which is meant to be the English word, tree. I couldn't believe it. Why wouldn't they use the Korean word for tree? The younger sister looked at the sign, looked at her sister, and said "Onnie (older sister), what's a choori?" I was glad she asked, because I didn't know either. The older sister explained to us and we laughed. More examples of Konglish here and here.

Sunday, January 28

friends and language

I've had some really great time with friends since I've been here. They've been a blessing to me in more ways than buying me food. Some of these friends I don't stay in touch with well, but still coming back and seeing how we've changed, talking more in Korean, talking about things we long for, things that have hurt, things we've good.

I thought when I first came here that I mostly acquired friends who wanted to speak English. That may to some extent be true, but now that I can speak more Korean, I realize that they spoke English because I didn't speak Korean, not mostly because they wanted to practice. That may not sound like such a great revelation. I just didn't know they'd be eager to speak in Korean once I learned how. I still have a long way to go in Korean studies. I can't talk about deep things to the extent that I want to, so I revert to English if I know my friend will understand, but I long to be able to really talk about things that matter in this language. I still sometimes lament that I chose one of the hardest languages on earth (gramatically) to learn, but I love it.

You might be wondering why my Korean has improved since I left Korea. I'm not sure it actually has improved, but I keep hearing surprise that it has. I think because I've had a series of one-on-one tutors since I moved (it's much cheaper to get tutors in China!), I've become more comfortable in speaking. With my tutors, we sometimes go over grammar or workbook exercises at my request, but mostly I just listen and talk with them in Korean. In Korea, I generally didn't talk that much to people in Korean above simple daily exchanges, but in China there are a few people I only talk to in Korean because that's the only language I share with them. I know that the grammar centered 6 months of classes I took here helped lay a very necessary foundation, but it's really the normal communication practice that makes a difference in learning.

On a side note, a short article on why it's a good reason to learn a foreign language here.

Friday, January 26

The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and all time.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist & socialist (1856 - 1950)

I'm not sure I understand this quote. Do you?


I decided to visit some museums while I'm here because there are some good exhibits out and I am missing a bit of culture in my life. Tonight at a coffee shop after dinner, I ordered some ice cream served in a shallow bowl of coffee. When the ice cream was melted and there was only a little left, I poured it into my coffee cup to drink it. My friend joked and called me 천스럽다, something like "a country girl". I agreed that yes, I am in need of some more culture but that I did visit two museums today! I saw Jean Dubuffet and Rene Magritte exhibits which were both very nice. The Dubuffet exhibit is inside the grounds of 덕수궁 (the Duk Su Palace) which offers some contrast between Korea old and new:

A guy selling produce from his cart near 동대문, the old east gate of the city: At a modern Starbucks not too far away, three girls alone in a row reading or studying. The trees outside the window are lit up. Soon after I took this picture, a light snow fell for a while.

Thursday, January 25


I made a few changes to the template, mostly because I wanted to see what I could do with the new version of blogger that I changed over to a few months ago. I liked the star template that I had before a lot, though.

I have gone through a lot of my old posts to give them labels. Now if you want to see other posts that talk about the same thing, you can click on the label at the bottom of the post. If you want to see all the ones with pictures, you can click on the "pictures" label on the right sidebar.

I talked to my mom on the phone the other day and she commented on how she likes that I'm posting so much, then asked why I don't post this much all the time. The main reason is that I have a lot more time and fast, easy internet access where I am right now and for one more week. Other reasons include the fact that I really don't have that much to say (that hasn't actually changed, I'm just manufacturing more stuff to talk about since I have the time) and I don't want to post totally useless stuff here, even though my mom would like just about anything I put up as long as it was some form of communication.

Wednesday, January 24

what bugs me, a short list

-hair on the floor, on my clothes. how is it that i still have enough hair with all that i find everywhere?
-people who drag their feet when they walk. especially when wearing heels.
-holes in the heels of my socks. apparently, i have sharp heels that give socks short lives.
-forgetting a Korean word that I should know. on the contrary, it doesn't bug me when I forget an English word. recently I found myself describing to someone what a vending machine was because I couldn't think of the English name.
-stains that appear on clothes and i have no idea how they got there.

