Saturday, July 31, 2010

61 - Family


My role as helper is not to do things for the person I am trying to help, but to be things; not trying to control and change his actions, but through understanding and awareness to change my reactions. I will change my negatives to positives; fear to faith; contempt for what he may do to respect for the potential within him or her; hostility to understanding; and manipulation or over-protectiveness to release with love, not trying to make him fit a standard or image, but giving him an opportunity to pursue his own destiny, regardless of what that choice may be.

I will change my dominance to encouragement; panic to serenity; the inertia of despair to the energy of my own personal growth; and self-justification to self-understanding.

Self-pity blocks effective action. The more I indulge in it, the more I feel that the answer to my problems is a change in others and in society, not in myself. Thus, I become a hopeless case.

Exhaustion is the result when I use my energy in mulling over the past with regret, or in trying to figure ways to escape a future that has yet to arrive. Projecting an image of the future, and anxiously hovering over it, for fear that it will or it won't come true uses all of my energy and leaves me unable to live today. Yet living today is the only way to have a life.

I will have no thought for the future actions of others, neither expecting them to be better or worse as time goes on, for in such expectations I am really trying to create. I will love and let be.

All people are always changing. If I try to judge them I do so only on what I think I know of them, failing to realize that there is much I do not know. I will give others credit for attempts at progress and for having had many victories which are unknown to me.

I too am always changing, and I can make that change a constructive one, if I am willing. I CAN CHANGE MYSELF, others I can only love.

(Families Anonymous Literature. One of the 5 Basic Readings)

Friday, July 30, 2010

62 - "Jombie"

One of my elementary school students has a fascination with "jombies" (zombies) and this evening, I think I'm beginning to feel a bit "undead" myself. I've slipped into a twilight land of consistently not enough sleep and although this is familiar ground, I'm not really used to having to be presentable in front of people while inhabiting said territory. I kept losing my train of thought in class and felt like I was taking micro-naps all day. The good news is we're officially halfway through our 4 weeks of summer session, which means 8 10-hour work days down and 8 more to go. One of those days even includes a Friday of presentations/parties, so really we're more than halfway done.

It's all downhill from here, baby!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

63 -Exactly Nine Weeks Left...

In nine weeks, I'll walk home from work, either by my usual route: up the escalator and around the courthouse or for a change, up the narrow side street by the shanty town. My bags will be packed and ready to go.

I hope to then...
~haul them down the two flights of winding in my apartment, walk out to the corner
~get into a taxi that will take me to the express bus station.
~board a bus bound for the Incheon Airport
~get on a plane bound for Shanghi
~connect to a plane bound for Newark Liberty International Airport.
~wait in a customs and immigration line (well, I don't really hope for the the "waiting" part, but necessary evil, I suppose)
~confirm that I have not travelled into any rural areas in the past 30 days, nor am I carrying more than $10,000 worth of merchandise...
~hand over my passport
~receive my passport back (... and I'm hoping they say "Welcome home.")

And finally, I hope to...
~walk out and meet my mom.

I look forward to this day as the last page in my "English Teacher in Korea" chapter and the first page in the "Rest of My Life" chapter. Of course I have my own desires, wants, goals, plans... but I know that they're none of them worth the time it takes to think them out. Oh, God Almighty Creator of the Universe, give me grace to dream dreams that You would want me to dream and the courage to make them come true.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

64 - Sounds of Summer

In the summer time (usually the last week of August)we used to go to a choir school summer program run by a Presbyterian church a few towns over. I have fond memories of being in chairs at 8:30 in the morning singing warm-ups, doing call-and-response rhythm games, coloring in pictures of Bible stories, and eating snacks of mini powdered donuts and juice.

The Apostle's Creed set to music. Add that to the list of things that remind me of summer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

65 - Memories of Summer Pt. 1

I was listening to the cicadas outside the window today at work (it was 9PM).
"What would you call the sound that they make?" I queried the office.
"Buzzing, maybe?" answered co-worker M.
"It's stronger than that," I said. "More like an intense sonic chatter,"
"I never really thought about what to call the sound they make." said co-worker S. "But I love them."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because they remind me of summertime."

Things that remind me of summertime:
~The smell of sunscreen.
~Mint gum
~The Lion in Winter
~Big fat books

Monday, July 26, 2010

66 - Highlights of My Day

That first cup of coffee. Made in my French Press, with a spoonful of creamer.
Cracking open the pages of a good book in bed at the end of the day.

Makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

67 - Reality Sinking In...

Just had a farewell dinner w. a good friend as she prepares to move back home. I remember when she had seven weeks left... then 15 working days... and now on Wednesday she'll be living her life in the west again.

"Do you feel prepared?" I asked.
"No." she said. But really, how do you prepare to move your life from one country to another?

