Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004

Greetings everyone.

Hi. Merry Christmas (in case I don't have a chance to
otherwise greet you for Christmas). It's getting
colder, plastic evergreens are springing up like
flowers in May or acne the week before prom night, so
it must be December. This Christmas feels more like
Christmas than last year, because, I suppose, of the
music: last year the only Christmas music I got to
hear all December was that elevator Christmas music
you get on the radio, which is usually not the kind of
holy, meditative Christmas music that puts me in the
holiday/Advent spirit, but this year I have the
antidote: I have place my Handel's Messiah in the CD
case that I carry around to work and home, so whenever
I want it to start feeling like Christmas, I just pop
some Handel into the tape player in each classroom,
and have the Messiah as the background music for that
class. The Messiah being the one thing that readies
me for the holidays more than any other thing, I'm
feeling much more Christmassy this year, even though I
haven't so much as smelled egg not, tasted a candy
cane, or even seen a nativity scene.

Korea has its beauties, even in winter -- the trees
are finally empty of their various colours, which
means I can see the mountain more easily. (**one
single white male: tall, sensitive, articulate,
seeking a silver lining to various clouds; if
interested call 0** *** **** after business hours.
Serious inquiries only.**). Unfortunately, as
beautiful as Seoul winter can (HONESTLY!) be, I've not
been able to enjoy it for the last week, because I've
been feeling sudden urges to fall asleep, cold sweats,
and a bad cough. That's right, yours truly is sick: I
get funny tastes (and sometimes colours) in my mouth
when I cough, I wake up with headaches and am
constantly thirsty. Sometimes I sneeze fifteen times
in two minutes for no apparent reason. I even took
Wednesday off to rest. I'll get better, of course,
but it's a pain being sick and having a bedtime of
10:00 pm.

Let's get this over with quickly:

you all know now (unless you've forgotten somehow)
that my mother has terminal stomach/liver/other places
cancer. This means I will be going home for
Christmas. That means I had to purchase a plane
ticket home for Christmas, which also meant I now have
no money for Christmas presents (sorry everyone -- ask
again on a year when my mother isn't dying. Believe
me, I wish I had the choice to spend my December
paycheck on books CDs and hobby accessories for all my
friends, too.) It means I will be in Canada, in
Agassiz, specifically, for the week between Christmas
Day and New Years' day, but it also means that my top
top tippy toppest priority is to be with my family
this Christmas as (here come the waterworks) it
may/probably will be my family's last Christmas with
my mother in the mix. All this is to say no, I can't
spare a whole day (out of my five, one of which is
lost to jetlag) for you; no, I can't drive out to
Langley or Vancouver or Red Deer or Manhattan to swing
by your new pad (though I'm sure it's really cool).
However, if you want to come out to Agassiz to see me,
I'll make sure that Mom and Dad have lots of tea and
crackers on hand, and you can drop me a line and I'll
send you directions to my house.

But unless seeing me is deathly urgent, or I am
"please become godfather to my children" level close
to you, here is some reassuring news:

I'd asked my boss if I could extend my contract for
three extra months so that I had three more paychecks
before I came back to Canada, and I could properly be
my brother's best man in July when he gets married,
having worked until May, I'd be able to live in Red
Deer in June and sort things out for him. My boss,
for whatever reason, decided she'd rather hire
somebody else next March, and has decided to reject my
offer to stay for three extra months. Maybe the
uncertainty of my family situation was part of her
rationale, but in the end, I'm not too fussed. She'll
be able to bring on a new teacher at the beginning of
a semester (which is nice for her), and maybe hire a
couple (which is cheaper for her), and I don't have to
bust my groove thang for 10 and a half hours a day for
an extra three months. And (here's that silver lining
I advertised for earlier:) now I'll be coming home at
the beginning of March, so that's not too far off
after Christmas -- barely any time at all, the way
time keeps passing faster and faster!) so I can be
there for my parents' 30th Wedding Anniversary! I
hadn't thought about this, but that's pretty exciting.
And, suddenly I've gone from having about five more
months at this school, to having just over two more,
and that, my friends, is a nice feeling, considering
the level of workaholism the administration has begun
to ask of its teachers.

