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    Still Settling In

    I feel like this could be the post title for the next six months. Still settling in. We’re in the middle of our third week in Seoul.

    I’ve been trying very hard not to think of it this way, but I have also been processing it as six weeks since we left Turkey. If you Google “culture shock” you’ll find the term “honeymoon phase.” And while I would like very much to be there, I’m not yet. (That is not to say I am not grateful and haven’t been enjoying this place and meeting new people.) While I have one foot nearing the honeymoon phase, the other foot is planted in the grieving process of leaving our last home.

    It sounds overly dramatic and it’s definitely not what I expected. 

    I feel like it’s worth noting this is not a cry myself to sleep at night kind of grieving. I cried once about it when we were in the States for three weeks and haven’t since then. It’s more of a sense of loss and sadness. I know it’s part of the transition of settling into a new home.

    I subscribe to a lot of blogs and I recently read a post from about someone’s first home buying experience. And it resonated with me. Let me explain.

    The first few days on my own (while David was at new teacher orientation) revolved around shopping trips. We needed x, x, and x for the house, and I mapped out the subway routes to get to the stores. On Saturday, we went to IKEA and eyed some of the couches there. Our employer provided a couch along with other basic furniture, but we were missing the pull-out couch we lived on for the last three years. We decided to use part of a housing stipend and went for it. A few days later, IKEA delivered it and David spent a couple of hours putting it together.

    Once it was constructed, I started second guessing it. Did we pay too much? Should we have waited longer before purchasing it? Moving to a new country and reestablishing your house is not so cheap. You can only fit so much into a handful of suitcases. There are everyday household items that “need” to be purchased like an ironing board and a wall clock and hangers and a broom. While I pride myself on being a smart shopper, costs add up. I was feeling bad about spending money and then the couch was kind of big and was it the wrong size for the room and did we make a mistake?

    And then I read the blog post by Rachel Schultz. And it talked about making a house an idol and that idols never satisfy. And it woke me up. “As Tim Keller defines it, an idol is making a good thing into the ultimate thing.” I had turned the idea of home and making a home into an idol. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself and a place. And when I gave up the ideal and the idol, I felt a little more free.

    Settling in is a process. It takes time. And it’s okay that’s where we’re at right now. 


    Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to.

    David finished orientation last week. His classroom is decorated and ready for students:


    David's classroom


    I’ve been accumulating succulents here and there around town. I found the cutest plant shop in Itaewon called Pida! I got my first air plant. It’s planted in driftwood. Swoon:


    Air plant


    Grocery shopping looks a little different now:


    Spam Aisle at grocery


    I went out Friday night with some girls to celebrate a birthday. After dinner, the 12 of us shared a whole mess of patbingsu. We devoured two more before these arrived:




    David and I tried to go to a festival on the Han River on Saturday, but couldn’t find it. We did find a little water park. It was nice to dip our feet in the water to cool off a bit. It is HOT and HUMID here! We also browsed the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Korea has the cutest everything for sale.


    Han River


    David played basketball Friday morning and woke up Sunday with a super swollen foot. He was in a lot of pain, so we went to a hospital to see a doctor. We were blessed by two new friends who took us and helped translate and navigate. The x-ray came back clear and they wrapped his leg almost up to his knee. (Maybe a little overkill.) Nothing like seeing a doctor your third week in-country and the day before school starts. The hospital made us wear face masks:


    David at hospital


    School starts tomorrow for David! My goal for Monday is to get more information about language school.



    First Days in Seoul

    Here’s a glance at our first few days in Seoul. (We haven’t taken a lot of photos yet. Most of them have been of food.)

    We flew into Incheon Wednesday afternoon. It’s a beautiful, modern airport. Everything was efficient, clean, and quiet. People systematically got into lines and there was no pushing or shoving. Now, I’ve been told that’s not always the case on the street, but it made clearing customs and retrieving luggage easy. We did have a problem that delayed us a few minutes. The embassy put 25 years on David’s visa rather than 25 months. Officials had to change it in the system before they let us through.

    People from the school met us at arrivals. There was a big group of new teachers who were on our same flight. We kept our overnight bags, put stickers on the rest of our luggage to be delivered to our apartments, and went to Hotel Capital for the night. It was nice to not have to worry about getting unpacked right away.