Wheels down. Ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our descent into repatriation. Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full and upright positions. Please have a thirty second summary of the last two and a half years of your life ready for anyone who asks and don't forget to smile. We hope you've enjoyed your flight aboard Korea Airlines and do think of us again soon.

Happy trails!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

68 - Six Items or Less...

A very interesting project in which the participants choose six items of clothing and pledge to wear them (and only them) for one month. (Things like underwear and work uniforms don't count).

Veeeery interesting and definitely in keeping with my own personal drive to simplify my life. The first round of the experiment has finished, but their starting sign-ups for the second go round.

Friday, July 23, 2010

69 -A Burden Shared is a Burden Halved

This evening, I called on Student A to answer a question ("Make a sentence with the word 'region', please.") A look of terror crosses Student A's face as he clearly has no idea what the word "region" means, but rather than humbly admit his ignorance... he reaches out and whacks his friend on the arm. No reason or provocation. He just thought he'd share his difficulty with his friend. If that isn't just the story of human interaction?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

70 - Departure/Arrival

I love train stations and airports. Something about the coming and going always puts me in a reflective mood. When I took the KTX coming back from Seoul, there was a little crowd gathered at the arrivals section of the station. There's nothing like witnessing a tearful reunion (especially when you're looking forward to one of your own).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

71 - Revenge

Jung Eun, one of my little I7 girls (international age 10) demonstrates hardball sibling rivalry.
Hot water in most Korean apartments is controlled by a console and it turns on and off with the click of a button.
"When my brother and I fight and he takes a shower, I just turn off the hot water." she said, with an innocent (evil) grin.

Well, then. That's fighting fire with fire.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

72- Gotta love that summer heat!

Yesterday (7/19) was Chobok (초복), marking the first of boknal (복날), which are the three hottest days of the year by the lunar calendar. In honor of the day, our boss (the illustrious Mr. Moon) generously donated a watermelon to the staff room, which we scarfed down during our last 5 minute break of the evening.

Although chicken is popular in Korea all year long, samgyetang (삼계탕; hot chicken soup with traditional medicinal herbs, including ginseng) is the most popular boknal dish. You might understand the concept ofiyeol chiyeol (이열치열; to relieve heat with heat) and accept the Korean custom of eating hot food in the summer. Understandably, Mr. Moon did not donate samgyetang to the staff room as this would have been even more difficult to scarf on the run.

Chobok is the first signal of the hot summer. The peak of the summer heat is jungbok and malbok is the last hottest day in summer. Usually each bongnal (boknal) comes at 10 day intervals. Koreans have a saying to "fight fire with fire" and usually eat hot foods to combat the summer heat during the bongnal (boknal) season. I just drink decaf hot coffee and hope for the best.

(Info shamelessly cribbed from and

Monday, July 19, 2010

73 - When it rains... means that summer session's about to start!

Our school's summer session starts tomorrow, which means that I'll be teaching from 9-1PM running home to take a nap, and then teaching from 4:25-10PM. Lather, rinse, repeat for four weeks (we do have Wednesdays off, though).

Looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

74 - Field Trip!


Two for one: sleeping pic + the ubiquitous Asian "take a picture" sign.

NOT the Trevi Fountain

Although it looks like one.

Lotte World!
A major recreation complex in Seoul, South Korea that consists of the world's largest indoor theme park that set a Guinness World Record open all year around, an outdoor amusement park called "Magic Island", an artificial island inside a lake linked by monorail, shopping malls, a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theaters all in one place. (thank you, wikipedia.)

In line for the "Aeronauts Balloon Ride".

The ceiling.

Us IN the balloon.

Sky line.

Mega Ice Skating Rink

Drunken Baskets

Viking-type Ride

View from the top.

The ride warning signs.
Caution: "Not Allowed Pregnant"

Movenpik restaurant "Marche" where we ate dinner. One on (almost) every continent.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

75 - Field Trip

Planning a field trip this weekend (despite the torrential rain). Will hopefully be back with a much more informative and interesting post soon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

76 - Passport to a Slice of Home

That's right, folks. Good ol' Costco.

A membership from the States will work over here and my word, does mine ever earn its keep. There's something special about the smell (food court pizza, hotdogs, and churros) and the sounds (mammoth shopping carts chuntering around and industrial crates lifting pallets of toilet paper or tires) that just sends me right back to America.
Good, bad, or ugly: capitalism does have its uses.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

77 - Family Resemblance

To my memory, I've so far taught four sets of siblings (that I know of) here in Korea:
YongSan and BongSan (Identical twins discernible only by the soul patch BongSan sports.)
and SuBin and ChulGi

"Teacher teacher!" ChulGi exclaimed. "Next series, my older sister will be in your class."
"She will, will she?" I asked. "What's her name?"
"Her English name is 'Star'" He said, proudly. "And she is very good at English." I wondered if the personality would match the moniker and 'Star' did not disappoint. She proved to be a bubbly girl filled with interesting stories and observations. When I mentioned her brother one day in class, she rolled her eyes.
"So annoying!" she said.
"He's very proud of you." I told her.