The downside (and this is big) is that I'm gonna miss
my girlfriend the now, retroactively renamed Exgirlfriendoseyo.

A lot.

A lot.

As she will me.

but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

of course that part won't be easy. she's really been
a rock for me, and I'm so grateful and lucky/blessed
that she's in my life right now. Everybody in my
Church (where she's been attending weekly), just
adores her, and asks about her caringly when she's
absent because of a test or a paper.

She's doing exams and papers right now, wrapping up
her final semester, so I'm trying to be a steadfast
support for her, and encourage her in her studies.
Last night I cooked special, Rob-style spaghetti and
brought it, in a plastic container, down to the school
where she was studying, and surprised her with dinner
there. That was fun -- but we're trying to find the
balance between relationship maintenance and diligent
study, but right now I feel like diligent study is
winning by a longshot, and I miss her sometimes. Of
course, this, too, shall pass, and the reunion (of
sorts) when she has leisure time again, will be
wonderful, but for now I'm trying to be a solid
support and encourage her as much as I can.

A few weeks ago I got this one: the opposite of
YESterday is NOterday.

I've been having fun with my kids; I've learned how to
speak Konglish really well -- English with TOTALLY
Korean pronounciation, and that always cracks up the
kids, but the best laugh one of the kids dealt to me
came a few weeks ago.

I was teaching the word "Statue", and I mentioned that
often we see statues in churches and temples. Eddie,
one of my sweetest Kindergarten students, made the
finger gesture that the Buddha often makes in his
statues -- thumb and middle finger touching as if you
moved the "A-OK" sign down a finger, as if he's about
to flick something with his middle finger. Then he
asked "Teacher, do you know why Buddha is making that
way?" (making that gesture)

"Why, Eddie?"
now I have to explain a game of rock scissor paper
that korean kids play (they LOVE variations on rock,
scissor paper, and it's the ultimate argument settler
in this country; it's universally recognized as fair).
In one of the variations, the winner of the game gets
to flick the loser in the middle of the forehead.
This flick is usually done by the index finger or the
(strongest) middle finger. Eddie explains to me that
Buddha is making that gesture because. . .
"Buddha and God play rock scissor paper. And Buddha
win, so Buddha can do this one" (makes flicking
motion) "to God".

I didn't find this a bit blasphemous, of course -- it
was just a kid living in a culture where Buddha and
God are about equal influences on the religious
preferences of people around him, trying to make sense
of it all. It made me laugh, and hey, the dude wears
the virgin Mary around his neck two days in five, so
he'll grow up to understand more about it all, I hope
in a way that's as lighthearted as that, down the
road. It's a lot nicer to be able to chuckle about
the way religions can live alongside each other than
the two girls in another class who have been known to
feud in class because of has Christian parents and the
other has Buddhist parents (I learned about that one
from my teaching assistant). It saddens me that kids
so young are already building walls and being nasty to
each other over religion, which (from what I've
gathered) is (if nothing else) humanity's attempt to
figure out how NOT to be nasty to each other.

I explained counting syllables to a class by using
words that had lots of syllables, that I knew the kids
wouldn't know, to show that you don't have to know a
word to sound it out or count its syllables. The
words I used were "detrimental" and "extraneous",
which I repeated several times in class, until one kid
put up his hand and asked "Teacher, what's

My girlfriend sends me messages on my phone, and she
keeps making adorable spelling mistakes -- and somehow
her spelling mistakes ALWAYS turn into different
words; they never just turn into nonsense. She spells
message wrong, so she regularly says things like

"thanks for that massage. it made me laugh"
or "i'll send you a massage later"

yesterday she said "I told my mom that you brought me
spaghetti. "She was empressed" (I don't know what the
emperor's wife has to do with my spaghetti OR her mom,
but it make me smile)

and unfortunately, since she'll recieve this letter, I
guess that massage mistake's gonna stop now, but it's
been fun.

so that of course leads to the question "When your
Korean friends' chronic English errors are really
cute, is it still your responsibility to correct
them?" -- one lady at work always says lunch "lonchee"
so that the word lunch almost rhymes with the word
"raunchy" -- and do I need to correct that, when it's
so cute? She's the same one who told me, when I went
to the doctor's, that I have to get lots of lest.