    Incheon airport


    Luggage truck


    Thursday morning, we did paperwork at the hotel, then they took us to our apartment. We live in a nice two-bedroom apartment. (I’ll write more on that soon.) Three teachers showed us around that afternoon. We took a bus to a mall to shop at a department store called eMart for home supplies.

    Friday, David had his first day of new teacher orientation. He saw his classroom for the first time! This photo looks crowded, but there’s a ton of space behind and to the right of the desks:


    David's classroom


    David had Saturday off. Our friends we met in Turkey (who are Korean) were in country. They were so sweet to drive two hours to visit us! It was a joy to see familiar faces and spend time with them. We walked the Insadong area. We also stopped in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace and visited the (free!) museum of King Sejong, the man who invented the Korean alphabet.


    Gyeongbokgung guard


    King Sejong


    Touring with friends


    Sunday, we attended church Gangnam style (in the Gangnam area) at New Harvest. It was an encouragement to worship with other believers and to meet some new people.

    After church, we walked our neighborhood. Our streets are VERY hilly! We also braved the subway and bus system by ourselves. We made it back to eMart only to find it was closed. Several of the large chain stores are closed two Sundays a month to give mom and pop shops a chance. Fortunately, a store called Modern Home was open, so we were able to grab a few essentials like pillows and coffee mugs. We’re hoping to get to Ikea soon to finish furnishing our apartment.


    Neighborhood view




    What We’ve Eaten

    No need to worry – we will NOT go hungry in this country.

    • We had our first meal at KKanbu Chicken. We ate some delicious chicken that came with pickled onions.
    • On Thursday, our tour guides took us out to Craftworks.
    • A Thai restaurant.
    • Another fried chicken place. We laughed at their menu. The land of Korea – where technology flows like milk and honey and discarded iPads are recycled into restaurant menus. (They put paper under the screen.)
    • Our friends treated us to our first Korean BBQ! You grill the meat yourself.
    • Patbingsu… Our friends also introduced us to shaved ice topped with red bean paste. It sounds weird, but it was good! The bean paste tasted a little bit like peanut butter. The texture of the ice was different than American snow cones. They also ordered a coffee style version that had granola and ice cream over it.
    • New York Brick Oven Pizza. Made delicious because there is pork in this country. Amen.
    • Boba (bubble) tea! We love the tapioca balls.
    • On The Border mexican. There are a lot of international restaurants in our district!


    Friend Korean chicken


    iPad menu


    Korean BBQ




    Bubble tea


    Other First Impressions

    • Holy humidity. Thank goodness for air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Granted, we moved to Korea during the rainy season. We looked it up, and apparently a normal humidity level is 40. Our dehumidifier read our rooms at 81!
    • There are a lot of churches.
    • Even more than churches, there are a ridiculous number of restaurants.
    • Groceries and home supplies are expensive. ($5 for a bottle of hand soap!?)
    • Clothing is super expensive. (A pair of mens pants at H&M in Turkey cost 30TL, which was about $11. Here, they are ₩50,000, which is around $43!)
    • Recycle all the things! Recycling is required and huge here. We could have upwards of 5 trash bags: paper, plastic, glass, food waste, and trash.

    I think I will explore some on my own today. Pray I don’t get lost!



    Facing Transition

    Moving abroad and cross-culturally is hard.

    We’ve been in Korea since Wednesday afternoon. (!!!) Even before we left the States, I started making a mental list of things I wanted to be intentional about during our transition.

    I’m a list maker and a self-acknowledged Type A. When we traveled with David’s family around Turkey last month, I’d often be several feet ahead of our group. David told his dad it wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying myself but “it’s because she’s goal oriented.” And so, I’ve created a list of reminders for myself. If you’re preparing to expatriate, maybe they can help you, too.


    Six transition tips for moving abroad. |


    1. Approach life abroad as a learner.

    Everything is new to me. The alphabet, the language, the cultural expectations, the food, the history, the public transportation, the roads. Essentially, I’m a child starting at square one. Now is the time to be a listener and an observer. When that doesn’t answer my questions, I can ask the locals and other expats. (It’s beneficial to learn from both!) Having lived overseas once before, I’ve observed how a humble and willing attitude goes a long way in the learning process.

