Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mary Shelley meets Shakespeare

I've written two sonnets recently.  This was an assignment given to my seniors, and as you may know, I enjoy writing the creative writing assignments that I assign.  We had recently finished reading and studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein AND had completed a brief study of sonnets.  You may recall from high school that a sonnet is a 14-line poem with a set rhyme scheme and patterned rhythm of iambic pentameter (essentially 5 pulses per line).  I've challenged my students to post their work on their blogs or Facebook accounts and accrue the most hits or "likes" as a class.  The class with the most wins!  Here's my contribution.


Dr. Frankenstein’s Lament

When I beheld its yellow eye my heart
began to shake. I’d never known my deed
of science, Lord, was such a failing art!
And so I ran away from it full speed.
While nature sang its happy tune for joy,
It ravaged any joy I’d ever seen.
It first decided William to destroy;
Then to my horror fell my dear Justine.
Its vengeance stole my dear Elizabeth -
But just when I refused to make a mate.
Now, all my friends and fam’ly lie in Death,
And I’m alone to fester and to hate.
But at my back I hear another voice
Whisper I should have made another choice.


The Monster’s Reply

When I beheld your intense eyes and corps,
At first I wondered if you’re flesh and bone.
But once I rose, you ran straight out the door,
And I was left to travel life alone.
At first I saved a girl from waters rank
in hopes that my good deeds would make me loved.
But her papa just chased me from the bank
And evil in mankind he wondrous proved.
Again I thought I’d try to join the world
So wood I brought to my dear cottagers.
But kindness brought to me no sought reward,
When “beast” they cried to all the villagers.
And so that voice you hear behind your back
Is just my whisper prior to my attack.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Lutheran Experience

It was a touch of home right here is Seoul.  Two and a half years in the making.  As far as we know there is only one International Lutheran Church in all of Seoul, and we finally found it.


Just 30 minutes by bus, we walked into the church where Pastor Steve was in his robe, members were happily chatting with one another, and families were having pictures taken for the directory. Several members greeted us and inquired about our background.  I spotted a teacher I knew from another school and met his family.  All of this before church began.

Inside the church sanctuary (a real sanctuary!) was the alter prepared for Reformation Sunday and "the Green Book."  Those of you who grew up Lutheran will know what I mean. The woman sitting in front of me overheard me comment on the green book and said, "Yes, I remember when we moved from the Red Book.  It was such a big deal!  Very divisive."  Common childhood experiences!  It was a taste of home to sing the old liturgy, hear a nice 8 minute sermon, take communion, and have a children's sermon for the kids.  Very nice indeed.

But our experience wasn't over yet. After a ten-minute annual meeting, we made our way to the exit. We shook the Pastor's hand on the way out, talked to several more people and ended up in ye-olde-potluck line!  Anna and Alec were both thrilled to get sloppy joes!  No green jello, though.  We sat at the long tables set up in the narthex and continued chatting with visitors from Maryland there to see their daughter and son-in-law.  The churchgoers were from all different cultures and backgrounds, so it was indeed very international while simultaneously being a familiar experience.

As the potluck was winding up we were happy to win a raffle prize of a potted plant!  The organizers made sure that the newbies got the "first gifts."  On top of that we were talked into having our family picture taken for the directory!

Even the kids seemed to enjoy the service and the community feel.

I wonder how long it will be before we have a key to the church. . . .

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seoul International Fireworks

Where do I begin?

At the point where extraordinary fireworks including those flying through the air and shaped like birds and then exploding happens? Maybe the cool colored flood lights on the smoke for added effect? Or the part where we couldn't fit 8 people onto a subway train because it was so full? Or maybe I should begin with the part where our party of 10 walked with literally thousands (probably millions in all) down the middle of streets to find a venue near the river to watch? I could start at the part where 70 people shoved past that poor security guard to get to another street and then started climbing a fence with barbed wire on top.

Maybe I should start at the end and go back.  In that case I'd begin with the part where 4 adults and 4 children walked the bridge across the Han River and then some for an hour trying to reach our hotel but still making it back at 1 AM. Better yet I could begin with the lovely story of realizing we'd miss the last subway train followed by the 1-hour wait in the taxi line and then shoving 4 adults, 4 kids and a stroller into a taxi sedan, to the great surprise of the driver.