In the world of sisters, I remember one of the sweetest moments in my sister life happened when my sister came home from one of her first college classes.
"Some professor asked me if I was your sister." she said.
"Really?" I asked. "Who?"
She told me and I gave her a hug. For some reason, that family resemblance recognized meant a lot to me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

78 - The Frugal Files: Part 2- ReUse

My tea drinking habits. Strange to relate, I actually prefer weak tea. One bag can last me 6-10 cups. That's right, folks. Or as an English friend once exclaimed, "What do you do, just introduce the tea to the water." Yes, yes I do. It's more like a celebrity sighting. The water's like "Oh, my gosh I'm such a big fan!" and then I'm like "No, sorry, the tea's got better things to do."

Total Savings = about $10 a month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

79- Scenes from SoKo: The Local Convenience Store

Located about 100 steps from my front door. The proprietor sells things like stationary, bread, and light bulbs (and ice cream and potato chips... not that I would know). I've rolled out to visit him in pajamas and slippers. It's a new experience, this being so close to a center of community commerce. I quite enjoy it. I catch glimpses of the little kids running down to buy cucumbers for their moms (and a bag of chips for themselves), the middle school students buying ice cream and candy, the grandparents fussing over watermelons (and trying to see how many bottles of soju they can fit in one backpack).

It's quite a happening place to be.

Monday, July 12, 2010

80 - The Frugal Files: Part 1 - Watering Hole

People who know me know that I drink an insane amount of water. We're talking 4-6 liters (120-180 ozs) a day. Really.

It costs 5,000 won (about $4.50) to have a 25 liter bottle of water delivered directly to my apartment, which is rather cheap, but it's a hassle and I always feel so bad for the poor guy lugging those barrels of water up the stairs.

So rather than shell out cash and hassle the poor delivery man, I haul my own collection of water bottles down to our local watering hole, which is about about 500 steps from my front door. It's a round fountain with 8 spouts that hosts a varied crew of water-seekers: the old men and women filling carts and jugs for their families, shop keepers and taxi drivers taking a water break, college students topping up bottles and throwing them onto the back of their motorbikes, and children grabbing a drink on their way to school. I join them and become part of this cross-section of society, bound together by our mutual need for water. How privileged we are to have such an abundant supply-- clean, fresh and free for the taking.

Savings: about $40 a month and some poor delivery guy's back.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

81 - Technical Difficulties

My keyboard is acting up... That's my excuse for today. Not very valid, but there you go.
Also, it is raining. A lot. Not very profound, but we give what we have.

Hope to have more later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

82- Syllabus

Going home in February made me realize just how mentally flabby I had become. My life here in Korea is not without its challenges, but I must admit that not much is required of me in the way of cold, hard intellect.

In an effort to combat said laziness, I challenged myself to try to read a book a week for the (approximately) 30 weeks that I had left in Korea. Realizing that this was a bit of a tall order and also realizing that I would rather read one book of weight than four books of fluff, I have since amended this challenge to the more nebulous, but still challenging "read as much as possible". Will be aiming for approximately 15-20 new books before I go home.

So what's beside my bed right now?
David McCullough's excellent (Pulitzer-prize winning) biography of John Adams. Something about living abroad has made me want to read more about my home country. Go figure.

Friday, July 9, 2010

83- Sounds of the Wild, Wild, Workplace, Part 1

1. Students begging for "mercy" on a test. (He got it, but only because he used that word)
2. Me: crashing into the door of the staff room with a CD player the size of a compact car, which I carry in the crook of my arm, like an expensive purse.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

84- "Earthquake"

In my last class of the day, I tried for a little light-hearted revelry, taking a (tiny) flying leap, and landing in front of an unsuspecting young gentleman with his head down on his desk.

"Earthquake." he muttered, under his breath. And his desk was promptly taken away (for one minute).

That's right. Cross me and .... lose your desk.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

85 - Blog-stalking

So when I first came to Korea, I "stalked" a number of Korea-centric blogs. It was mostly to check out the scene and get an idea of what I would be coming into, but I ended up being hugely motivated by a few very special bloggers. I was a silent presence, contributing to their hits but not outright announcing myself. In an interesting and freakishly rare turn of events, last February, I actually ended up on a tour bus with one of the bloggers whom I knew by sight, but I'm supposing had no idea who I was. We ended up hitting it off (I never let her know that I read her blog...) and now we're friends on facebook. Now I'm wondering if I ought to go find these women and let them know how much their blogs inspired me...

I'm thinking that I just might do that.

Here's to those silent, motivating forces.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

86- Affirmations.