    2. Be flexible.

    Flexibility is a part of the learning curve. Initially, everything will take a lot more time. I will get lost and miss buses and subway connections. Communicating with the locals in the handful of words I know in Korean will be difficult. I’ll have no idea which brands to purchase at the grocery store. Factor in a little extra time for errands and know they might take longer than expected.

    It’s also good to remember that processes and transportation can change over time. Cities are constantly growing and evolving. What might have been true a year ago might be completely different now. What I learn today may change next month!

    3. Comparison is the thief of joy.

    This is something I learned the hard way when I moved to Virginia after college. I met some very sweet people, had a great time, but in my mind I unfairly compared them to friendships I had for years and years. I left that night discouraged and sad. David helped me realize how ridiculous my disappointment was. No two friendships are ever the same, and that is not a negative thing! Relationships take time to develop.

    David and I also want to be careful about comparing Korea to Turkey. Sometimes, making a comparison is logical. It is our most recent point of reference and a culture we loved. Of course I will make connections to previous knowledge as I navigate the unknown… but I don’t have to verbally express every thought. I don’t want to be “that person” who constantly talks about the last place I lived. I want to experience Korean culture for what it is. Will some things be the same? Yes. But it would be unfair to constantly measure Korean culture against another country.

    4. Be patient and gracious.

    This is one of the hardest. Transitions are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically challenging. It’s a stressful process to find our new normal. It all takes time. I need to be patient and gracious with myself. I also need to be patient and gracious to my husband as he adjusts, too.

    5. Do not fear. Be brave.

    In addition to my Type A personality, I tend to be something of an introvert. With David working at the school, I could easily be content to stay at home most of the time. I need to be — and I’m telling myself right now to be — brave. Get out there, get lost, learn the streets. Be brave with the language. Yes, I will pronounce everything incorrectly and say the wrong words too many times to count. Practice anyways and welcome correction.

    6. Cultivate community.

    Cultivating community is an essential piece of adjusting to a new home. In an ideal situation, the new community will welcome you with open arms. They will help you learn how to use transportation, teach you survival language basics, and readily invite you into their homes and their lives. This may or may not be the reality. (Keep in mind, they may still be grieving their friends that left days or weeks before you arrived.) If the community doesn’t reach out to you, sometimes you must actively seek and foster community yourself. I think one of the best ways to do this is to invite people into your home. Going out to eat is fun too, especially in the first few weeks of living in a new place when you’re learning how to shop and cook. In the words of one of my college professors: “There’s just something about having everyone’s legs under the same table.” Reach out to others, both the new expats and old expats.

    7. Finally, and most importantly, trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding.

    The Father is good and loving. He is faithful and He provides (Matthew 6:25–27)! Be in the Word, put Him first, and eventually, everything else will fall into place. Will that make the process easy? No. But I can find contentment and trust in His calling for my life.


    I hope that writing these out will help ingrain them in my memory!

    Do you have any tips for adjusting to life in Korea?



    17,000 Miles

    It’s been almost eight weeks since we last updated here. A lot can happen in two months. A lot HAS happened in the last two months. Nearly 17,000 miles has happened.




    After we finished the school year, David’s family traveled to Turkey and we toured them around the central and western part of the country for two weeks. We loved showing them our home and visiting a couple of new places as well. It was a goodbye tour of Turkey for us. After the family left, we returned to Ankara to pack up our house and say our last goodbyes. A few days later we flew to Michigan for a week, drove to Arkansas for a week, drove back to Michigan for a week, sorted and packed everything again, flew to South Korea, and landed on Wednesday.

    We’ve been in Seoul for almost 48 hours now. We spent our first night in a hotel and stepped foot in our apartment for the first time yesterday. The weight of it all is still sinking in.

    For now, we’re unpacking, moving furniture around, and getting acquainted with the city and David’s new job. We’re making lists and planning shopping trips for things like tupperware, and pillows, and toilet brushes, and picture frames.

    Please pray for us as we settle into this new place! There are so many things to learn. We know that no matter the challenges that lie ahead, we can trust that:

    Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22–24

    I will share soon about our transition and first impressions and our travels this summer!