No, it is probably best to begin with the beauty of the fireworks: 4 different shows by teams of 4 different countries including the US.  And that reminds me of the part where we all were singing the star-spangled banner to the American Fireworks show only to realize later it was actually the Korean show.  That was funny (and a bit humiliating). I guess anywhere I begin will be fine as the whole affair, even the part about getting supper at a chicken and beer joint and then being turned away because we had children with us, was interesting.

Seeing the International Fireworks Festival was somewhat of an epic event, I'd say.

Too bad Brent missed it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When I am six and fifty. . . (a poem)


When I am six and fifty. . . 

1972
When I was six my family lived in the country 
near our church and a graveyard.  
Down the hill was a dairy farm -
cows and chickens and friends my age.  
Days were spent with my older sister, 
mostly swinging or riding my bike 
on the gravel driveway.  
I wrote my first poem then - “Piggy Piggy”

1982
When I was six and ten we lived in small-town Iowa: 
Population 1600.  
I was anxiously awaiting getting my driver’s license, 
hated my wait and worried about friends.
Still, Iloved acting in the plays and musicals, 
and wrote poetry about nature and love and boys.  

1992
When I was six and twenty, I lived in a Swiss-town in Wisconsin.  
Population 10,000.
I loved the thrill of teaching en francais and en englais. 
Best of all, I was deeply in love with the substitute teacher.  
I believed he was “the one” - 
and he was!

2002
When I was six and thirty, I lived in the Promised Land (according to our pastor).  
Population 100,000.
My life had been consumed with love and teaching and church and dogs 
until it became consumed with trying to “have a family.”  
Life was full and empty at the same time.

2012
Now I am six and forty and living near Seoul, Korea.  
Population 10 million plus.
My husband is graying, 
my daughter’s feet are nearly as big as mine.  
My son needs a haircut 
and they both dream of having a cat.  
I swim and bike and do yoga and zumba.
I teach English and learn Korean
and try to make a difference in the lives of N. Korean Refugees.   
I write poetry and teach it and wonder what life will be

When I am six and fifty.


September 23, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Korea in the Fall

The weather broke!  By that I mean the high humidity and temps of 80 - 90 degrees F are finally gone.  Now we've hit the mid-70's to mid-80's and the humidity is low.  Every now and then we get some rain, but for the most part, these are the perfect days for hikes and bike rides.

Yesterday we had a "playground crawl" for the Goodmorning Hill/Ramien apt. families (and anyone else interested in joining us).  There were maybe a dozen adults and more than a dozen kids.  We hung out at Goodmorning Hill for awhile.  The women chatted.  The men played frisbee.  The kids cruised on bikes and scooters.  Then we caravanned over to Ramien to a new-to-us playground there.  The boys found sticks.  The older girls doted on the littlest kids.  And in general, there was lots of running and climbing.

On our way back to GMH we stopped by the Bounce House so the newbies would know how to find it.  This is an awesome service in our neighborhood.  Just one guy mans the place.  It's a semi-indoor facility with 6 trampolines all bound together as if you are in an inflatable bounce castle.  The kids pay 1000 Won for 30 minutes and bounce until they're all sweat and laughter.  Sometimes they manage a bit of dodgeball with the bouncy balls in there.  Sometimes siblings get on each others' nerves.  But mostly, it's a great way to work off pent up energy - even in the winter time.  Now, however, with the weather so much more pleasant, the kids can bounce and the parents can enjoy  some adult time without sweating.

Anna and her new friend Gracie found a small aquatics pet shot across from the Bounce House.  This could be perfect for us.  If we decide we need a larger tank for our turtle or a real UVA/UVB tank bulb, I'm fairly certain the guy will be able to hook us up.  He had some interesting fish and turtles in there.

Today we took advantage of the good weather again.  We headed off to the skate park near Daeduk (or Shinsigae + Emart).  It's a 15 minute bike ride along the river.  I love the smell of the river!  There weren't many kids there when we arrived so the kids got some good time in on the ramps with their bikes.  Then we headed to Daeduk and ended up at a French sort of place called Plate 904 or some such thing.  Two of the outer walls are all collapsable windows, so in essence you are both inside and outside at the same time.  I love it!  Aside from the pesky bee who didn't realize he was "in" the restaurant.  But the fresh air was perfect and my cream-shrimp-pasta was tasty.  Most all of the restaurants in this area are pricey, but it's nice to splurge from time to time.

