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Leah

    First Taste of Beondegi

    So… I ate a bug in Korea. Beondegi to be specific.

    We’ve been in Korea for about six months and we’ve really enjoyed the local food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we like trying new things. Even when we’re a little skeptical.

    We traveled southeast to Gyeongju the first weekend of February with some friends for Lunar New Year. (More on that soon!) While we were out one day, we walked by street food vendors. One lady was selling beondegi (번데기). I had no intentions of ever eating this food, but… when everyone was trying it, might as well?

     

    Boiled silkworm larvae

     

    What is beondegi?
    Beondegi is boiled and seasoned silkworm pupae. (Pupae is the stage between the larva and adult form when the bug is in the chrysalis stage.) Korean people eat beondegi as a snack, though I wouldn’t call it the most loved or popular food of choice. We often see food vendors with a long line of customers, but I never see a line at beondegi pots. According to earthexcursion.com: “Beondegi came to rise as a much needed source of protein during the Korean War because protein was scare, as well as many other macro nutrients.” I think we paid ₩2000 for a small paper cup (about $1.65 USD). It was MORE than enough.

    How did it taste?
    …Not as bad as I thought it would. It was a little bit fishy and nutty to me. Some of our friends thought they tasted similar to boiled peanuts. It was a little crunchy and a little chewy. Thinking about what I was chewing was the worst part.

     

    Beondegi seller

     

    Cup of beondegi

     

    Here’s a video of our first beondegi experience:

     

     

    And if I’m ever hankering for more (yeah right), I can always find a can of it at the grocery store:

     

    Beondegi can

     

     

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    Birthday In My Birth City

    I turned 28 on the last day of January. This was the first year I celebrated my birthday in my birth city. I now live just seven miles from the place I was born.

    A couple of weeks ago David and I tried to find it. The address I had from my adoption paperwork didn’t quite work with today’s streets (in 봉천동 관악구). We thought we may have found it but couldn’t be sure. We didn’t know enough Korean to find out how long the hospital had been in business.

    I was born at 33 weeks and weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. My 20-year-old unwed birth mother could not pay the incubator fees, hadn’t heard from the father in a while, and chose to put me up for adoption. As we were walking around the neighborhood, I thought how scared she must have been to be alone and in labor so early. I’m thankful for her bravery to choose life.

     

    Leah holding baby photo in front of hospital

     

    Even more, I’m thankful for my family who chose me, love me, and call me theirs… And for a Heavenly Father who orchestrated it all.

    I never intended for Korea to be a place of pilgrimage. And I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me I’d be living here one day. Finding more information about my roots is not a void I am trying to fill. However, while I’m here – why not? I filled out some inquiry paperwork for the Korean side of the adoption, and we’ll see what (if anything) comes back.

    I’m still figuring out my place and purpose here, but I am grateful for the adventure!

     

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    A Gracious Gift

    As I was getting ready for bed on Thursday, I went to take off my earrings and realized one was missing. The earrings were a telkari pair from Turkey, and I was incredibly disappointed. I had been all over Seoul that day, including a museum 40 mins away. I had no idea when the earring had fallen off.

    I messaged a friend whose house I had visited that evening, but she did not find it anywhere. I also emailed the museum in case someone had turned it into the lost and found. David offered that we could look on our street, but it was dark and the earring could have been anywhere.

    I knew I shouldn’t have been upset over it; there are people sick and hungry and in danger. But still, I prayed and asked God that He might let me find it.

    There was one more place to check. The next morning, I headed toward a neighborhood restaurant we ate dinner at the night before. As I walked, I kept my eyes on the streets, which I knew was a long shot in itself. Though Korea is generally clean, there’s always trash scattered on the roads.

     

    Seoul street view

     

    At the restaurant, I plugged my question into Google Translate and showed the lady at the counter, but she shook her head no.

    I had resigned to the fact that it was gone.

    And then, as I was walking across the street to the grocery store (when I wasn’t even looking anymore) a flash of silver caught my eye. It was an earring hook – MY earring hook! And not too far from from the hook was the other part of the earring! It was broken and scuffed and has been run over and stepped on, but it was mine and I had found it.

     

    Lost earring... found!

     

    On the many, winding streets of Seoul I had traveled the day before, I found my earring. What a gracious gift from Him! The night I lost the earring, I had been a part of a discussion about how we should live our lives with the expectation of gifts from our Heavenly Father. Oh me of little faith. Forgive me of my unbelief!

    How much greater God rejoices when I return to Him with all my brokenness, dirtiness, scuffs, and sin.

     

    Telkari Turkish earrings

     

    And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” –Luke 15:8–10

     

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    Trumpeter Swans on Magness Lake

    While we were in the States over Christmas break, we traveled south to see my mom in Arkansas. She heard about some other northern visitors, and we drove to Heber Springs to check them out.

