A Very Korean Beach Experience

Wangsan beach

Minutes beyond the Ichon airport- our portal to and from our family in the states- about an hours drive from our house, is the edge of Korean peninsula.  A place where gentle, emerald mountains suddenly stop, in a rough, torn edge, and the crumbled piles of boulders hold back a murky, greenish-brown sea.  The ocean here isn’t beautiful, not azure water and sparkling white sands, like the Caribbean.   No, this isn’t a tourist’s ocean- its a fisherman’s ocean, where every rocky outcrop and the entire horizon are latticed with poles and lines and the spires of fishing boats.  Here the shells on the tide’s edge match the leftovers of each bather’s lunch.  It’s not fancy, or picturesque, but the swell of the mountains coming right up to the sea, the roll of the rocks underneath your feet, the color of water, it’s all very much in harmony.  It’s all very Korean.  And so are the crowds of bathers.  There are two beaches on this portion of peninsula edge, maybe the other isn’t so bad, but here, it is as if every metropolitan worker has shed their Americanized business attire and every shred of their English and come to soak in their native sea, and they are all trying to do it on a 400 meter long stretch of rocky beach hemmed in on either side by dark mountain roots.  To even get to the ocean you must navigate the school of parking.  Not school as in you must learn what to do, but school as in fish, as in darting, diving, shimming round, suddenly appearing, then with a flash of your tail (lights in this case,) darting into some crevice.  After parking you must walk to the beach- and being American you don’t exactly match the scenery- also, as you suddenly realize that even though this is a beach, all the women stay fully dressed- even down to cardigans, while sitting in the water, you, with your shoulders bare above your pool cover up and your daughters, skipping along in what you previously thought were modest one pieces, will suddenly feel what it’s like to be a guppy finding itself in a school of barracuda.  if you survive, it’s time to wade- through a sea of umbrellas, tents, and people.  Koreans bring a tent to the beach- or perhaps we were just on the camping beach site, who knows, but you will duck under umbrellas, squeeze between picnic blankets and tents, and yank children away from hot kerosene stoves.  Eventually, you may realize that your feet are in water- congratulations, you have reached the ocean!  Though it may be hard to tell since the density of human population is just as great in the water as out.  But don’t despair.   As the tide goes out, the beach will grow, leaving a long muddy stretch (just when you thought your feet were going to start bleeding from the golf ball sized rocks you’ve been walking on.)  Some of the Koreans will go home, many will retire to cook in their tents, and your children will still be rolling in the waves, catching crabs, burying each other in the gritty sand, swimming out farther than you wish they would, marveling over the colors of sea glass and standing still for longer than you’ve ever seen them as they watch the ocean move things around their ankles.  Then, you will see the exquisite, harmonic beauty of this Korean beach.  (Of course by that time your camera will be out of batteries.)

Wangsan Beach from the water

Wangsan Beach from the water

 

Wangsan Beach

Wangsan Beach

 

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David’s 100th Lesson

In the fall of the year David and I sat down at our dining room table in Georgia and I laid a copy of Sigfried Engleman’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons on the table between us. “David, it’s time for you to learn to read.  Are you ready?”  Boy, was he ready.  David had been determined, since he was four, to learn to read.  His brother, whom he idolizes, read late into the night every night, using the special flashlight he had earned on completing his 100 Easy lessons and David, laying on the bunk below, couldn’t wait to bask in the glow of reading.  For ten months David read almost every day.  He would start reading on the floor, book spread in front of him, then half way through he would groan, and put his hands on his back, leaning back like a little old man, and say “Oh, my back!”  Then we would move to an easy chair, with him curled up on my lap while I held the book.  David learned to be careful tracking as the text shrunk and the lines grew closer together.  He learned the special sounds made by the various blends and, his favorite, he learned about quotation marks:  “now we’re going to find out what he said!”  Reading didn’t come with remarkable ease for David.  Sometimes we took breaks from the 100 Easy Lessons, which David insisted we needed to change to “100 Hard Lessons,” and read other things until he was ready to go on, but through it all David was the most determined young reader I have ever seen.  He didn’t complain, he didn’t put his head down and give up, he just kept reading- sounding out, back tracking, and completely making things up when he got too lost.   We finished the school year at the end of May and he still had a dozen lessons left to go, so he just kept reading.  Finally, on Friday, David finished his 100th lesson!  “This is the last end,” he read, as we all sat around our table in our dining room in Seoul, Korea.  The family cheered as Kenny turned off the video camera and we presented David with the gifts that have become a tradition for this first rite of passage in our family: a cookie sheet with the number 100 made out of gummy bears, a small gift (Pokemon cards in his case,) and the coveted flashlight.  Kenny picked out David’s flashlight: a smaller version of the lights soldiers use with an L-bend in the neck and interchangeable color lenses for signaling.  It was perfect for our little warrior.  David raced to bed that first night and read a super hero book.  Then he hopped out of bed and went to his sister’s bed and read her a Biscuit book.  Eventually, we told everyone to turn off the flashlights and go to sleep, but since he learned to read David has carried his flashlight everywhere- Sonlight Kid’s Camp, church today, the bathroom- and read everything he can find.  It makes me feel joyful to see him enthusiastic about one of my favorite past times, but more than that, I’m grateful to God for the character David showed while learning to read.  He was determined, and joyful, even though the task was sometimes frustratingly hard.  I’m so excited to see how God will grow this character in David and how He will turn David’s new skill into a tool for building his relationship with God.  Welcome to the world of readers, my little joy!

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