So, I'm digging the fall temps and the outdoor activities.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Nearly Unedited Private Thoughts

Just get something on the page.
Write something profound.
Work to explore your voice.
Think about what works for you.
Try something new.
Take risks.
Don't succumb to writer's block.
So your team didn't make it to the championship today.
So what?  It wasn't important to you, but it was to the competitive ones.
But we all messed up, so we all get to take credit.
Or maybe, better than that, none of us have to take the blame.
Why was he swearing?
Be creative.
It's good that the Typhoon didn't hit us, but the day off was boring.
I'm excited about the wedding tomorrow.
I think it's going to be a Korean wedding!
I don't know what it will be like, but I've been wanting to see one.
Plus, it's the wedding of a former student.
I don't think I've been asked to the wedding of a former student before.
That's cool.
Liz was very nice after the VB tourney when we were bummed.
Playing VB is about the only time I really enjoy sweating.
I wonder if I have something appropriate to wear to the wedding.
I wonder what Tak is up to.
I wonder how Anna's pre-babysitting babysitting gig is going.
How will she handle getting bored?
Maybe she won't get bored.
Why do I use such simple and small words when I talk to myself?
Is that bad?
Shouldn't an English teacher be using bigger words?
But I guess whatever happens inside your head is it's own thing.
There's no controlling that - no right or wrong.
Brent's computer defaults are different than mine and it's a pain to scroll up and down.
So, quiet at last.
The boys should have fun with the walkie talkies.
The Mexican party was fun.  I'm glad the whole English department was able to show up.
I enjoy getting to know new colleagues in a social setting.
I miss POETS, though.
I wonder how B. H. is doing after this summer.
I wonder how J. is doing.
It was nice to Skype with Mom and Dad this morning, even if it was mostly about bills.
I hope Dad's show goes well.
It will.  He does a nice job with his shows.
The inside of my head is trite.
Why don't I have more profound thoughts going on?
Shouldn't I be saving the world when I have a few private minutes?
People are going to read this and then they'll realize how very little is actually happening inside my head.
But I WAS on fire the last few days with the AP Lit.
That's good.
I did have my brilliant moment of likening close reading to looking at your hand to describe it rather than sitting on them.
I think that connected with the kids a lot.
And I'm loving the google forms.
Thank you E. Z. for turning me on to those!
That sentence evaluation exercise was awesome!
I've got to finish reading those.
And the Sr. papers.
And the 10th papers.
I'm loving that new feature on Turnitin.com where I can make verbal comments.
Wait.  It's quiet right now.  I could work on that right now and record more verbal comments. . . .


Monday, August 13, 2012

If I had a million dollars. . .

Sorry I've been off the blog circuit this summer.  I'm still processing the summer and deciding what to write about and how.  But for now - here's a great story from this morning.

I decided on this, the second day of school with students, to begin working on my new goal of walking to or from school a few times a week.  So, at 6:00 I left the apartment for my 1 hour journey along the highway to walk to work.  There are a series of sidewalks available, so the route is safe (although a bit loud with traffic).  Anyhow, there is a short stretch of sidewalk that is somewhat hidden to most walkers or riders; I discovered it last spring.  It was an exciting find because it meant my walk home would be 1 hour instead of 75 minutes.

Anyhow, I was happily walking along this morning.  The sun had just risen and the sky was bright and beautiful.  "If I had a Million Dollars" was playing on the iPod.  I was happily anticipating payday, as the summer had depleted funds.  Next thing I know there is a crisp 10,000 Won bill (about $10) on the sidewalk in front of me.  What luck!  I pick it up and go on my merry way.  About 2 yards later, the same thing!  Another 10,000 won bill.  Then again.  And again.  And again.  Then there were  two 1000 Won bills!  All told my walk to school paid out 52,000 Won!  And how perfect that I was listening to "If I had a Million Dollars" the whole time.

I'd say this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, but the truth is that it is the second time in my life this has happened!  Many years ago my husband and I found a $50 dollar bill while on a walk.  We promptly spent it on a nice Italian dinner.