I am willing to change
I am willing to release my old patterns and negative beliefs.
The power that has created me has given me power to create my new life.
I choose powerful, fulfilling, new thoughts.
I begin anew right here, right now.
I love my family and my home.
I feel nurtured, warm and safe.
My body takes me everywhere easily and effortlessly.
I bless and prosper others and they in turn bless and prosper me.
I stand in truth and I live in joy.
I love who I am and I love what I do.
Every moment is a new beginning.
My life is so sweet.
I am special and wonderful.
The more I love myself, the less stress I have.
I release the need to blame anyone, including myself.
My heart is receptive and open.
I release any limitations based on old limited thoughts.
I joyfully look forward to the future.
Knowing that friends and lovers were once strangers to me, I welcome new people into my life.
As I love and approve of myself and others, life gets better and better.
I open my home and welcome guests with music and love.
My friends are like a loving family to me.
I go to sleep at night feeling great contentment.
I am at peace.
I respect all the members of my family and they in turn respect me.
I look forward with enthusiasm to the adventures of the day.
I delight in my world and my world delights in me.
I see myself as beautiful, lovable and appreciated.
I am proud to be me.
I love myself exactly the way I am.
My income grows greater and greater every day.
Joy Joy Joy!
I lovingly allow joy to flow through my mind and body and experiences.
Divine wisdom resides in each of my friends and family and they are joyous, safe, and secure, wherever they go.
I love all God's creatures, animals great and small, every creature, every insect, bird and fish has its own special place in life. They are just as important as I am.
I communicate easily and lovingly with all living beings and I know they deserve my love and protection.
My body is flexible.
Keeping my mind flexible and agile is reflected in the flexibility of my body.
I know that I am divinely protected and safe.
I relax and flow with the effortlessness of life.
Healing energy constantly flows through every organ and joint and cell.
I move easily and effortlessly.
I am aware of the wonderfulness of life.
I deserve and willingly accept and abundance of prosperity flowing through my life.
I give and receive joyously and lovingly.
I am connected to divine energy.
There is always an answer to every question, a solution to every bump in the road.
I am always guided in infinite wisdom. I trust it and God and always feel safe.
I am constantly being guided and lead in ways that are for my highest good.
Recovery creates space for miracles to move in.

Monday, July 5, 2010

87- The best laid schemes...

I can't help but think about the future at this stage of my life. I think it's only natural. On the cusp of possibly the second greatest transition period of my life (the time directly after graduating from college being the first) I find myself casting forward for all possible iterations of my life after returning to the States.

As my best friend from college once remarked in the May of our senior year, "I've never been less certain of where I'll end up three months from now." and now I find myself in that place once again. I have plans (loosely laid, of course) dreams, visions, secret hopes and desires. All I can know for sure at this stage of the game that I can't know anything for sure at this stage of the game. And I am learning to be OK with that.

"To A Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest, with the Plough"
Robert Burns.

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
O, what a panic is in your little breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough past
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

88 - Live Water

"Live water heals memories. I look up the creek adn here it comes, the future, being borne aloft as on a winding succession of laden trays. You may wake and look from the window and breathe the real air, and say, with satisfaction or with longing, "'This is it." But if you look up the creek, fi you look up the creek in any weather, your spirt fills, and you are saying , with an exulting rise of the lungs, "Here it comes!"

~Annie Dillard

I found the river today. I knew that it existed; the map said so. I finally found it today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

89- Things You Couldn't Live Without

I recently posed a version of the "desert island" post to my kids:
"What would you take with you on a desert island?"

The answers ranged from:
"'Computer games' or 'Television' to ones like 'My mother, to do cooking'." I tried to impress upon them the gravity of the situation. "Things you need to stay alive." I said. "You are alone on a desert island. What do you need to live?"

One boy raised his hand.
"Air-Con?" he said, timidly.

So in that spirit, I offer you my list of:
7 Things I Couldn't (or wouldn't want to) Live Without
1. Water (well, obviously)
2. Coffee (it keeps me from killing people)
3. Some kind of very large bag to haul things around with
4. Pencil and Paper
5. Good stout walking shoes
6. Skype Convos
7. Community of Faith

All on a desert island.

Friday, July 2, 2010

90- Downpour

I got caught in a sudden rainstorm on my walk earlier today. It was inconvenient at first; I kept thinking about my shoes getting and considered going home, but then I realized that I had the time to stay out and push through. As the clothes grew wetter and heavier on my back, I realized something so freeing about being in a time and place doing something that few people would voluntarily choose to do. I knew that as soon as I got back home, I would throw my clothes in the washer and take a hot shower, with no lasting damage sustained from being out in the rain. My body ended up healthier, my mind ended up clearer, and my shoes ended up cleaner than they were before I started.

Moral of the story: If you're ever caught in the rain... sometimes the best thing to do is keep walking.

Thursday, July 1, 2010