Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pasta Bianco

Normally a red sauce girl, I opted to mix things up a bit this evening (mainly because I lacked the requisite tomatoes to do otherwise -which reminds me, I do need to go grocery shopping soon). What I did have in stock were oyster mushrooms, garlic cloves, white wine, and mozzarella cheese, in addition to olive oil (naturally!). With those ingredients, I created a subtly flavored, though interestingly complex, sauce which I then folded into some vermicelli. Garnished with a generous dash of black pepper, it was actually quite good. To try it at home, do something like this:
  • slice mushrooms into short strips; coat lightly in olive oil, then steam for 10 minutes; add white wine for final minute; remove from heat.
  • sautee garlic (chopped finely and lots of it!) in pan used to steam mushrooms; sprinkle in some water to keep from burning; once garlic becomes lightly browned, add mushrooms back in and mix well.
  • lightly coat cooked vermicelli in olive oil, then fold in 'sauce;' garnish with black pepper and shredded mozzarella.
To complete the experience, I recommend listening to Andrea Bocelli's Christmas album, My Christmas, specifically to his rendition of "What Child Is This" -an awesome duet with Mary J. Blige:   http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/my-christmas/id336010435?v0=WWW-NAUS-ITSTOP100-ALBUMS&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Monday, November 29, 2010

Joy Challenge

Try as I might to avoid them, I occasionally find myself attending pity parties hosted by yours truly.

After a solid week of thoughtfully reflecting on many of the blessings God has given me, I woke up this morning with a serious case of agitation, primarily centered on answering the perennial question:  what in the heck am I doing here? 

The escalated tension between North and South Korea has been weighing heavily on my mind. I wish I weren't struggling with anxiety, but I know that I am. I see it in how I've related to others over the past week -friends, loved ones, strangers- and I am disappointed in myself. For those of you who have recently interacted with me and experienced a more frazzled, stressed out version of me -I sincerely apologize (and by the way, thank you for sticking by me and offering timely encouragement and wisdom!).

So, in light of this public confession, my challenge for the week is to be filled with joy -irrespective of nearby hostilities. I'm noting it here so that you can hold me accountable.

But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.  For surely, O Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.   -Psalm 5:11-12

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Snow

Yesterday marked the first snowfall of the season. There wasn't much, and it didn't last long, but for a short while, things looked a bit sugar-coated. I love the sense of whimsy and wonder that comes with snow. And while it's not yet technically winter, I've developed an appreciation for that season while living in Korea. To me, it represents a time of introspection and reflection, as well as an opportunity to ponder the magnitude of God's sovereignty --His ways often seem incomprehensible to mere mortals yet are perfectly ordered and part of His plan.
God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding.  He says to the snow, "Fall on the earth," and to the rain shower, "Be a mighty downpour."  So that all men He has made may know His work, He stops every man from his labor.   -Job 37:5

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Body + Food

This evening I am especially grateful for the members of the church I regularly attend in Seoul. Through their combined efforts, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving, American-style. We had turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and even pumpkin pie. The comfort food was good, but even more important was the fact that all of us in attendance tonight share a significant, eternal bond. This Common Denominator allows us to overlook our disparate backgrounds and focus on the bigger picture as we fellowship together... a foretaste of heaven!
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body -whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many [...] If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.   -1 Corinthians 12:12-14;17 

Stars and A-Lines

[I had intended the following entry to go out on Friday, November 26 -Seoul time- however, I wasn't able to get it posted in time.]

Today I am particularly grateful for a few superstar students. They're so committed to learning English that not only are they enrolled in my general course, they're also taking one of my conversation classes where they have a cozier environment to practice speaking. After our lesson wrapped yesterday, I turned the tables and asked them if they could help me with some Korean. I wanted to get my hair cut in a specific way but currently lack the requisite Korean vocabulary to articulate the specifics. The students listened attentively to my description and then wrote down detailed notes for me to show the stylist. I'm happy to report that they did a stellar job, and I'm now sporting the A-line, long bob cut I've been wanting.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.   -Luke 12:7


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.    -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dear Readers,

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving Day! 

Today's post is dedicated to you. I'm sincerely grateful that you visit this site, engage in the dialogue, and most importantly that you care about what's going on in my little life... thank you, thank you, thank you! You are an inspiration to me and my motivation to continue writing even when times seem unusually chaotic or topsy-turvy.

As you celebrate this special holiday with loved ones, may you be filled with a heightened sense of all the many blessings in your life. And save some marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes for me.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Techno Gratitude

Today I am especially grateful for technology. Although thousands of miles separate me from some very special people, the distance is eased tremendously by Skype, in addition to the phenomenal cell phone coverage in Korea. I can literally be 100 feet underground on the subway and carry on an international phone call with perfectly decent reception. So while distance often gets a bad rap for making hearts wander, this one just grows fonder.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!   -Philippians 4:1

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Surprise Attack

Amid today's crazy news of North Korea's attack on South Korea, I still have much to be thankful for. I am particularly grateful for the four students who attended my small discussion class this evening. All of the guys have completed their military service and gave helpful insight to the current situation. According to them, this behavior is par for the course for Pyongyang and we ought to take it in stride. Kim Jong-il wants attention, his country needs food and other resources, and these attacks may bring him what he's after if history repeats itself. While I am still experiencing a heightened sensitivity to the matter, listening to these students' perspectives definitely helped allay some concern.

Of course, I take even greater comfort in these words:
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.   -1 John 4:4

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sausalito Lobster + Mail

And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky."  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.   -Genesis 1:20-21

I've just returned from a special dinner where I dined on scrumptious lobster with ladies from my former BSF group. Several things spring to mind when I reflect on what I'm grateful for today. 

I'm eternally grateful for the ministry of BSF which has enabled me over the years to study God's word in a meaningful way and form lasting friendships. I also appreciate that I can still eat lobster -so far, no allergy issues with this fish! Incidentally, I must give mention to the standout restaurant where we dined -Sausalito Lobster in Insadong. The owner, Mr. Gu, has been delighting customers at this venue since 2001, and I will definitely be back. The above photo is just a sample of the exquisite array of foods he served us.

Prior to dinner, I experienced a banner mail day. As I've written before, there is something so wonderful about tangible things -to hold something in my hands that was once held by a loved one moves me every time. Not only did I get a lovely card from my sister filled with photos of my darling new niece, I also received a heart-melting care package from a V.I.P. Wow. (Thank you, J + J!! xoxo)

ps:  for the curious, the red tree which I mentioned yesterday continues to display its brilliant ruby leaves!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Red Tree Grows

Since it's the week of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd focus each day's post on something for which I'm grateful.

There's a tree on campus that is so bright and so vividly red, it doesn't even seem real, at least not to a California girl like me (we don't have anything like this in SoCal!). The tree has taken on quite a legendary quality -people stop to gawk at it, take photos of it, and even get their picture with it. For all I know, its leaves may have changed dramatically over the weekend, and it may look completely different tomorrow. But I remain ever-grateful for it. Not only has this tree given me numerous moments of sheer delight when I've passed by, it also points to the infinite creativity and imagination of the Lord.

Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation:  seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds."  And it was so.   -Genesis 1:11

Saturday, November 20, 2010

On Air

Yesterday I had an opportunity to reunite with a high school flame -my love for acting. I was asked by my manager to lend my voice for a little recording project, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. In a series of dialogues, I played the female role while a colleague read the male part. We covered a dozen different scenarios -e.g. a business meeting, job interview, apartment search, college lecture, etc.- and as time went on, I got more into the various parts I was playing -businesswoman, job applicant, landlady, professor... I think my favorite moment though was sitting in the recording studio and seeing the sign light up:  On Air.

Here's hoping this project leads to additional opportunities.   

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Another day, another Korean lesson down. Happy to report minor progress. At least tonight I could answer the three questions posed by my teacher at the start of class:  What is your name? Where are you from? What is your job? From that point on though, it was all pretty much a blur.