I'm sorry but "thank you" to the unfortunate cyclist (probably) who lost their funds.  Now. . . to decide what to do with my "windfall". . . .

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ode to the DiscoverYourSeoul Wiki

This is a wiki specific to our school for both staff, arriving staff, and visitors.  Feel free to visit the wiki after reading my ode!  (Note:  Text in the poem is all exact quotes from the wiki.)


Ode to the DiscoverYourSeoul wiki
(click on the link to see the wiki!)

Since your inception less than 2 years ago, you’ve had 5,265 visits
(The revolvermap tells me so)
Before your existence, how did we ever figure out things like how to take a bus, train, or taxi or 
where to buy stuff from
or
stuff about airports?
But now you do exist!
Thank goodness.
And what do you have to say?
Much. . . 
Here is a sampling:
Index of recipes - 
Awesome arros con pollo, birthday lasagna, 
Cassie curry, Coconut-carrot Sombel, 
Early’s Pistachio cookies, Aysem’s Homemade cheese, 
Sinful Salmon Salad
From Apartment Living Guides
Are you experiencing mold on your walls, or condensation on your windows? 
Radiant heating does not allow for air circulation which can trap heat in your house. 
Just leave a window a crack open.
Gas: You will have some from all the kimchi eating but also be aware that your stove will be Gas.
Be ready to either air dry your clothes in apartment OR you could dry them at school.
Soft bed?  HA!  Not here. . . 
about Furniture
You will be surprised at some of the things you will find in the recycling once a week.
 (We call it Free Mart!)
on Beer Making Supplies:
Perhaps the best things that can be said about Korean beer is that is generally tasteless and imported beer is too expensive. Rather than complain about the situation I have decided to just make my own beer.
on Living in the dong
“Meet our Mascot - Woomi the Squirrel”
Shoes
You a man? You take a Size 44(European)/11(US) shoe? 
You are going to have a hard time because in Korea that makes you a freak! 
Pack your shoes and socks if you fit this bill! 
There may also be a job awaiting you in the circus.
Driving
Yes, it's possible to drive in Korea. 
Cars are cheap (really cheap!) and it's not that bad driving here. 
(The "stoptional" red lights do take a bit of getting used to!)
On Internet TV Channels
The cool thing about Veetle, is you can watch in HD, 
download and even create your own channel. 
My favourite was the one where someone set up a video camera for their aquarium. Sort of cool, mellow idea, by trouble was, 
the aquarium was 2/3's empty and no fish.
And then there’s games to waste lots of time: 
This page is dedicated to everyone in the Admin Team!
“Take it down”:Your little construction worker is trapped on the buildings. 
Demolish these rickety structures without hurting the hard hat or touching other structures as you demolish the building 1 piece at a time! 
This is for fans of Jenga!
And last but not least: Ordering Wine
If you enjoy a little vino, then this page will make you happy. 
If you don't enjoy wine, stop reading and move on to a different part of the wiki.
Yes, DiscoverYourSeoul, I salute you!
As they say in Wicked, “I don’t know if I’ve been changed for the better, but I have been changed for good.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Shark and the Dolphin

Enjoy a fable written by my son.

The Shark and the Dolphin

Once upon a time there was a dolphin playing at a park. He saw a shark. He teased the shark because of his pink fin. He laughed. While the dolphin was laughing the shark got his dad. When the sharks got there the dad thought the dolphin was laughing at him. The shark's dad slapped him on the tail. “Yowch,” yelled dolphin. The next day at sea school they were really mad. At snack they took each other's snack and broke them. At writing they wrote bad things in them and showed them to the class, and at lunch they had a small food fight. Finally the teacher and the principal came. They both got in trouble. 