Monday, January 22

kids and cookies

I had a wonderful time with the girls of the family I used to live with. When I got there, the younger one asked me what was needed to make cookies. I told her and we either found or bought all the ingredients. Then, she told me that they didn't have an oven anymore. They had changed their gas oven and range for just electric burners with no oven beneath. So, we tried the toaster oven. I didn't have high hopes for the results, but they turned out really well for the most part. They had a really great time shaping all the cookies and watching them "bloom" in the oven. We played some games together, laughed and were silly together. I wonder why we never had this kind of fun when I lived there?

Today, I went to a friend's house to see her new baby. She lives North of Seoul and I'm staying Southeast of Seoul, so it took a while to get there. I left plenty early so I had time for a coffee break at a new Krispy Kreme in Myung Dong, a trendy section of Seoul where I changed from the bus to the subway. They were trying out a new donut for Valentine's day and gave me one. I took a picture of that as well as some of the many signs that can be seen nearby.
I have been so lucky to get to visit with a lot of children in the past few days: on Saturday a 1.5 year old and the 12 and 14 year olds and today a 2 month old. Being around children is such a blessing. They bring a fresh perspective that I need.

Sunday, January 21

2006 books

In the two weeks between when school ended and I left for Korea, I had a few thoughts about blog posting, one of which was to post the books I read in 2006. One cold night while watching a movie at home, I wrote this list in a word document and saved it, planning to post it the next day. I didn't get it posted because of internet issues and I just found it again.

So, here it is. I starred the ones I thought were really great. I was pretty surprised when I realized how many I finished. I read a lot of fiction, which probably contributed to me reading so much, but this year I hope to read more meaningful non-fiction, so I'll probably read less. I also read a lot because I was at home last winter vacation with the almost endless supply of books at my parents' house. I probably read four or five of the books during that time.

Books (fiction and non) about China or Korea:
Waiting – Ha Jin
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - Dai Sijie
The Middle Heart – Bette Bao Lord
*Iron and Silk – Mark Salzman
*Still Life with Rice – Helie Lee
In Absence of Sun – Helie Lee

About other countries:
Winter in Kandahar – Steven E. Wilson (Afghanistan)
Jerusalem Vigil – Bodie and Brock Thoene
Thunder from Jerusalem – Bodie and Brock Thoene
*The Gate – Francois Bizot (Cambodia, non-fiction)

About people from other countries adapting to the States:
*Native Speaker – Chang Rae Lee
A Gesture Life – Chang Rae Lee
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents – Julia Alvarez

Random fiction:
Texas – James Michener
The Mermaid Chair – Sue Monk Kidd
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs - Alexander McCall Smith
*Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
9 Stories – J.D. Salinger
*Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
The Alienist - Caleb Carr
Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction – J.D. Salinger

Random non-fiction:
The Color of Water – James McBride
Collapse – Jared Diamond
*An American Childhood – Annie Dillard
*Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer
Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer

One note (in response to a comment): Texas was a huge undertaking. I think I started it somewhere towards the end of 2005 and finished it in 2006. I was near the bottom of the barrel (just before a trip home, had run out of books to read, and found it on the shelf in the office).

Saturday, January 20

hiking and other ways to fill time

I had no one to meet up with yesterday, so I set out on a small hike up the mountain behind the apartment I used to live in. It was a pretty warm and sunny day, so I was warm as long as I kept moving. The trail felt familiar and it was a nice few hours up to the top and back. My knees are not thanking me today, though.

The first of the pictures show an ad for a health club on the trail! Development is everywhere in Korea, and even on the hiking trail, they can't help but advertise. My backpack held my snacks: cheese sandwich crackers (called Cheese Sand on the box), some mandarin oranges, and chocolate covered pumpkin seeds, a new discovery. Yum! The last picture is the view from my bedroom window at night. These apartments are the things that Korea is made of.