Will definitely need to set aside serious time over the weekend to buckle down and learn my letters and corresponding sounds. Some sounds sound so similar (hello, alliteration!), and I'm really struggling to differentiate. One classmate noted that we have the same issue in English and then recalled a time he had to explain to his own students the difference between "unique" and "eunuch." I'm still cracking up over that one -especially as I try to remember the different pronunciations (and meanings) of bang (방) -room- and ppang (빵) -bread.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Humbled Again

While I don't remember signing up for advanced lessons in humility, perhaps I did so inadvertently.

After last night's inaugural Korean class, I was feeling pretty chastened today (side note:  I recounted the experience to each of my classes, and the students all seemed genuinely pleased that I could now better relate to their own circumstances). Little did I know what this afternoon would bring... 

As I walked through a long hallway en route to teach, I heard frantic footsteps behind me. Thinking it was one of my students racing to get to class on time, I smiled to myself without looking back. Nearly right before I stepped foot in the classroom, I heard a small voice say excuse me. I turned around to see a student, though not one of mine, who informed me that my skirt was tucked into my tights. How on earth did I miss that?! Thank goodness for my longish sweater which concealed most of the exposed area. Moreover, thank goodness for such sweet and decent people who would go out of their way to help a stranger!   

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Price of Empathy

I'm laughing to myself as I reflect on my first Korean class which took place this evening. About 30 seconds after the instructor walked in, I realized:  this is a full-immersion class. For the bulk of the 90 minute lesson, I had absolutely no idea what was going on -especially amusing considering that at the start of class, I was still experiencing a quasi-high from yesterday's productive Hangul tutorial.

Like any determined student, I smiled and tried to follow along, but as far as I was concerned, there was nothing elementary or beginner about the lesson. The other guys were able to keep up with our teacher whereas I struggled to see letters and words (instead of lines and circles) in the Hangul characters. Fortunately my partner for group work was patient and good-humored about everything, which helped to slightly alleviate my feeling like the weakest link.

In the midst of my confusion, it dawned on me that I was experiencing what many of my own students face when they come to class -total immersion in a foreign language. And for that, I am grateful because it has sparked in me greater empathy for them as they endeavor to learn conversational English. 

Now, back to the books. Onward, upward!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

From Shapes to Letters

Thanks to the patience of a friend acting as my tutor, I am now able to make sense of much of the Korean alphabet. Before today, it basically looked like a bunch of lines and circles, but now I see letters! For over two hours, we practiced reading, writing, and pronouncing the Hangul characters. I have a long way to go in terms of understanding the language, but this feels like a significant accomplishment.

The next challenge comes tomorrow when I begin semiweekly Korean lessons. I'm hopeful that my love of learning and being in school will carry me far in this new endeavor... stay tuned!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Glorious Fall

Although the leaves are falling quickly, there are still many beautiful sights to behold. As I walked around campus on this glorious fall day, I was reminded of the lyrics to the classic hymn, "How Great Thou Art":

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand has made.
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclamation
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, and there proclaim,
"My God! How great Thou art!"



Friday, November 12, 2010

Pepero Pic

It only took me a year, and a day, to post a photo of pepero sticks. Hope it was worth the wait (!). 

Don't have much else to say about them -they're rather unremarkable in taste and texture. But, boy, what a commercial coup!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pepero Day 2010

Another year, another Pepero Day. They come so fast, don't they? Seems like only yesterday that I was learning all about this commercial holiday, and now another one's upon us. Strangely enough, I still haven't taken or posted any pics of pepero sticks. Provided I can remember, I'll get some up over the weekend... my brain has been in a bit of a haze with all the cold medicine I've been taking.

In lieu of peperos, how about some fall foliage images?! I took these earlier this week on my morning commute. The trees are absolutely spectacular, displaying a vivid array of fiery colors. Too bad the leaves are falling so quickly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nothing to Envy, pt. 2

I am encouraged by the responses I've already received for yesterday's posting on Nothing to Envy. Thank you for your feedback and for your interest in learning more about the situation in North Korea.

One important note:  The book's title is ironic, and I'm guessing it was chosen deliberately. Before reading the book, I had assumed the title implied that we, the readers, had nothing to envy with respect to the lives of North Koreans. However, as I later discovered, the phrase nothing to envy has an entirely different meaning to the citizens of North Korea.