The End

 Moral - Don’t mess with strong animals or people.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Korean Comfort Women

Kim, Kung-ja is 87 years old and one of 8 women living at House of Sharing in Gwangju City, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea.  She and several of the other women sit in the chairs on front of the day windows.  She has a wizened face, wispy brown hair, swollen ankles and false teeth.  Unbelievably, she sits cross-legged in her chair wearing a yellow shirt, pink pants, and a colorful scarf.  The group of us women visiting are seated on the heated floor in front of her and the other ladies.  We are there to meet these former "comfort women"- to get to know them and their stories a little bit more.   Ms. Kim has lived at the House of Sharing for 15 years now.  Her favorite season is winter because there is no sweating.  Her volunteer interpreter explains how she is a proper lady who doesn't like to sweat.  She talks a little about how she had been a devout Buddhist but later became a devout Catholic who rises for prayer at 4 AM.  She has been searching for the Truth about her life.  Her life has been one of isolation and shame, one with no family and little chance of making friends.  She is a surviving "Comfort Woman."

What does that mean?  To be frank, it means that she is a survivor of Sexual Slavery for the Japanese Military during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945).  "From 1932 until the end of WWII, the Japanese forcefully conscripted an estimated 50,000 - 200,000 women and girls from all over Asia, mostly from Korea, to serve as sexual slaves in the military's pan-Asian brothel system.  These 'comfort women' (or more respectfully known as 'halmoni' - Korean for Grandmother) were raped, abused, starved, tortured and many were killed.   At the end of the war, many were massacred or abandoned by military personnel" (1) far from home around the Pacific.  After decades of silence and separation from home, some 220 women have come forward.  In 2010 of these only 89 were still alive.  To this day, the Japanese government still denies its involvement in the abduction of girls and women and the systemization of "comfort stations"all over Asia (1).

Now, these halmoni and their supporters continue to Protest the Japanese Embassy in Seoul each week, an effort that holds a world's record as the longest lasting Protest.  They began their efforts in 1992.

My day at the House of Sharing was eye-opening, personal and powerful.  I encourage you to learn more about the Japanese Comfort Women so that their stories do not disappear with them.  The horrors of sexual slavery are still very real in modern day warfare.  Perhaps by knowing more we can prevent current and future abuse to women and girls worldwide.

1. "House of Sharing: Become a Part of Living History." Pamphlet. 
Information for this essay comes from the pamphlet and my tour of the museum at the House of Sharing, the video they shared, and my session with Kim, Jung-ja.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

We work hard. We play hard.

It's a beautiful, warm and sunny day in Dongcheon-dong.  Saturday, Cinco de Mayo, Children's Day.  The flowers are in bloom, the temperature is perfect, the humidity is low, the yellow dust and pollen are in the air.  Spring in Yongin-si.

Having just return from a Homebrew Beer Tasting and Cinco de Mayo get-together over at a park at Woomi (a neighboring apartment complex where a lot of "marrieds" and "singles-plus" live), I've decided to reflect on the saying that really got me excited about moving to Korea: "We work hard.  We play hard."

It's a philosophy I've lived by (along with several others) for a few decades now.  One of the things I enjoyed about my former school community was the work-hard play-hard mindset of my close circle of friends.  How perfect was it to hear that I would encounter the same perspective here.  And so I have.

Work hard?  Yes.  We all put a lot of time, energy, and effort into our lessons and our students' successes. I truly enjoy the creative energy at work and the collaboration that gets me up in the morning and helps me enjoy each day.  Many (if not most) evenings are, in part, dedicated to correcting papers (author studies and comparative essays at the moment).  But then there's the "play hard" part.

What does that look like?  For me it goes something like this once a week swim laps in the morning with about 5 others who are crazy enough to be in a pool at 6:30 am, twice a week do training circuits with 8 - 12 other women in the fitness center, once a week do meditative yoga with 4 - 7 other women (candles and all), and sneak in some time to walk or bike with my husband or play frisbee or soccer outside with my kids.  Then comes the weekend.  Likely there is at least one gathering.  It might be a night out for dinner at a Korean BBQ place, a hors d'oeuvres and drinks at someone's apartment, a neighborhood playground crawl with families, a baby shower or birthday party for someone, or a holiday to celebrate (like an Easter egg hunt or trick-or-treating).  Last weekend we attended the school musical "Little Shop of Horrors" twice!

This weekend we were at a colleagues apartment for snacks and margueritas on Friday night, then off to Saturday Morning Baseball for Alec and swimming for me and Anna at the same time, then home long enough to prepare beer bread and salsa for the Cinco de Mayo get-together.  The surprise treat was that since it was Children's Day, the PTO had free food and a give for the kids after baseball and family swim. At Woomi's Cinco de Mayo a wonderful cross section of the staff came, representative of grade school through high school, teachers, staff, and admin.  Adults and kids (including the baby twins!)  What a perfect day for it, too.