Today, I went to Itaewon to visit a friend from back in the day here in Korea. She has a beautiful one and a half year old daughter that was super cuddly and friendly, so I really enjoyed spending some time with her on my lap. We ate Subway sandwiches for lunch. Yum. There is so much good food there from so many different nationalities that I wanted to get take out for the whole week ahead, but I restrained myself from doing so.

Tonight I'm going to spend the night with the two girls from my old homestay. Should be fun!

Thursday, January 18

changing our perspective

Maybe I'm not on the field and you are.
Read this.

the closest book

I was tagged by Elaine.

1) Grab the book closest to you
2) Open to page 123, go down to the fourth sentence
3) Post the text of the following 3 sentences
4) Name the author and book title
5) Tag three people to do the same

The book closest to me happens to be Let's Go Thailand which doesn't really have an author, but many writers and an editor. The real book I'm reading right now, Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen, doesn't have 123 pages anyway.

The sentences I'm directed to post here are some that I had read earlier because I hope to visit this place:
Chatuchak Market.
Referred to by locals as "JJ," this weekend market is a bargain hunter's dream and makes for a great case study of market culture in Southeast Asia. The bustle is unmistakable and addictive as thousands of vendors see everything from dalmations to incense, although the main focus is clothing and plants. Chatuchak has a reputation for being the cheapest of the markets, but come armed with plenty of free time and patience to navigate the crowds and ready to hone your wallet preservation skills and bargain ruthlessly with relentless vendors.

Sounds like fun, huh? I'll be there in about two weeks!

I'm not gonna tag anyone, but if you have an interesting (or not) book near you, go ahead and do it too, for fun, and let me know.

Wednesday, January 17


So everybody in Texas is complaining about the weather. I think it's kinda funny. For some reason, even though I lived almost my whole life in Texas, I love cold weather. I love wearing layers of clothes and warm hats and scarves and big coats. When I tell people I love cold weather, they usually say, "But aren't you from Texas?".

The weather in Texas has been below freezing for a few days, but it's been below freezing in Northeast China for at least a month, and that's because this winter has been warm and started late. Anyway, I guess that it's alright for Texans to complain about it because it's not normal.

In Seoul, it's quite a bit warmer than Yanji. I wore a pair of long johns on the plane over, but haven't put them on since. I haven't been wearing a hat or gloves much and I brought my short coat that I can't wear in Yanji right now. Someone last week asked if where I live was as cold as here. I told him it was much colder and his eyes got very big. He said he can barely stand to be here in the winter because he gets dizzy when he goes outside. I told him to get a hat.

Tuesday, January 16

Vietnamese noodles and plants

Yesterday I was walking back to the place where I'm staying after meeting a friend and seeing her off at the bus stop. I heard my name being enthusiastically called and turned around to find the dad of the house I lived in my last few months in Korea. He was so happy to see me and called his wife right away to make dinner plans. I had to apologize for not calling them first and give them a good excuse for why I'm not staying with them. (I couldn't really get in touch with them because of the internet being down.) I went to dinner with the family (two girls and parents). We ate Vietnamese pho. It was so good, but the whole time, I was feeling a little strange. When the owner brought out Vietnamese coffee for us, I was really looking forward to drinking it, but after the first drink, I felt really weird and got up to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to the bathroom before I threw up on the restaurant floor. I kept going and made it to the sink for round two. I haven't thrown up since once in college. I don't know what happened to me. I was so embarrassed for making that mess for them. I tried to tell the owner that I really enjoyed my meal, but I'm not sure how much he believed. My Korean family was so kind. They helped me clean up and then bought me some medicine and took me home.
The house I'm staying in has these beautiful potted plants that fill their balconies. When I had a house, I had a dream to turn the huge backyard into a beautiful garden one day. That house is no longer mine, but maybe I will have an amazing garden someday. (I thought I needed to leave you with something other than my sick story.)