My name regularly becomes lobeuh (which is how Koreans
say "Love" in Konglish), so I'm Love teacher to some
of my kids, and to others, I've told them about the
Lobster nickname, so I have a few kids who won't stop
calling me Lobster, Love, or Robot, which I don't

Matt's brother Joel is here, and he's cool. And I've
started making spaghetti again, after almost a
two-year hiatus. This is really nice -- it'd been so
long since I'd made spaghetti, it's nice to get back
into practice. Also, especially during a time that's
particularly emotionally challenging, with a
girlfriend who's unavailable because she has to study,
making spaghetti is (I realized) a REALLY comforting
ritual for me. Making it makes me feel almost as good
as eating it. Plus, afterwards, my house smells SO
good afterwards.

Anyway, I should probably go. I'll see some of you
this coming Christmas, and the rest of you in March.
I miss you and I love you, Korea's still good, life
and God are still good -- it just sometimes takes some
looking to find the silver lining. Like when your mom
sends you an e-mail about how "it's getting more
difficult to do everyday things -- I had to take a nap
in the middle of a meeting with some church families"
-- but then, it's also my mom where I take my cues,
and where I learned, to look for a silver lining. I
remember her saying "well, you know, surgery's not an
option, but on the bright side, I get to keep my
stomach and eat food with flavour," and "I try to
think positively -- I've lost a lot of weight, but hey
-- I fit into everything in my closet now! And I
don't snore anymore!"

Way to go, mom. Everybody on this list could learn
from you. I'm not sick -- I'm just staying home from
work to watch movies and sleep. No less than Hamlet
himself said, "there is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so", and John Milton agreed that
"The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make
heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven." and, to
paraphrase Proverbs 17:1: "Better a dry crust with
peace and quiet than a house full of feasting", I'll
say, "better a sick mom full of love and joy and
wisdom, than a healthy mom who's the subject of all my
trips to the counsellor" I wouldn't trade you for the
world, Mom.

And to all the rest of you:

well, I like you all, quite a bit, too.

God Bless


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Mom' Cancer Announcement

I don't know if I have room, or heart, to comment more
than what my father wrote. Here's the e-mail I just
December 1, 2004
Dear Family,
Thank you all so much for your prayers during this
past week. Jane has had
a great week, filled with hope and expectation. We
have both felt very
much the support and encouragement of all of our
friends and family during
this anxious time.

God has answered all of our prayers, though not in the
way we had
hoped. Our prayers during this time have been that
above all, God would be
glorified by whatever happens. And we are sure that
the events of today too
are in his control and will work together for his
glory and our benefit.

Yes, as you've probably guessed by now, the news today
was not good. Jane
had her surgical examination, and the doctor found
cancer in many different
places. Jane will not be facing the major surgery of
having her stomach removed.

It seems in some ways that we are now back to where we
were last October
after the first CTscan. Cancer seems to have a way of
keeping us on a
roller coaster ride for some time. But now we know
for sure that Jane's
cancer is not operable or curable by human or medical

This does not mean we no longer have hope! Of course,
initially, and
always, our hope is first and foremost in the Lord!
We have every
confidence that our lives are securely held in his
hands, and we know that
he will lead and guide us in ways that may seem
mysterious to us, but that
reveal his wonders at work in and through us. We have
experienced this
already as we have seen how the Lord has used this
time of illness to be a
blessing to many whose lives Jane's life has touched
over the years.

We will continue to strive for fullness of life as
Jane uses the means the
Lord shows us and as we keep our hope fixed on him.
How much time Jane,
or, for that matter, any of us have left is still not
in our hands. And we
pray that God will spare Jane for as long as he needs
her to be a blessing
to others and to reveal his glory though her. We also
pray for strength,
comfort and grace for each member of our family in the
trying times in the months ahead.

Please continue to remember us in your prayers, as you
have been doing.

Please feel free to send this email to others you
think might be interested
and willing to join us in prayer.
God bless you all,