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
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”
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.
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.