Monday, January 15


The only thing on my agenda today was to get extra pages added to my passport at the American Embassy in Seoul. Since it's a major thing to get to a consulate or embassy for me in China, I need to get it done here since it's easy for me to get to the embassy and I have free time. However, I got all the way there (it's easy to get there, but still takes an hour or so bus ride), got up to the front door and a Korean policeman pointed out that today was a holiday, Martin Luther King day. A great man and a great holiday, but I had no idea. Actually, I remember seeing it on some calendar recently, but it didn't register with me that I shouldn't go to the embassy today. I guess I'll be going back tomorrow.

Anyhow, I had a nice day in downtown Seoul. I ate some cheese dduk bokki (one of my favorite things - you can get it in China, but it's not the same) and then went to Kyobo bookstore. I looked at the Korean language learning books and the fiction, but figured I have enough of both already. I spent a lot of time looking at all the different schedule books (Korea may produce more of these than any other country in the world) and chose a tiny one, picked up some face wash at The Face Shop, the best cosmetics store around, and then headed to Insadong, the artsy touristy section of town.

The pictures are from a mall area in Insadong. Seoul is getting more and more hip. There was a gallery downstairs with some of Andy Warhol's paintings and then other artists paying trubute to him. Every store in the mall had some form of tibute to Warhol, too. The umbrellas were hung up in the open area and looked pretty cool. There were lots of people posing for photos.

This guy was outside on the pedestrian street. His sign says "I give warm hugs." On the other side, it said in English "FREE HUGS." I wanted to go up to him and ask why he was doing this, but I didn't. This is one thing I've gotta get past - not speaking to people in Korean unless I have to. (I'm not really a talkative person anyway, but I need to learn how to be talkative in order to practice these languages I'm learning!) I didn't see anyone getting a free hug, but I do like the expression of the girl in the green coat.

Sunday, January 14

my "homestay"

I am staying with a very nice Korean family. Their son just went to Texas to stay for a year and learn English the day that I came here for three weeks, so they let me stay in his room. Their daughter got married in November and lives in this apartment with her husband and her parents. The mom/wife was especially surprised that I like all the Korean food she serves. She talks about it every time we eat together. I was spared a little this weekend, though, when some nieces and nephews of the son in law came over. She wouldn't stop talking about how much the littlest one ate and how she did it all by herself!

I just ate a late dinner with them and then finally successfully helped with the dishes. (I had been barred from helping up to this point, but I kept trying and she finally told her husband "What can I do? I might as well just let her help.") She then started talking about how I was a great dishwasher and I am ready to get married. Then the dad/husband said, "Yes, I think she'll get married this year." I drank the coffee that he made for me and then came back to my room. Now, they are still in the living room, I think talking about why I'm not married, how Koreans get married earlier, etc. I am glad I escaped that conversation.

The topics of conversation have actually been quite interesting. They have included: Korea's standard of living (which they don't think is very good, but I keep telling them it is), whether people in the Phillipines have a better life, the fact (they say) that single women in Canada have the best standard of living, whether there are aliens living in America that look like humans (I'm not kidding about this. It actually came up.), how Koreans equate peppers to important parts of mens' anatomy (I think they thought I didn't understand that part, and I was glad), how Americans don't have a special food like kimchi, etc. I'm telling you, it's interesting here.

Since you can't join in our conversation, I leave you with a few more Harbin ice festival pictures, because my Mom was "wowed" by the ones I put up earlier. Just FYI, I read that Harbin has one of the three largest ice/snow festivals in the world, the other two being in Japan and Canada.

Saturday, January 13

a few more pictures

The snow sculptures were really great, so here are a few more just for fun. In one, I am striking a karate kid-like pose at the request of the photographer.

This dragon was really big and cool. We all tried to capture its magnificence on film, but alas, we failed.

Me, on the second level of the sleeper. It's the best place to be because nobody bugs you there and you're not too far away from the ground.

We got back at around 7 on Sunday morning to a deep and beautiful snow. These are the houses near my apartment. I think they're cute.

These are the military guys cleaning up certain sections of the base. They have these man powered snow plows. One person pushes and two or three people pull. Pretty effective use of a lot of men. What do they do when it's not snowing, I wonder?

Friday, January 12

harbin, part three

After a good rest in our warm and simple room that we got for 2o yuan per person per night (less than three dollars), we ate fruit and bread for breakfast, checked out of our room and left our luggage at the Korean restaurant where we had made friends the night before, and met our Korean friends to go to the snow park. It had been snowing earlier in the morning and started snowing again at the park. It was perfect!
The theme at the snow park this year was Canada, so there were maple leaves and other Canadian symbols like Niagra Falls sculpted in the park.
They were still sculpting some of the sections of the park.

Just before we left the park, someone noticed how amazing the snowflakes were. We tried to take pictures of them, but no one had a camera that could take such close pictures well. After spending a few hours looking at all these amazing snow sculptures, we were most amazed at what the maker sent that landed on our coats. They were simply the most intricate, beautiful, picture like snowflakes we had ever seen. Some of them had two levels and couldn't have been more perfect or beautiful. When we left the park, the flakes seemed to have turned normal again, but for a few minutes, we enjoyed the fascination of seeing those amazing flakes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon that day eating a huge Korean meal at the house of our new friends and then rested there until it was time for us to catch our train. We picked up our bags and got some kimbap (seaweed rolls) to eat on the train. I thought it was interesting that the only food we ate was American (McDonald's) and Korean the whole time we were there. I guess we should have ventured out, but those are the foods we are happy to eat and we were hosted by a Korean family, so we didn't try any new Russian or Chinese foods.

On the way back, we had sleeper tickets and met some students and teachers from our university, so it was much more enjoyable than our trip going. We had a lovely time in Harbin. I want to go back sometime!

Harbin, part two

This was the big event in Harbin that we went to see. We got on the bus as soon as it got dark (4:30). We were all bundled up: me with two pairs of long johns, three pairs of socks, more than three layers of shirts, my big down coat, gloves, scarf wrapped around twice, and hat. Some members of our threesome had on even more than me.
Unfortunately, the bus ride was super crowded and I started sweating under all those layers. All I could really take off was the hat, scarf, and gloves. They came off and I was gasping for fresh air everytime the door opened to let someone off. I had to walk around for a few minutes outside to cool down, but it didn't take long.
We were impressed with this city of ice buildings lit up from the inside. They had palaces, churches, tunnels, igloos, castles with slides, sculptures galore. It was beautiful. Worth the 150 yuan (about 18 bucks) I paid to get in.
We hooked ourselves together and slid down one of the ice slides on our rear ends. So fun! It felt like I was a teenager again at Wet and Wild waiting my turn to go down the next water slide. We stayed pretty warm most of the evening, it just got cold as we were waiting to meet up with our Korean friends again to go home together that we got cold, but we were warmed up by the packed bus ride home and almost thawed out by the time we reached our destination. We went to eat spicy rice cakes and steamed eggs at the Korean restaurant near the place we stayed. We impressed them with our (three white girls) ability to read, write, and speak Korean and we got special treatment.
Looking down from the top of one of the taller palaces. You can see a huge Buddha sculpted from snow and the other buildings in the park.

Wednesday, January 10

Harbin, first installment

I went to Harbin, a city further north than where I am in China, with two other teachers last week. We took the hard seat (for about 11 hours) overnight to get there. It was OK. Much better than some train experiences I've had before, both in and out of China. I did wake up at least once to people taking pictures of me with my mouth open. Lovely. We were introduced to a Korean family who is friends of someone at our university. They helped us find a place to stay and they also showed us around the city and fed us twice. They were super nice. The pictures above are of "Russia Street". There is an orthodox church nearby, cobblestone streets, and European style buildings and shops that make it feel like you're not in China for a while, which (as much as I really do love China) is a nice feeling.
The cobblestone street ends at the Songhwa River where we got our first sighting of a snow sculpture (a pig, because it's the year of the pig) and all sorts of fun ice games.

After walking around for a while, we ate McDonald's (it only tastes good in foreign countries, and since we don't have one in Yanji, it tasted especially good) and went to Wal-Mart (another thing Yanji doesn't have) to buy cheese and a few other items from the imported food section, then back to our sleeping spot to rest up a bit for the opening night of the ice festival.

