Friday, 30 August 2013

Return to The Far East

Yesterday, Tom and I arrived at our home for the next two years. We're living and working in Cheonsung Presbyterian Church in the city of Cheonan, Korea.
Our Journey to the church took a total of thirty-three hours and we took two planes, a coach, and a taxi to reach our final destination (excluding travel to the airport initially). The first flight was roughly thirteen hours long and brought us to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We found that we coukd easily sleep on the first flight, so time went by quickly for us. Upon arriving at Kuala Lumpur, Tom grabbed something to eat and we went in search of Monopoly Deal in a toy shop. Sadly, we could not find the original edition of Monopoly Deal but rather a 'Millionaire' version, so we settled with Uno instead.
As we went through customs at Kuala Lumpur, I was careful to remove my pencil case and watercolour paints to avoid having to remove everything from my backpack a second time. Heathrow Airport customs had been very thorough in making sure that I wasn't carrying anything explosive or toxic in my bag. Still, even though we got through without any hitches this time, Tom was still through to the waiting lounge a good few minutes before me.
The second flight dragged on for quite some time so Tom and I entertained ourselves by playing several hands of Uno. The Goal stated by the instructions is for each player to try to reach 500 points before the other players...this took us 2-3 hours.
The immigration at Incheon Airport was swift and we entered Korea with no problems, phew! I say this because when we were at Kuala Lumpur airport one of the assistants that helped us mentioned that Tom may not be allowed into Korea without proof of a return flight. All was good however, God's got it sorted.
The coach journey took about two-and-a-half hours due to the traffic around Seoul. As you can see, Tom enjoyed this journey very much...

After arriving in Cheonan and hauling our 30kg suitcases from the coach, we took a taxi to the church. We arrived at the church in the midst of a thunderstorm, the thunder and lightning were like nothing I had personally experienced before. Mrs. Byun (a lovely lady who works in and is a member of the church) met us and helped us carry our luggage up to our appartment.
It didn't take us long to fill one of our bookshelves. I own about 6/7 of these books and a few of the bibles, the rest belong to Tom.
We made a mess and then relaxed.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Snare of Shadows by R.J. Irving

I've had the privilege of working with R.J. Irving on the cover-design for his first book in the Cry 4 Rest trilogy Snare of Shadows. The story focuses on a small group of friends aboard the colony ship The Hope. The Hope appears to be a normal colony ship on destination to a new home-world, however from the get-go it feels as though there are many underlying secrets to do with the true purpose of the ship and it's people that have been well concealed. R.J. Irving has taken a unique approach to writing this novel where the narrative is divided into diary entries from various authors. As you read through the story you'll begin to piece bits together, however, not everything is what it seems!

Click here to grab a copy from Amazon



Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Journey to The Far East - Shabu-shabu and The Korean Hall of Independance

Tom and I taught our first English lesson this week which wasn't really much of a lesson. We played hangman with our students and a few other games that we had fished from the internet. After spending an hour at Yeso Nursery on Thursday afternoon, Tom and I returned to our apartment at the top of the church and did a bit of preparation for the teaching on Sunday.

Dinner with Mrs Kim - Friday 21st
On Friday evening we were taken out to dinner by one of the church members; Mrs Kim. We met Mrs Kim and her daughter at five o'clock at a modern restaurant inside one of the shopping malls in Cheonan.
After being introduced and learning a little about each other, we were seated and served Shabu-shabu. Shabu-shabu is a type of meal that involves cooking very thinly sliced beef in boiling broth. The tables had electric stoves built into them that heated the broth in stainless-steel bowls/woks and once it reached boiling point we added a selection of vegetables including several types of mushrooms that I hadn't eaten before. Once all the veg had been boiling a while, we added the beef slices.
Along with the Shabu-shabu we were given rice paper and a selection of grated veg with three different sauces; I believe it's called Bulgogi. The idea is that you dip the rice paper into water to soften it, lay it on your plate and apply veg, add sauce, and then make it into a kind-of wrap. I documented the process that was initially demonstrated superbly by Jacob but didn't get a photo of the bright pink water that we were given to soak our rice paper in.

After this delicious dinner we went for ice-cream together. Mrs Kim told us that she'd been part of the church for several years and had known Jacob's wife (Beth) for some time and watched her grow up. Mrs Kim's daughter (I'm not great with names) enjoys performance art and is hoping to study singing (or music?) for the next few years. Her entry exam is in September and we're praying that she does well if it's God's will.
Mrs Kim shared a little about herself and her walk with God. She told us that she was prompted by the Spirit of God to bless the missionaries that are coming to serve in Cheonan and so in response to this she blessed us by taking Jacob, Tom and I out for a meal and ice-cream. Among the many other blessings from the wonderful people here, this is one that really touched me.