    Arkansas hosts hundreds of trumpeter swans every winter! The swans migrate from the Midwest to Magness Lake and enjoy the warmer temperatures from November through February. Trumpeter swans are the largest of waterfowl in North America and are the rarest type of swan. Their wingspan can reach up to 10 feet! The first three swans came to the lake in 1992; researchers think they were knocked off course by a storm. Swans mate for life and they teach their young their migration routes. Now, as many as 150 swans can be seen on the lake at a time.

    We stopped by the lake in the afternoon and saw around 25 swans, along with other ducks and geese. If we had stayed a little longer, we might have seen more fly in after their day out hunting. A friend gave us a bag of cracked corn to feed the birds. They were beautiful!

     

    Magness Lake swans

     

    Trumpeter swans on Magness Lake

     

    Magness Lake in Heber Springs

     

    Cracked corn on Magness Lake

     

    Flock of trumpeter swans

     

    Trumpeter swans through brush

     

    Cracked corn

     

    Holding cracked corn

     

    Trumpeter swans swimming

     

    Trumpeter swans

     

    Trumpeter swans

     

    Trumpeter swans

     

    David, Leah, Mom at Magness Lake

     

    To see the swans, take Arkansas 110 east from its intersection with Arkansas 5 and 25 just east of Heber Springs. Go 3.9 miles from the intersection to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, marked with a white sign. Turn left onto Hays Road. Parking spots are available. The swans are best seen in the mid-afternoon to dusk hours.

    We look forward to visiting the swans over winters to come!

     

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    Our 2015

    I’m know I’m a little late on the train to the new-year/year-in-review stuff, but it’s still January, so I say it still counts. It’s fun to take a look at all we’ve done and where we’ve been in the past year. We experienced a great deal of change and transition in the last 12 months. Here’s a glimpse at what we were up to in 2015:

     

    January
    We traveled back to Turkey after spending the holidays in Michigan. I broke my arm (first broken bone ever!) and had surgery. I spent January and the next several months in recovery and physical therapy.

     

    Titanium plate, radius bone

     

    February
    We seriously considered the possibility of moving to Korea and David had a phone interview. We had fun with our students during Spirit Week and I wrapped up the elementary cheerleading season. David and I started a no-poo hair care regimen (stopped using shampoo and conditioner products).

     

    Elementary cheerleaders

     

    March
    We officially decided to move to Korea for the 2015–2016 school year. David ran a half marathon in Antalya. We traveled for Spring Break and spent a few days in Paris (1, 2, 3, 4).

     

    Us with the Eiffel Tower

     

    April
    We spent the rest of our Spring Break exploring Italy: Venice, Florence, and Rome. Back in Turkey, I started taking language lessons from a sweet Korean mom.

     

    Leah and David by a Venice canal

     

    May
    We took an incredible trip to Northeastern Turkey with friends and saw Ottoman bridges. We also spent a few hours in the country of Georgia! May was a busy time as the end of the school year came to a close.

     

    Ottoman bridge

     

    June
    June was a fun, crazy, and emotional month. I traveled to the southern coast with the senior class and spent time in Kalkan and on a boat cruise. We said far too many goodbyes – to our students, our church, our community, our friends (that became family), and the country we came to love so dearly. David’s parents and two of his brothers came to visit and we toured them all around Turkey (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). We celebrated our fourth anniversary.

     

    At Ikiz Restaurant for dinner

     

    July
    After we packed all that we could into seven suitcases, we flew to the States for three weeks. We visited Michigan and Arkansas and got to see my mom’s new house for the first time! We arrived in Korea July 22. David began training and orientations at the school.

     

    Gyeongbokgung guard

     

    August
    David’s first day of school was August 10. I said goodbye to my 19-year-old cat named Blue. David started assistant coaching the high school cross country team.

     

    David's classroom

     

    September
    I started taking Korean language classes. We experienced our first Korean jjimjilbang (bathhouse). We took our first trip outside of Seoul to Sokcho and climbed Ulsanbawi.

     

    Celebrating making it to the top of Ulsanbawi

     

    October
    David’s cross country coaching season ended. A friend from David’s hometown (who currently teaches in Japan) came to visit. We continued to adjust to school and life in Korea. David started an online grad school class.

     

    Eating bingsu with a friend.

     

    November
    I volunteered on a school retreat in Daecheon and made over 300 pancakes. I also started an online portraits shop. We traveled with a school group to Suncheon Bay and Yeosu.

     

    Travel group

     

    December
    David finished his first semester teaching in Korea! He also wrapped up his grad school class. We flew to the States for our three week Christmas break.

     

    Christmas 2015 with Grandma and Grandpa

     

    What a year it has been! Through it all, Lord has been steadfast and gracious. It’s encouraging to look back and consider all the ways He guided, directed, and provided. I look forward to all that 2016 holds!

     

    Check out our other year end posts here:
    » 2014 Year in Review
    » 2012 Year Infograph

     

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