I'll post more pictures of the main winter attractions, the ice park and the snow sculpture park, later.

Korea, my second home

I had a great first day in Korea. I got to eat a cream cheese bagel at the new Dunkin Donuts that just opened below the apartment I'm staying at. They have an outside porch with heaters and blankets ready on the chairs for people to put on their laps and stay warm. I thought that was pretty cute, but I still ate inside. I went to the bank to check my balance and get a new cash card, visited the school my Korea teammates started and run here, and then met a friend to go to a big conference that's happening this week. It was great. The singing and everything that went along with it was incredible. It was in Korean, but my ability to have meaningful wshp in that language has grown a lot. I realized that I've been in a dry place. Tonight I tried to soak up as much as possible and remember what it's like to really experience that. I can't have the same experience where I am, but I know I don't have to let myself get so dry.

There were a few different people who spoke. Two or three of them spoke mostly in English with Korean translation, some spoke only in Korean, but one guy was from South America. It was so interesting to hear him speak, have a Korean guy translate, and then have my friend next to me translate into English. Even though I don't understand everything in Korean, I almost asked her to stop because my ears wanted to listen to all three languages. I know more Korean that Spanish (sadly, I never learned that language, but should have), but there are so many Spanish words that are close to English that I still wanted to try. I wanted to listen to Korean because I'm learning it (and for some reason it's fascinating to see a Korean translate from Spanish) and then I had to listen to the English because my friend was going to the trouble of translating. The speaker was so fast and passionate that it was a crazy 30 minutes.

Tuesday, January 9

Korea, the land of internet

I arrived in Korea this afternoon and am now at my host home (a Korean family that has a newly married daughter they want me to speak English with) and have been using the internet for the past two or more hours, cleaning out my inboxes, updating my podcasts, checking out people's blogs, etc. It's amazing what you can get done when you don't have to wait 30 minutes for your inbox to load and then your messages actually go through!

I have a lot I want to post, but I'll start with some pictures from the last weeks of school.

Graduation, with Mee Yeon.

Lunch with some students at my new apartment.

The morning after a beautiful, long awaited snow. A few days after we gave our last final.

The reason why everything in my apartment will have a coating of black dust on it when I get home: coal used for heating.

Wednesday, January 3

new year gifts

I have been able to check my email and respond to a few, although the speed is slow and I'm sitting in a smoky PC room to do it. We have been finished with school (grading and everything) for about a week, so I have had some time to finally rest and do the things I want to. Tomorrow, three of us are leaving for Harbin, where it will be much colder than here (we hear) and we'll get to experience the ice festival that starts on January 5th. I bought the train tickets on my own on Monday morning, the first day of the year. I stood in line with many many other people for about an hour and then finally succeeded in getting the tickets for us three. It's a small victory when I get to use Chinese effectively.

I have been having people over for lunch or dinner almost every day for about a week. I have been making either a version of lasagna or pizza almost every time, so I am getting really familiar with those foods. I'm ready for a break from my own cooking, but it's really fun to have people come over and enjoy it.

On the first day of the year, Monday, we had a new teacher come in. It's really strange that he would come in at this time, since almost everyone is gone, but he had to for some reason. I volunteered as one of my last jobs at my previous university to be in charge of making sure someone picked him up and got him settled. It turned out that I thought he was coming in at 10am and I had people coming over for lunch, so I got someone else to pick him up. His plane actually came in at 10pm and the guy who I asked to pick him up waited at the airport thinking he had missed him. I felt really bad about this and told the guy who I had asked that I would go at night to pick him up. He was full of grace and mercy and said, with no resentment in his voice, that he would take care of it. That is the first lesson and gift I received this new year.

The second one was brought by an old student who came over for lunch. She had gone to the old folks home and shared her time and the truth with some old folks there. She told me about it and how one old person understood her but wouldn't accept her good news. She told me about how she felt like she had spent all last year without really telling anyone, so she wanted to start this year off by doing so. That was a real blessing to hear. This newbie has such a passion and such a giving and searching heart to tell others. She's another lesson and gift for me. All before noon on the first day of the year. I am blessed.