Jacob, myself, Tom, Mrs Kim and her daughter
The Korean Hall of Independence - Saturday 22nd
On Saturday we visited the Korean Hall of Independence together with Jacob & Beth, Mr Lee and the students from the Christian school. It was fun to hang out with the students outside of lesson time.
The approach to the Korean Hall of Independence is quite a sight and the Monument to the Nation stands in the centre of the promenade. The Monument to the Nation was designed to "evoke an image of the wings of a bird soaring in the sky, or the human hands in eager prayer", it "symbolizes the indomitable Korean spirit throughout history and the strong resolve of the Korean people for independence, liberty, unification and prosperity."
The Monument to the Nation
On the approach to the hall of independence there are a series of boards with information about the Dokdo islands and evidence that backs up Korea's claims that the islands are part of their nation. Korea certainly has no plans to release the islands to the Japanese: "Dokdo has long been the territory of Korea and is in full possession by the nation. Therefore, Dokdo will definitely remain in Korean hands". After we passed the Dokdo info boards and a large number of South Korean flags we reached a bridge that crossed a pond/river; I didn't make enough of an observation to decide which it was but that water appeared to be fairly still apart from in the areas with all the fish!
These fish were going crazy for the food we were throwing to them. After spending some time observing the fish we reached the Hall of Independence itself. It's a large structure mostly made out of some sort of stone or granite (I'm speculating here), inside is a large carved statue of group of people united together. I didn't get a photo of the statue but you can easily find it through Google.
The Korean hall of Independence
Jacob and Beth in-front of the hall :)

Before reaching the hall, Mr Lee had told me the name of the South Korea flag; Taegeukgi. I think 'Taegeuk' is the name for the yin-yang in the centre of the flag. Once we were inside the hall, Jacob explained the meaning of the Taegeukgi to us. White is a traditional colour of the Korean people and represents purity, the brightness and the peace-loving characteristic of the people. The red and blue Taegeuk in the centre of the flag stands for the perfect harmony between yin and yang and "symbolizes the truth of nature in which the universe was created and developed". The four Gwae that surround the yin-yang show the mutual change and progress of the yin and yang. Each Gwae represents a different element; sky, land, water, and fire. When Jacob described their additional meanings, it seemed to me like they represent seasons as well.

The Korean Hall of Independence has the largest museum in South Korea that consists of seven buildings that focuses on the independence movement of the Japanese colonial period. The first building, The Hall of National Heritage, covers from prehistoric times to the Joseon Dynasty but the rest of the buildings are dedicated to the independence movement.

We went through five of the seven halls because we were tight for time but what we saw in those five halls grew our love for the people of Korea and the nation. Korea's history is sad but also inspirational and we can see God's work here despite the hardship.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Journey to The Far East - Tuesday 18th - Wednesday 19th

We've got a new kettle! Not particulary exciting news but it does make a minor difference to our lives. We also have hot running-water thanks to Cheonsung Church's handy man, legend! We're pleased to have hot water running through our taps. I was having a think about how easy it is for us to simply to turn on a tap and get hot running-water. I know it's something that I've taken for granted throughout my life, it's something worth being thankful for.
Jacob, contently holding our new kettle
This week we've spent a little bit of time at Yeso nursery about 10-15 minutes drive away from Cheonsung Church. May I add that after our first visit Jacob handed the wheel over to Tom and I. The fact that we both haven't driven in a while, let alone in a busy city and on the right-hand side of the road wasn't scary at all! I almost pulled out of a junction onto the wrong side of the road and drove over a speed bump way too fast. Tom pretty much had the driving in the bad (from my opinion) but I think we both found it a tad scary first time round. We're now fairly confident about the driving side of things having drove back and forth two times each.

Yeso nursery (Yeso meaning something along the lines of 'in communication with Jesus') was opened around a year ago (I think) and looks after a lot of the kids of members in the church. I believe the nursery was opened by Cheonsung Church, so there's a direct link there. The kids are ridiculously cute and spending time with them is a real. Everytime we left the nursery I felt upbeat and uplifted. We spent our time at the nursery doing English activities with the kids.