Tomorrow (Sunday) I will be going on a field trip of sorts with a group of women from our school to the House of Sharing, a non-profit organization that houses and helps Korean Comfort Women who were sex slaves to the Japanese during WWII and who are now in their 80's.  We have raised funds for them and now we're going to visit and learn more about their organization and what they do.  (See the next post for more.)

And that is how we are working hard and playing hard here in Korea!

Life is good.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


A found poem. . . .


Psychopath


I’m a psychopath.
Boogered.
A chair and me float past each other;
I’m going to float off for good this time.
Hooeee. . . I’m tired!

Disruption
Wait just a shake, honey;
what are these 2 little capsules in here with my
vitamins?
Gumdrop?
Hostility?

Disruption
like a bell boy changing in the fog.
Door opening in front of me to the acid
smell of sparks and ozone
oozing across the floor.
A mistake was made in manufacturing
skin like flesh colored enamel zombies
(the whole bunch was crazy loons).

I’m a boogered psychopath.
Tired!

By Brenda


Source: Kesey, Ken. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. Part 1. New York: Signet, 1963. Print.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What is my dream? Where does it come from?

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth while.” - Albert Einstein

The first thing I dream of is continuing to become a better and better educator. I’m considering going for the National Board Certification in the US. It would be a way to continue that journey and to challenge myself. I used to dream of great recognition in the field of education. And I suppose I still think that would be great; but I don’t seek it out or look for it anymore. Now I just DO things, like present at conferences, mentor new teachers, speak to colleagues about best practices. There’s no real “up the ladder” in education, so this is it; I just dream of doing it well.

My dream to be a teacher began when I was little. I first decided it would be great to be a gradeschool teacher when I was in first or second grade and other students would say things like, “You’re so smart. Can you help me?” I loved helping the other kids. Later in High School I had an art teacher say, “You should become an art teacher” and I thought I might. I even took pottery my freshman year in college because of my love of art. Then I found that math came easily and I thought that I could teach math - until I hit my first college class and that dream tanked pretty quickly. Eventually I found myself Christmas break of my sophomore year of college sitting on the toilet in Saundra’s little place up in Isanti, Minnesota. I was just minding my own business sitting on the toilet when the idea popped into my head, “You could be an English teacher!” That was it. I’m not sure if it was God or just my own voice, but at any rate I returned to school declaring an English major with the intent of becoming and English teacher. I never looked back.

But that’s not all there is to me. My other dream continues to be that of changing the world little by little through volunteer work. When I don’t need to work anymore, what I’d like to do is volunteer for the Red Cross or even Green Peace. I’ve seen retired people on television during natural disasters who just pick up their lives, and drive their RV to the location that needs them. I’d be perfectly content to hand out water bottles out of the back of a van for people in trouble and displaced. It would be a way to give back to the world, hurting communities, and perfect strangers with a sort of random act of kindness that I could afford to do because I won’t be working anymore. I’d love it if my husband would want to come with me. But we could do our own thing during those brief weeks, if necessary.

Recently, I was listening to the radio and their was a story about retired people volunteering for such efforts through Green Peace. I loved that idea! That could take us all over the world to placed we’d never dreamed of going. (Sort of like being in Korea, which wasn’t even so much a dream - it just happened!) Now that I’ve begun to see the world as an expat and a tourist, I think it would be awesome to see more of the world as a volunteer. Then I could continue making a difference AND learning AND providing an example to my children of how to live a life “worthwhile.”

In the end, these all seem to tie together: education, learning, volunteering. They all come back to the idea of making a difference through living a life “for others” because for me that is the “stuff that dreams are made of”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing up

My kids are entering a pool at Laguna de Boracay, our resort for our Spring Break. We're in the Philippines for a second time in two years. The kids are pretending to be dolphins. They are playing well together - for the moment. They're just like any other kids, right?

