Today Maya went on a field trip with her preschool to the National Museum of Korea. When she came home from school (Daniel went and got her) I asked her what she did at the museum. She promptly told me that “the museum is broken!” I learned from Daniel (who learned from her teacher) that she was way excited to see things at the museum but she kept pointing to all the old pottery and artifacts and exclaiming they were broken.

Now, why in the world would you want to go to the museum to see a whole bunch of broken stuff?!

Wow, it’s about time I got on here and did some updating and writing. Especially since we have some pretty big news. Just about a month-and-a-half ago I found out that I am pregnant! I am sure most of you guys are pretty shocked, as were we. Right now, I am about 14 weeks along and doing pretty good. The first while was literally a living nightmare. When I was pregnant with Maya I had a wonderful pregnancy. No morning sickness and lots of energy. But, this pregnancy is completely different. I was sick practically every day, all day long. Plus, I couldn’t eat any Korean food! