Merry Christmas Friends and Family!
We have had some big changes this year! At the beginning of last year, we were still unsure of what this year would entail. Things didn’t work out exactly as planned, but when do they ever? We didn’t get to start teaching last February so we had to go through the tedious paperwork process twice. After such a long time of preparing and waiting, God opened up a door to start teaching in South Korea in August.
Looking back it was perfect timing. We got to celebrate my (Sandra) Granny’s 80th birthday twice! The first celebration was at New Years, then again on her real birthday in March. We were blessed to spend another summer in Branson! Our days were spent soaking up the sun playing disc golf, kayaking, playing tennis, going to the lake, and biking. After a fun day in the sun, we got to go “play” at work. Our job at Dixie Stampede was quite the blessing. It was an evening job and allowed us to spend all day together and then work in a really fun environment.
Closing our Branson chapter was bittersweet. We know we didn’t want to stay there forever but we had a blast throughout college and our first year of marriage. By staying in the States until August, we also got to meet two precious little girls who were born in 2012; Evelyn Claire Jensen, daughter of Sandra’s cousin Kevin and his wife Andrea, and Nora Lynn Jackson, Sandra’s best friend Kristin and her husband Chris. We also got to witness and be a part of several weddings that happened in 2012: Aaron and Carolyn Clark, Jared and Lisa Johnson, Daniel and Carmen Meeker, Mike and Ann Mislang, Jeremiah and Mandy Jones, and Austin and Lindsey Sailors. All in all, we know it was the Lord’s perfect timing, not ours.
Now, onto the door that finally opened up. We interviewed with Piggy, a director of a private after school English academy in Seosan, South Korea, in April. We knew from our first conversation with Piggy that this was the job we had been waiting for. Piggy was so personable and spent more time asking us about our hobbies than interviewing us. From April until our departure in August, we had so many preparations and had to tie up all loose ends in the States. Finally, August 17th came around and we jumped on a jet in Wichita, KS and began our 20+hour trek to our new home.
The flight was so long and we spent a lot of it trying to sleep. Once getting to Korea, it was a whirlwind of adjustment while fighting jetlag. We probably weren’t fully back to our normal selves until the first month was over. We have adapted fairly well now 4 months into our year long contract. However, we have hardly scratched the surface in learning the language. We have said our transition has been so much easier because we are experiencing everything with our best friend (each other). Now that we mention friends, the first couple months we were pretty friendless but in the last month or so we have made a lot of progress in finding a good group (other foreigners mostly). We even hosted a Christmas party and had over 20 attendees.
Before we came we always got the question, “How are you going to teach kids who speak another language?” We never really had an answer but now we can say it is a BIG challenge. We’ve begun to realize, it is hard to get respect when the kids know they can say almost anything they want and we will have no idea what they’re saying. We had no clue how hard it would really be, but our Super Boss Piggy has been a huge help along the way. We find ourselves daily trying to teach and love the students out of our own strength and not the Lord’s. It can be discouraging and exhausting. Another thing to adjust to was our loss of independence. Now, we need help with almost everything we do for the first or second time. For example, fixing the breaks on our scooter, buying mountain bikes, ordering things online, buying plane tickets, going to the bank, ordering at restaurants, and the list goes on. It has been very humbling to ask for help, which we are terrible at but are trying to improve. Finding a church has been another challenge. Coming over here we were excited to see Christianity in another culture. However, we have begun to notice how attached we are to worshiping God in a way that is comfortable to us. We have spent a lot of time wrestling with our place here in the church.
Finally, we will leave you with just a taste of the many upsides. We have loved seeing and experiencing a new culture! There are always so many new and interesting things to see, do, and get used to: eating at restaurants on the floor, acquiring the taste for kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), going to a jinjubog (a Korean bathhouse), shopping at the local market and even the grocery store, etc. There are so many quirks to get used to and funny encounters we’ve had. We can honestly say we’ve had a blast despite the many challenges.
We are also able to do some traveling on this side of the world that we may not have done otherwise. Tomorrow (December 23rd) we will head out to Vietnam for a weeklong Christmas vacation. We have some friends that went to college with us who are teaching here as well. They live in another city but we have gotten together a few times and they make great travel buddies! It will be a different Christmas spending it in a tropical place without our family but since we’ve been here the only constant has been change. The holidays have given us some homesick pangs but we are so comforted and blessed that almost everyone is only an e-mail, facebook message, or skype date away. Know that even though we can’t be with you physically, the Lord gives us power to defy all geographical bounds and connects us through our thoughts and prayers.
We love you all and pray this special time of year is abundant with joy, celebration, peace, rejuvenation, and reflection on the miraculous birth of our Savior! MERRY CHRISTMAS
In His love and grace,
Ethan and Sandra Lagerquist
Here are some pictures from our Christmas party we held on December 15th:
This is Nam Ha and his wife Megan. Underneath, is Collins and his fiancee Jay.