Sunday, July 31, 2011

Photoessay of Bundang (shot in February 2011)

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Blessed

Vacation was awesome.
Blessings were abundant during 6 weeks of re-connecting with friends and family in the US.

Loved ones!
Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and birthfamily.
Friends from schools and church, former schools, former students, former colleagues, neighbors.
Friends from Calvary Players, even our financial advisor!

Celebrations!  
Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa we celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Anniversary, 4th of July.  Lars Birthday, Anna's Birthday. Dad's 50 Anniversary of his Ordination.

Places!
Madison, Platteville, Viroqua, the Cabin, Minneapolis, Monroe, Baraboo, Green Bay, Ted Fritch Park, NDA, Copeland Park, Klipestine Park, Marinette, Appleton, Fitchburg, LaCrosse.

Water!
Swimming at the Lake, skiing and tubing at the lake, swimming at the Y, Ray's, Sarah's and Tuppers, and the water park.

Fun! 
Camping, Hiking, Bay Beach and the Zippin' Pippin', sleep overs, golfing, music in the park, Farmers' Market, final Harry Potter movie, Bill's Party!

Food!
Cheese curds, peas, Mexican, Italian, Cookouts with brats, hamburgers, steaks and s'mores.  Homemade guacamole. Char's Breakfasts.  Lombardi's. More cookouts.  Pizza. Noodles and Co., Black Otter.  Sweetcorn. Diet Coke!

Thank You, Lord!
Places to stay and 2 cars to use.
Communion with family.
Doctors visits with healthy results.
A cast removed.
A Bible for Anna.
Prayers answered.

What Shall from This Point Be Known as "The Maple Syrup Incident"

Wisconsin has maple trees.  And maple syrup.  The Amish make maple syrup in the area my parents live.  They sell it for a reasonable price and it is AMAZING.  I like maple syrup.

In Korea there are no maple trees as far as I know.  It is hard to find syrup.  There's a very weak, runny sort of thing that passes as syrup. Also, no Mrs. Butterworth's that I have found.  And if you are lucky enough to find maple syrup, plan on paying about $18 for 8 ounces.

This is why I was on a mission to bring LOTS of maple syrup back to our home in Seoul.  It's been on my list for months. 

When our family arrived in Viroqua where my parents lived, I made sure to find some.  As a matter of fact, I ended up with 1 quart and 1/2 gallon.  Fairly heavy cargo, but a perfect pairing for my 10 lbs. of pancake mix from Cosco ($5.97).  Surely I would be set for the whole year for Saturday morning pancakes in Seoul.

I was very careful to pack my syrup in gallon ziplocks.  But just to be sure they didn't explode in the cargo area of the plane and mess up a suitcase, I made a calculated decision to put them in my carry-on.

The day arrived!  Our lovely family of 4 after 6 weeks of marvelous visits with friends and family all over the Mid-west was going home.  We said our final good-byes to my mother-in-law and father-in-law at the airport.  We happily proceeded to airport security, took off our shoes and placed them in the gray bins for scanning.  My carry-on merrily passed through the scanner. 

The next thing I know, the good-looking security guy is holding up my carry-on.  "This yours?"  "Yes." "Step down here please.  Don't touch the bag."  The security guy takes out his gloves and swab and opens my bag.  "Ah.  Here would be the problem," he says pulling out my maple syrup.  "This is more than three ounces of liquid, Ma'am.  You'll have to dispose of it, sorry."

My mind raced.  You have got to be kidding me!  Stupid!!! How could I not have realized that?  Liquid!  Maple syrup is LIQUID.  

Dejected, I took my maple syrup from the security guard and proceeded downstairs to figure out what to do.  Hmm. . . .

I started with the Delta counter.  "Excuse me, ma'am.  Have you checked my bags through already?"  "Yes. Why?"  "I was hoping to put this maple syrup in there.  How much would it be to check my carry-on as an extra bag?"  "$150."  $150? Bummer!  What next?  I could call my mother-in-law if I had her cellphone number and 50 cents, but I don't have either.  Drat.  Maybe the gift shop has empty 3 oz. bottles and I could buy all of them up and fill them with syrup.  I checked the gift shop.  No go.  Bad idea anyway.  I couldn't give it to anyone - not in an airport where you get arrested for giving something to someone to take on a plane.  I looked around for my high school friend who I knew was going to be on our same flight.  If he HAPPENED to be checking in I could give it to him.  No luck.  I couldn't just throw it in the garbage!  But what? 