While at school, children learn a song often sung by their teachers -"We Have Nothing to Envy in the World". The tune is as familiar to them as "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." After reading the accounts of the six defectors in the book Nothing to Envy, it's hard not to choke up when seeing the lyrics to the song:

Our father, we have nothing to envy in the world.
Our house is within the embrace of the Workers' Party.
We are all brothers and sisters.
Even if a sea of fire comes toward us, sweet children do not need to be afraid,
Our father is here.
We have nothing to envy in this world.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nothing to Envy

One benefit to being sick and housebound is the opportunity to catch up on some reading. Over the weekend, I read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick. The book weaves together the oral histories of six North Korean defectors, and through them, we get a glimpse of the surreal daily lives of ordinary citizens under the regimes of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Their stories are thorough, horrifying, and heart-wrenching. A few excerpts:

...consider that their indoctrination began in infancy, during the fourteen-hour days spent in factory day-care centers; that for the subsequent fifty years, every song, film, newspaper article, and billboard was designed to deify Kim Il-sung; that the country was hermetically sealed to keep out anything that might cast doubt on Kim Il-sung's divinity. (p. 46)
In Mrs. Song's home, as in every other, a framed portrait of Kim Il-sung hung on an otherwise bare wall. People were not permitted to put anything else on that wall, not even pictures of their blood relatives. [...] About once a month, inspectors from the Public Standards Police would drop by to check on the cleanliness of the portraits. (p. 46)
The children were never to forget that they owed everything to the national leadership. Like other North Korean children, they didn't celebrate their own birthdays, but those of Kim Il-sung on April 15 and Kim Jong-il on February 16. These days were national holidays and they were often the only days people would get meat in their ration package. (p. 47)
While the other kids were cheerfully singing "Let Us Safeguard Socialism" as they marched, Oak-hee glowered in silence. The absolute worst was when it came to collecting "night soil" from the toilets in the apartment building. North Korea was chronically short of chemical fertilizer and needed to use human excrement since there were few farm animals. (p. 48)
All teachers were required to play the accordion -it had been her final test before graduation. It was often called the "people's instrument" since it was portable enough to carry along on a march to a construction site or for a day of voluntary hard labor in the fields -nothing like a rousing march played on accordion to motivate workers... (p. 119)
North Koreans learned to swallow their pride and hold their noses. They picked kernels of undigested corn out of the excrement of farm animals. (p.134)
The famine not only put prostitution back onto the street, it brought out a new class of prostitute -often young married women desperate to get food for their children. They often asked for nothing more than a bag of noodles or a few sweet potatoes as payment. (p. 153)
North Korea's criminal code limited the death penalty to premeditated murder, treason, terrorism, "antistate activities," and "antipeople activities," but these definitions were loose enough to include any activity that might offend the Workers' Party. North Korean defectors in South Korea told of executions in the 1990s for adultery, prostitution, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct. (p. 184)
Jun-sang witnessed a public execution one summer when he was home for summer vacation. For days, sound trucks had been driving by announcing the time and date. The head of the inminban had knocked on doors telling people their attendance was expected. (p. 185)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Seoul Fashion

Three weeks ago tonight I attended a fashion show in Gangnam at COEX. It was really fun, and I'm glad I went. Great VIP seats and fascinating people-watching! The portion of the show I attended featured hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and bridal gowns. Oh, and the evening kicked off with a performance by the famous drummer, Choi So Ri^. Truly one-of-a-kind!

Can't believe I'm just now getting around to posting pics...



^for more on Choi So Ri, check out this performance on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdrjpCGKoFQ 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still Down...

Wish I had better news to report, but my cold is lingering and my ability to write coherently is suffering. Cold meds can certainly minimize the symptoms, but oh, what wacky, trippy side effects!

Thanks for all your well wishes. Hope to dazzle you with something more articulate and profound in the very near future. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Women Drivers

In Korea, female drivers get special parking spots at select places such as Lotte Department Store. They're closer to the entrance, and apparently they're wider than the typical spaces. As one (Korean) woman explained:  women can't park as well as men, so they need more room.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Down for the Count

Cold? Sore throat? Allergies? Who really knows what's going on... 

My energy is zapped, and I'm down for the count. Hope to resurface soon.