Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 20

Living in country where I haven't mastered the language has forced me to rely on body language, non-verbal cues and context for many situations. For those of you who have lived or traveled outside of their home nation, you understand the value of situational nods and head shakes. Because of my time here, I feel that I have a heightened ability to read people and understand what they are thinking, feeling or wanting. I'm not saying I'm always right, but I think that I'm coming in at over 50%. 

Sitting in a Quaker meeting, you can do some serious people watching. Most people probably wanted to sink into a deep state of mediation and prayer, but when new players are in the Meeting and it makes the whole thing ripe for snooping.  Everyone seemed to be more actively peeping at each other today. We were all trying to get a read on what the other was thinking. Some people looked like they had poop while others looked they they were very sleepy. I caught one guy belt out a single snore followed by a pathetic attempt at covering it up with a cough. I'm pretty sure one lady was coasting between sleep, mediation and balancing her checkbook. It was classic and since it was all silent, I'm not sure what they were doing. People had busy minds today. Well, that's not fair. A lot of people were praying, but on more than one occasion I noticed people sneaking looks and turning away when they got caught. I thought it was funny. 

After the Meeting, there was a discussion about the Mission Statement of the Weekly Meeting. Due to the small-scale of Korean Quakers, it seems to me that there is a little less organization within the group. Rather, individuals seem to have their own personal goodwill tasks that they involve themselves in and they encourage other Friends to get involved. There was discussion of North Korean refugees, homelessness, Chinese prostitution, orphanage involvement and then a little bit of Lee Myung-bak policy bashing. And while those were important, no one could deny the fact that the overwhelming theme of the discussion was around the World Cup. 

I found it interesting that aside from the connection felt through Quakerism, soccer can act as the social lubricant in many situations. And it wasn't like these Friends were big soccer buffs, but they all enjoyed getting together, showing their patriotism and offering silly and friendly taunts. Sports can't actually heal anything--certainly not war-- but they do offer one of the only ways that countries can banter back-and-forth without coming across as violent, aggressive or threatening. In this world, the economy is king and it has the power to prevent (or cause) war, but sport is where we get out our minor pent-up animosity. 

I did, however, get to have a great conversation about the most well-known Korean Friend, Ham Seok-heon and will discuss him tomorrow.


  1. Will look forward to the discussion. You are so right about non-verbal cues being a way to communicate. I'll bet you understand more Korean and about the Koreans than you realize.

  2. So have you been to three meetings now? Have you met anyone?