We also attempted to cook for the first time since being here, the result was pretty horrendous. We cooked the noodles for far too long and didn't rinse them with cold water so they became mega starchy and stuck together resulting in huge noodle logs. The veg wasn't seasoned and we literally whacked them all in a pan and boiled them. The finishing touch to the meal was a red sauce that we don't actually know the name of.

It was nice to look at...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Journey to The Far East - Monday 17th June

Monday 17th
Tom and I took another walk up the hill behind the church and along the woodland paths towards the centre of Cheonan.
The view as we emerged from the trail
We didn't quite reach the centre of Cheonan but we took a wander down a few streets on this side of town, contemplated buying a kettle, decided against it, and then headed home. On the way home we spotted a 30kph sign integrated within the design of some railings, we also noticed that the sign was on both the road and pavement sides of the railing. It looks like some pedestrians need to slow down!
As we're on the subject of pavements, railings, and speed limits, I'd like to mention how zebra crossings work here in Korea. As far as I'm aware, all zebra crossings here in Cheonan have a coundown timer/indicator next to the universal green man. These timers show you how much time you have to cross the road before the traffic lights change for the vehicles. I think this is a great idea as you'd assume that if someone wanted to cross with only three seconds left, they'd wait for the next opportunity to avoid being run over. However, I can also see how some would take the risk with only a few seconds to spare.

Pedestrian speed limit...
Countdown to impending death...

We still had no running hot water in our apartment and the kettle takes some time to heat up so Tom found an alternative method to heating our water that seemed to be fairly effective. I stuck with the kettle.

Our alternative water heater

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Journey to The Far East - Sunday

We woke up fairly late today. There was the option of a Korean breakfast in the dining hall at 9am but we were in favour of more sleep and cereal. It was worth having a lie-in to help the recovery from jet lag.
We joined the English service at 11.15am where we worshiped together and received a sermon from Jacob about a specific Old Testament law from the Bible and how it applies to modern day Christians and lines up with the Gospels. I wish I had taken notes as I don't remember some of the key points that Jacob spoke about.

After the service we had lunch together in the dinning hall before joining in with the kids service in the afternoon.
Jacob and Tom
I've realised haven't given a lot of insight into who Jacob is yet. Jacob is the English Pastor here at the moment. He lives here in the church with his wife Beth (I don't remember Korean names well!) and is in charge of teaching English to the students here and leading the English service on Sunday. He's a real man of God who really trusts that God has his life in His hands. We've been really blessed through friendship with Jacob.
Jacob and Beth are moving to England in July to work at an English school for Korean kids that partners with a school here in Korea. It feels like we're switching places as they go to England and we come to Korea.

Later in the afternoon, Tom and I went for another walk up the hill behind the church but this time we walked in the opposite direction. We wandered of the beaten path and got a little bit lost but ended up in a beautiful public arboretum/garden.

Wandering near some allotments
At the top of the arboretum

Monday, 17 June 2013

Journey to The Far East - Saturday

Due to tiredness, a chunk of my memory seems to be missing...slightly worrying. However, I can recall the walk that Tom and I took in the afternoon up the small mountain behind the church. For a second time we trekked to the top of the wooden steps up the hill behind the church.
Tom on slightly challenging wooden steps


We followed the trail to the right at the top of the wooden steps and tackled a few step hills before eventually ending up at a concrete bridge crossing the main road from the West that eventually ends up in the centre of Cheonan. The surface of the bridge has been covered with soil to allow foliage to grow and offers you the illusion that you're still within the wooded area.
The wooded bridge
We took a little bit of a detour from our original route and when wandering down a path not far from the bridge we spotted an Asian giant hornet, it was huge! Well, we thought so anyway. We tried to capture it with my camera it but it doesn't show up on the video against all the foliage. The excitement of seeing this hornet made us curious as to whether there were others nearby, even a hive maybe? It wouldn't really do us any good if we did stumble across a hive, aparently their stings release a sort-of acid that can kill you if it gets into your blood stream and also releases a pheromone that attracts other giant hornets. Yeah, that wouldn't be fun.

Jacob invited us over in the evening for dinner at his place. Beth had to go out of town so it was Tom, Jacob and I. The lads! This was my first time trying dog as well. Yes, dog. I found that it had a similar texture and taste to beef.
We also experienced Korean TV for the first time and watched Top Gear Korea together after dinner. My experience was cut short as I fell asleep on the sofa.
Quality TV

Top Gear Korea