That depends on how you look at it. Many of their classmates from Green Bay will spend all of their growing up years in one community, or one state, or at least one country. They'll grow up seeing tons of American TV and commercials and magazines, be exposed to a culture that tells them to see the world and themselves in a certain way. Friday night football will be important. And cheeseburgers. And Packers. Body image. A "good job". Money. A big screen tv.

At this point my kids at 8 and 10 have traveled to 3 countries and lived in 2 others (or 3 depending on which kids we're talking about). They're beginning to think that rice is preferable to mashed potatoes. That black hair and dark eyes is just as common as blond hair and blue eyes. And that riding a subway and living on the 15th floor is just fine. They go to a school with students who come and go, with friends who come and go, in a country that is and isn't their's. They're learning that education is valued differently by their classmates here than in GB. That

("Oh my God! There's a dead frog in here!" screams one of them. They are united in a common purpose now - to get the frog out of the pool. Turns out it is alive.)

Then there are the children here in Boracay. I'm only going on observation, but I may be correct in saying that school isn't a given. Boys are walking along the beach in the morning on a weekday. Children too young to be in school or on their own appear with their parents in the shops and stores. I doubt there's any childcare available in this economy. It's likely that grandma is still working all day and unable to take care of them. Two sons of the pool attendant watch my children play in the beautiful clear water. About dusk each night (perhaps after school and supper?) kids come out to the beach to sell handmade jewelry "at a good price". Their day doesn't end until 9 or 10 PM. They learn to speak bits of other languages out of necessity. Kids here meet people from all over the world; okay, they don't really meet us. They see us and observe us try to support their families by selling to us, then return to their homes behind bamboo fences where the chickens, roosters, and goats roam freely.

The book I'm reading, Bel Canto, has child soldiers in it from some unknown Central American nation. These young men are working for three generals who have taken a bunch of hostages at the Vice President's home. They've never seen a working television, have dirty clothes on and know how to shoot guns. Yes, it's a fiction book, but we both know this IS life for child soldiers in developing nations.

The kids are done with their swim and asking about lunch. Requests include beef bouillon, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, and fruit, and stir fry. Must be time to go.

Growing up continues.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What I like about Korea

I went on a nice walk today. The winter air was brisk but not biting, the river almost frozen over, white snow beautiful along the walking path. Perfect for reflection.

I haven't written on my blog for awhile; I apologize. But after my time of reflection, I feel compelled to writer WHAT I LIKE ABOUT KOREA.

I've lived in the Bundang area south of Seoul for a year and a half now with my husband and 2 children. I've made good friends and enjoy my job tremendously. But here are some of the specific things that I appreciate.

I like the balance of city and nature - walking by the river, hiking in the mountains, or visiting a large public park/green space are all very doable, as is getting to the city of Seoul to the big Coex Mall or the outdoor markets.

I like the food. Okay, I don't like all of the food. But I do like that my diet consists much more of vegetables and less of meat than it did. And I've adjusted to the lack of Wisconsin cheese. Less fatty fast food has been helpful in creating a more healthy me.

In addition to my teaching job which I thoroughly enjoy, I appreciate 2 very specific things about the staff at my school. First, there is endless social committee activities to choose from. Socializing in many different ways with many different people helps me feel like a part of the school community. Second, so many of the staff are physically active and encourage me to be also. I'm happy to say that the Biggest Loser competition at my school helped to boost my consistency in exercising. So, at 45 I'm consistently walking/running/jump roping; swimming, doing circuits, yoga, and walking up 15 flights and occasionally hiking, and playing volleyball. These things are making me healthier and happier.

I like that my children are getting an expanded world view, that they are learning about world affairs more than US affairs, learning world geography and culture by living it first hand, and making friends with kids from different nations.

I like the opportunity to know another culture, food, language, and music, as well as a different lifestyle (like apartment living!)

Lastly (for now), I've come to appreciate the jinjabongs (the public saunas). At first it seemed very bizaare to be in a space with women of all sizes, shapes, and ages in their birthday suits enjoying the public baths. But now I feel more comfortable about it all and see that for them it must bring a sense of balance and bonding. I may explain this in more detail at another time.

So, while at times I find myself missing "home" and family and friends from Wisconsin, I truly do enjoy and appreciate being an ex-pat in Korea. And for those of you who know me personally, I'd invite you to come visit and enjoy it all for yourselves.