Sunday, November 28, 2010

No, we are not at war

I know, I know. The headlines look terrible. According to the international news media, North and South Korea are about to duke it out in all out war. However, let me assure you that I am safe and sound, and relatively unaffected by the whole ordeal. While the headlines might be chaos, daily life goes on as usual.

It is true that North Korea (after warning South Korea to please stop military maneuvers) fired upon a populated South Korean island on the maritime border, killing a few military personnel and two civilians. A few days later there was another round of artillery heard in the same vicinity. North Korea has warned that if South Korea and the United States move ahead with their planned military exercise, retaliation will occur, and China has failed to condemn North Korea. The military here is on high alert.

However, while some of the South Koreans seem confused and hurt (after all, the younger generation continually votes to support North Korea with food aid and supplies, and they seem themselves as one homogeneous race) most seem to think that North Korea is acting like a bully just wanting attention. Maybe it is because of the language barrier, but I don't think that too many people here are seriously concerned about an all-out attack or collapse into war. That would not be in either country's best interests.

So, please breath easy that I am safe and will continue to be so. If the situation changes, I will let you know.

On another note, I have been sick for the last few weeks and just can't seem to shake it! When I went to the pharmacy a few days ago they put me on a regiment of oriental medicine (I know, I too thought that oriental was a politically incorrect word!) and said I couldn't drink caffeine or exercise. Now, I don't feel any better at all, and am wondering slightly about the merit of this medicine that they gave me. It looks like rabbit pellets, honestly. They said it wasn't exactly supposed to make me feel better, but was supposed to basically empower my body to make itself better. Well, if that's the case, my body needs to do a better job! Maybe a second piece of leftover pie will help the situation.

Also, a big thanks to Dean McArdle for giving me a shout-out on a nationally broadcast NPR show! If you can't be with your family on Thanksgiving, the next best thing is to be on the air waves! Check out the podcast of it and start listening at about 15:25.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Staying busy!

There sure are a lot of things going on here! There are those days that I feel as if I have not done much, but then I look back on what has gone on just in the month of November and it is astounding! So, here are a few things:


I have now gone hiking twice in the beautiful mountains that surround the area to experience the breathtaking fall foliage. The first time was a great excursion with Simon, Haejung, Katie and myself to Mt. Gyeryongsan. The scenery and the leaves were beautiful! This is a very popular place to hike, and the temple there was crowded (with mothers perhaps praying for their child's success on the national exams?).
I also went hiking with teachers and children from Seomna on one Saturday. The kids here go to school every other Saturday, but on their Saturday's off the center has activities for them. One such was hiking at Mt. Kayjoksan. After a full morning and afternoon of hiking, the kids (and I!) were exhausted, but it was beautiful and a fun time. I took a group up to the summit, which was suuuuper tiring, and the kids were dropping like flies. I came through in the clinch by having a napkin when one of the kids got a nosebleed from the elevation and hard work. But the top gave a stunning view, and I think it was worth it.
My panoramic shot.
Some tired and hot looking kids, but we all made it!


I don't have any pictures of this, but a few weeks ago I gave a lecture to a class in the Linton Global College. My friend Sue is the professor of a class on Communication and NGOs, and she invited me to say a few words about globalization. I think it went pretty well (relatively speaking), and it was fun to be able to be thinking about these issues again. Kind of gave me the itch to get back into academia.

Class dinner

Several weeks ago I had my whole Korean language class over to my house. There were about 12 students, 3 teachers, plus some spouses and children. It was quite a bunch! Each person brought some food, but the real chefs were the Chinese students. They made a few dishes, and then brought all the supplies to make dumplings, so we all pitched in and made dumplings on the dining room table. Talk about fresh! There were delicious desserts provided by the teachers, some turkish food, pizza and chicken, kimchi, and a special sweet potato casserole courtesy of Katie. I'm definitely thankful that we have a big enough house to host this sort of event. Spending four hours a day with these people is good, but it is nice to be able to interact with them outside of the classroom, too.
The Spread Stuffying my face
Teacher Kim makes some dumplings Kai-Li and her lovely dumpling
The girls cleaning up. Yes, that is my teacher doing the dishes.


A man at our church runs a Taekwondo studio and invited us to check it out. So, last Monday Katie and I ventured out to see what this Taekwondo rage was all about. Katie had some experience with Taekwondo, but I had never done it before, so I was with the white belts...who were all about as high as my knee caps. They could not even stand still on their dot. We worked on slow motion kicks, but I knew it wasn't going to work out when the instructor put my target about 4 inches in front of my hips, as if my legs were the same length as the legs of those kids around me. Thankfully, I got moved up to the bigger kids, where the instructor (the man that we know) patiently helped me with kicks...and had to continuously remind me to grunt or yell upon impact. I am not a yeller! He said my kicks were good though, and even asked if I had some background in martial arts. I guess soccer and gymnastics lend themselves to Taekwondo. We jumped rope, did pushups and situps, and had an intense stretching session. It felt wonderful! We had a great time and are going to try to go back every Monday! Hiya!


Finally, we had a very lovely Thanksgiving celebration. Obviously, there is no recognition of the American holiday here, although I introduced it to my children at Seomna. There are now a gang of Korean students who can identify corn, pumpkin, turkey, squash, tomato, potato, lettuce, and Happy Thanksgiving. ;) However, explanations of "tryptophan" and "stuffing a turkey" seemed to leave some people puzzled. Regardless, on Friday, several Americans gathered at our house to celebrate our blessings. Katie, Becky, and I had over our friends Sue, Mike, and the Khim family of Kristen, Ed, Kai-Li, and Luka. We enjoyed great company, and delicious food including: dumplings by Becky, cheese and crackers, fruit, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, fried chicken by Popeyes, carrots, green bean "casserole," bulgogi and Italian pork chops by Kristen, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, whipped cream, and ice cream. It was a great way to celebrate, and I am very very thankful for a wonderful group of friends here.

I have settled into a routine at Seomna children's center, and have made friends with many of the kids. They are definitely pretty comfortable with me (one girl even peed on the street in front of me!) We continue to serve at the University Church at Hannam, and I have four weeks of Korean language class left. We have already been here almost three months! Can you believe it?