    My Farewell Speech

    We attended our end of the year staff banquet last Saturday. It is typical for teachers who are leaving to share a word with the group. It has been a hard few weeks thinking about leaving our home in the Middle East. I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the things I’ve learned while living in Turkey the past three years. Here is the abridged version.


    David and Leah dressed up


    Things I’ve Learned While in Turkey:

    1. Goodbyes are the worst.
    2. Assumptions can ruin a fresh perspective.
    3. Humility is best learned where you are totally uncomfortable.
    4. Vegetables in America are not as good.
    5. Plastic forks in Turkey don’t taste good.
    6. Wash your veggies.
    7. Eggs don’t have to stay refrigerated.
    8. The milk that’s sold at room temperature won’t kill you.
    9. Everything at the bakkal costs iki buçuk.
    10. When teaching Bible, it’s good to establish the proper pronunciation of condemnation: “There is no now constipation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
    11. The world is not such a small world after all. There are many lost who need to hear the word.
    12. The best way to get rid of a dog that is chasing you is to kick it in the face.
    13. Travel is my refresh button.
    14. Establishing a good work/home balance is important.
    15. Camel köfte is a little bit tough.
    16. European football isn’t all that bad. American football is still awesome.
    17. The librarian is a hotty.
    18. Some students who appear to have it all would rather spend all of their time at school because of the love shown there that they can’t access anywhere else.
    19. Be prepared for the shock that ensues when a student asks you if his cat is asexual.
    20. Tear gas really does make you cry.
    21. It is selfish to worry about my students as I leave. It is beneficial to pray for them.
    22. I spend a lot of time in the car in America.
    23. Speeding laws are enforced in Turkey.
    24. Intestine cooked on a rotisserie is actually not that bad.
    25. Just give in to the personifications of the school printers. Also, both Fred and Wilma have staple functions.
    26. Greg won’t go to the hamam.
    27. Short on the sides and long on the top means a mohawk.
    28. Usually, conflict starts with people hearing the same thing, but having different interpretations. Talking about these interpretations can solve a world of problems.
    29. The Turkish Airlines cheese sandwiches are awesome.
    30. Snow tubing with me is dangerous.
    31. Sometimes when you play soccer at recess, a bicycle kick results in torn pants from your knee to your belt.
    32. 20 seconds of awkwardness could make an eternity of difference. Take advantage of every opportunity.
    33. Family and home are relative.
    34. Goodbyes are really just see-you-laters.


    Friends at the banquet



    Our Next Step

    During the fall of 2013, our second year as international teachers, we had to make a decision about extending our contract for a third year. Coming into our third year, we knew we had to make a decision about a potential fourth year. (This is how we’ve come to measure our life: the year before we moved to Turkey, our first year in Turkey, our second year in Turkey, our third year.)

    As we faced the decision this past November, we did not sense His immediate answer. We knew would faithfully stay or faithfully go. Moving to Turkey was a leap of faith for us. We put our trust in the Lord and His calling and believed in His power to provide. And provide He has. We’ve struggled with the challenges of living here, but we’ve also experienced joy. Still, we felt a bit of a draw to certain country for a couple of reasons. We applied to another school in our network and left the decision up to God. At the beginning of February, we made another step of faith.

    We will be moving to Seoul, South Korea in August!


    Ankara to Seoul map


    It is a bittersweet decision accompanied by a range of emotions.
    We are sad to leave our school, our students, our coworkers, our community, our church, our friends, and our family here. Turkey threw its arms open wide and became home to us. We have spent more of our marriage abroad than in the States. For all of this and more, we are grateful.

    As we celebrate and grieve our last few weeks in Turkey, I want to savor each moment. The sounds of this place: our students laughing on the playground, the shouts of the simit man waking me up on Saturday mornings, the calls to prayer. The smells, the sights, the beauty of the landscape. Taking communion as an international body at church each Sunday. The crazy taxi rides. The tastes: the döner, alinazik, lahmacun, dondurma, mercimek çorbası, simit, patatesli açma… Everything, down to the very last glass of çay. I don’t want to forget anything.

    We came to teach and influence our students and community. Anything we might have accomplished pales in comparison to the ways that they and this place has changed us.

    Looking Ahead
    As we are processing our upcoming goodbyes, we are also excited for a new place to learn, teach, and grow. David will teach fifth grade, while I will focus on language and my freelance graphic design. It has been a real gift to see how God is providing for what’s ahead, even now. We are at peace knowing this is our next step.