I decided to return to the Delta counter.  "Excuse me, ma'am.  I don't suppose you could help me.  See, I have this problem with my maple syrup. I've got 3/4 of a gallon and don't know what to do with it.  Got any ideas?"  "I see what you mean!  When are you coming back?"  "Next year. But my mother-in-law lives in town.  She might be able to pick it up."  The Delta gal looked at me sympathetically.  "Well, if you can give me her phone number I can call her."  She took the package and set it on her counter.  "Really?  That would be wonderful!  When I get back upstairs I can get the number from my husband."  "Sounds good.  Here's my extension, just have the attendant at the gate give me a call,"  she said handing me a slip.

So, after waiting for the entire plane to board, I asked the attendant to call Marie at her extension with my mother-in-law's number.  "No problem, I'll see her in 20 minutes," he said taking my slip.  I boarded the plane, not yet sure of the fate of my maple syrup.

Forty-eight hours later I was shopping for groceries to restock our fridge.  There it was! One tiny glass bottle of maple syrup for 18000 KRW (about $17).  No way I'm buying that!

Seventy-two hours later I finally spoke to my mother-in-law.  "Did you get a weird call from Delta?  Did you happen to pick up our syrup?"

"Yep.  No problem.  I'll keep it for you for next year," she said.

And so it waits, silently mocking my stupidity from a cool basement in Madison, Wisconsin.  Have no fear; next year I'll be smarter.  I've learned my lesson:  Syrup = liquid.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"There are no boats in Korea"

Alec commented to my sister, "Why are there so many boats in your neighborhood?"
She responded, because in Minnesota there are a lot of lakes and people go boating.
"There are no boats in Korea," he said.

We're straddling cultures, aren't we?

A year ago when we announced we were moving to Korea, so many people commented how "good living in Korea would be for the kids" and "what a wonderful way to expand their world view."  Sure.  Of course, I thought.

Now that we are spending our summer break back in the Mid-west of the US, I'm getting it.  My kids know and understand life as a Mid-westerner (Walmart, fast food, rolling hills, long car rides, back yard BBQ, a day at the lake, eating with forks and knives, blending in as a member of the majority).  But they also know and understand life as an ex-pat in Seoul (apartment living, public transportation, walking and biking paths, listening to and learning Korean, eating with chopsticks and a spoon, and sticking out as a minority).

My kids know that there are no boats in Seoul.

My kids also know what kimchi is, the view from a 15th floor apartment, what a Buddhist temple looks like and sounds like, that not everyone is Christian in the world, that not everyone lives in houses with lots of stuff, that there are no pickup trucks in Seoul, that you give up your seat for someone older when on the subway, that milk is 4000 Won for a litre, that little Korean children are cuter than the dickens, that Korean saunas are separated by gender and that everyone is naked.  Sure, they could have read all of that in a book somewhere, but now they KNOW it.  And this fact means that they are now straddling cultures.

We've been blessed tremendously this past year; we've been able to show our children the Ice Festival of Harbin, China, the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xi'an, China and the Great Wall.  They've eaten Beijing Duck in Beijing, and they've seen the Beijing Acrobats. .  .in Beijing.  They've lounged on the beach in the Philippines and snorkled in the water there.  All these things are amazing to say, I know.

But I'll tell you something just as amazing.  My kids have seen the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin and Amish buggies, and hummingbirds so close you can hear that they sound like bumblebees.  They've eaten the best apple pie I've ever tasted (I may be biased, but everyone I know agrees that my mom's is the best).  They've fed rainbow trout in their Grandpa's pond and fished them out.  They've eaten at a drive-in restaurant where the waitress arrives on rollerskates.  They've experienced every missed holiday in a matter of a week! 

My kids know how to swim in a pool or lake, as well as an ocean.  They know how to find pretty rocks in the freshwater stream and drink the water.  They've seen beautiful horses and cows and have eaten World winning Wisconsin cheeses and Amish maple syrup.  They've eaten wild strawberries and "dug for gold".  They know what it is to meet great-aunts and uncles, second cousins, and cousins once-removed.  They have been surrounded by everyone who loves them from grandparents to great-grandparents, to aunts and uncles, and cousins.  Even a birth-family!

So this is what it is to straddle cultures and "expand their world view."

I'd have it no other way.