Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Real North Korea

My heart is heavy tonight.

This afternoon I watched a video of the actual state of North Korea, filmed secretly by a North Korean refugee. With each return visit across the border, he risked his life to collect more footage in order to get the truth out. As the video played, I listened in horror to firsthand accounts of torture, family prison camps, opium farms, and cannibalism. I saw drawings produced by North Korean refugees illustrating various atrocities. And I saw footage of orphans who are literally starving to death. Spliced between all of these heartbreaking scenes was footage from the government-sponsored, foreigners' tour of Pyongyang which reeked of propaganda and deception. The contrasts between the two versions of North Korea were stark and sickening.

It's difficult to fathom how this spectrum of activity is currently underway anywhere in the world, let alone 35 miles from where I live^. Right now I feel a mixture of emotions -shocked, horrified, sad, helpless, overwhelmed, angry, confused, and determined are but a few- and I suppose my writing about it is a means of sorting through them all. Additionally, I do feel convicted to share the video with you to raise awareness of the situation. I encourage you to invest 45 minutes and watch it (I'm embarrassed to admit that it's taken me over a year of living here to drill down and learn more.).

The video is titled Children of the Secret State and can be found here:

There is a silver lining. Before the video presentation, our host shared accounts of believers who have bravely stood up to the regime and who were martyred for doing so. Christianity is forbidden in North Korea, and yet there are untold numbers of believers who have faced persecution and death because they would not renounce their faith. The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit organization devoted to assisting the persecuted church worldwide, and their website can provide more details about the risks North Korean (and other) Christians face:

^It's also challenging to understand how God -the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth- could allow this evil to persist. BUT! Although I cannot grasp His reasons for allowing it to continue, I trust in Him and believe with all my being in His sovereignty. As we read in Isaiah:
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  -Isaiah 40:28-31

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trip to Ewha

Today was such a gorgeous fall day, and I desperately wanted to take advantage of the perfect temps and spend the day outdoors. Anyone who lives here knows that days like today are rare and that we ought to treasure them like precious jewels.

Ewha Womans University is renowned for its beautiful campus, and so I headed there this afternoon to take some photos. Indeed, it is a lovely place; wish I could say the same for the images I captured. Rather than withhold them from you, I'll post a few -but keep in mind that the campus is far prettier than I've depicted here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiber, Literally

Last night I picked up a loaf of bread without paying much attention to its packaging. The bakery was out of the whole grains variety I'd been wanting, and so I settled on the next best alternative. This morning, as I sleepily assembled my breakfast, I got quite a chuckle upon closer examination of the bread's cellophane wrapping. Can you imagine why?

(Since you probably can't read the fine print in the above photo, I'll include the verbiage -word for word- below.) 
Dietary fiber (fibre), sometimes called roughage, is the indigestible portion of plant foods that pushes food through the digestive system, absorbing water and easing defecation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

O, Fall, Wherefore Art Thou?

As I type, it's a whopping 37 degrees outside. How can it be that only last week I was perfectly comfortable in a sleeveless top?  Good thing I snapped a few shots of the fall foliage when I did. I'd planned on taking more pictures during the upcoming weekend, although at this rate, I'm not sure how many leaves will be left. 

Incidentally, a few weeks ago, I took some photos of lovely pink flowers while on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace (yes, October has been a big palace month; see yesterday's post). Here's a few...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Changdeokgung Revisited

Last week I returned to Changdeokgung -my favorite palace in Seoul. While disappointed that I couldn't access the Secret Garden (sold-out tours), I enjoyed taking more photos of the grounds. This time I focused on the details. Here's a few for you:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Color Cornucopia

I was back at Children's Grand Park yesterday for a mega walk-jog. And while I didn't have my camera, I did have my iPhone which came in handy for snapping pics of the changing leaves. Not the clearest of images, but they should give you an idea of the cornucopia of colors in my backyard.

And the obligatory random shots... it is Children's Grand Park after all:


Friday, October 22, 2010

Super Cute Scale

There comes a time in life when one must break down and buy a bathroom scale. Alas, that day has come. No longer can I rely on the fit of my jeans to accurately gauge the status of my body mass. (Side note:  this is likely because I've avoided wearing them for so long due to the oppressive heat combined with the increasing allure of wrap dresses and skirts with elastic waists. Had my own waist been more elastic, perhaps I could've put off buying a scale a while longer...!).

The way I see it, since I severely lack the desire to stand on a scale and face reality, I may as well make the chore as attractive as possible. Hence, today's purchase of the most adorable scale I've ever run across.

I feel a bit like Bridget Jones again now that I've resumed blogging and finally own a scale; however, unlike Bridget, I won't divulge the daily weigh-in reading.

Two months 'til I'm back home for Christmas. How's that for motivation?!


The other day I was at Children's Grand Park and was able to get some closeup shots of my neighbors. Crazy to think they're just a short walk from my place!

Hiatus Ends!

You may have noticed a longish lapse in posts. For that, I do apologize. Rather than bog you down with excuses, suffice it to say I've had a ball showing a friend all around this wild and crazy town during the past couple of weeks.

Still, I have missed writing. In addition to facilitating regular contact with you, it allows me to keep mini records of each day's unique moments. Reflecting on the last several days, it's hard to remember what happened when, and the memories are all a little jumbled in my head.

Good thing I took loads of photos while on hiatus. Now, I'm finally ready to share them with you. Right here. Right now!

For categorizing purposes, let's call this first set:  Random Sightings in and around Insadong and Hyehwa.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tomato Sauce Redux

No doubt about it:  cooking relaxes me. It stimulates me in a creative sense, too, but first and foremost, it helps me unwind.

I arrived home after a particularly full day and opted to lie down on my couch as I proofread the exams I drafted yesterday. Afterward, though completely exhausted, I became overwhelmed by the feeling that I absolutely needed to do some cooking. Unfortunately, I lacked the requisite ingredients for the dish I was craving. So, off to the store -somewhat of a hike considering the stairs and hills involved over the course of the trip. In spite of this delay, I was still able to produce a decent meal within an hour of embarking on my journey. 

For the curious, I tweaked my recent concoction of pasta with fresh tomatoes, adding diced oyster mushrooms and grated mozzarella cheese to the dish. Fantastic and utterly soothing to prepare.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010



I've spent the better part of the past nine hours drafting two midterms for the English courses I teach. It dawned on me as I went through the process that writing the exams was actually a test of sorts for me. 

As I poured over the material we've covered thus far in the semester, I reflected on all those classroom hours, and I began to wonder just how much of what I tried to teach actually soaked in. With every multiple choice, true/false, and short answer question I created, I had to ask myself:  were my teaching methods effective? Did I clearly communicate this concept? Later, as the night dragged on, I thought about the phrase parents often tell their kids:  this hurts me more than it hurts you.

Off to bed now. My head hurts. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sock Truck

One benefit of hosting visitors from the States is that they're apt to notice things that no longer strike me as odd after living here for a year. Take, for instance, the ubiquitous sock truck. They're all over town, yet I'm scarcely aware of them nowadays. Stocked with colorful, cheap merchandise, they bring terrific convenience to the sock-purchasing process.

Bet you're now hoping one pulls into your neighborhood soon.