Saturday, March 9, 2013

Making friends

In recent days we have been fortunate to make some new acquaintances with our Korean neighbors.  This is somewhat of a big deal because as an ex-pat it can be difficult to mingle with the greater Korean community - something to do with the language and cultural barrier, I suppose.

Our new next door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Kim, are very kind and inviting.  Mrs. Kim is a retired English teacher.  We met a few weeks ago in the hallway just outside our apartments on the 23rd floor.  Mrs. Kim struck up the conversation.  We've only seen each other a few times since then, but I stopped by this morning to request she let us know if any important announcements came over the apartment intercom system.  She invited me in for a marmalade tea and some conversation.  Her husband joined us and she translated for us.  Moments like these are precious because they give me the opportunity to ask questions, make observations, and get feedback from someone who truly can explain or answer.  Mrs. Kim is about 70 and so has lived through the vast changes in Korea in the past 50 years, since the Korean War.  She assured me that they are not nervous about recent saber rattling from the North, but understood how those from outside Korea would see the situation.  She told me about how poor they were when she was young, that rice was rare so they ate barley, how eating 2 meals in a day was a special treat, how most of the time they had to choose between paying for food or fuel but not both in the same day.  And here we are in this amazing, prosperous country now.

We've also begun to make friends with a family on the 9th floor.  The daughter Minji is 12 and her mother Sunny hoped she could continue learning her English by speaking to us and so she struck up a conversation in the elevator.  Anna and Minji spent a few hours together and I visited their apartment long enough to begin making friends with Sunny.  Minji has spent 2 years in South Africa - 1 with a guardian and one with her mother.  They seem very friendly and speak English pretty well.  Perhaps we will get to know them better.

Through the North Korean Women's Refugee Center, I've gotten to know the other teachers.  Some are Westerners and others Koreans.  We often have interesting or deep conversations in the car to and from the shelter where we teach English to the women refugees.

We look forward to making more new friends when we travel for 2 days with a group from our church on a tour around S. Korea a few weeks from now.

Each moment is precious, isn't it?  Let me encourage YOU to make a new friend, too.