    At the same time, it is overwhelming to think about packing up our life here and starting over in a new place. Turkey is familiar and comfortable. Turkey is home. But now we will (and we must) learn a new culture, language, transportation system, how to grocery shop, how to cook with new foods, make new friends, and much more.

    I, especially, am scared about returning from whence I came. I was adopted from Korea as a baby. Moving to Korea will be different from our move to Turkey on so many different levels. I’ll be surrounded by people that look like me. I won’t (for once) stick out in a crowd. I will be a learner in a place where the people will expect me to know everything. I realize I am approaching what will be the most challenging time of my life so far. I am attempting to mentally prepare myself as I know I will be a huge disappointment in the eyes of my new host culture. I had a great talk with a Korean-American friend about his experience of moving to Seoul. I am trying to keep in mind that no matter how I look or how much language I learn, I will always be a foreigner. And that’s okay. I am praying for strength and love and grace.

    As we look ahead, where we are now, and behind us, our cups are full. We are so thankful for the last three years in Turkey. We are thankful for the opportunities that lie ahead. We are thankful for our support system of family and friends. We are also thankful for your prayers as we make our transition.



    Where to Find English Books in Ankara

    Part of my job as a librarian in Turkey is adding new English books to our catalog. And our students love to read new books.


    English books in Ankara


    I have brought at least a couple hundred books from the States. But really, there’s only so many books you can fit into a suitcase when you’re trying to make room for all of your personal items, too. Mailing books to Turkey is not the greatest option. We do purchase some books online from the UK, but the shipping takes forever.

    Fortunately, English books are becoming more and more available. Here’s my guide to purchasing English books in Ankara. (All of these stores have plenty of adult fiction. My notes are more for parents and students.)

     Arkadas Bookstore {Image Source}

    Arkadaş Kitabevi (Kentpark Mall, top floor) Eskişehir Highway No: 164, Çankaya
    Phone: (0312) 219 9244
    Arkadaş is my favorite place to find English books in Ankara. They have a large English section in the back that includes a wall of classics, recent bestsellers, a young adult fiction section, as well as several non-fiction books. Near the front of the store by the windows is an impressive children’s section including picture books, step books, activity books, and non-fiction books.



    Bookish bookstore{Image Source}

    Filistin Sokak No: 17/A, Gaziosmanpaşa 06700
    Phone: (0312) 447‑4734
    Bookish is a great stop for high school students for both fiction and non-fiction books. There is a small selection of picture books, juvenile literature, and several English magazines.



    D&R Bookstore{Image Source}

    D&R Stores
    D&R Stores are in several of the malls including Taurus, Cepa, Armada, Ankamall, Next Level, and Panora. You can typically find popular and bestselling novels here. Many carry a few juvenile novels, as well as English magazines. The D&R with the best selection is located in Tunali. It is across from Kuğulu Park and is several stories tall. (You can’t miss it!) The basement floor has a small section of English picture books. You can find a large wall of novels on the level below the café.



     Homer Bookstore{Image Source}

    Homer Kitabevi
    Bestekar Sokak No: 35, Küçükesat
    Phone: (0312) 426‑0777
    This store has an excellent children’s section in the back full of picture books (fiction and non-fiction) for elementary students. They also have several step leveled readers. There is a small selection of juvenile chapter books (but not as many as the Arkadaş). There is a huge wall of English novels that may be appropriate for secondary students. When we visited, almost everything in the basement was discounted.



    Remzi bookstore{Image Source}

    Remzi Kitabevi (Armada Mall, across from Starbucks)
    Eskişehir Yolu Armada Alışveriş Ve İş Merkezi No: 6 D: 38, Söğütözü
    Phone: (0312) 219‑1112
    English books can be found on the left side of the store. Remzi carries recent bestsellers and some classics. They have a small section of juvenile chapter books, plenty of travel guides, non-fiction books, and some English magazines.


    Another something worth mentioning: most Turkish DVDs have English as a viewing option (just check the back of the case). I’ve purchased several Disney classics for 10TL (around $5USD)! Make sure you have a universal DVD player, otherwise, you might not be able to play them because of region code issues.

    Are there other stores in Ankara where you’ve found English books?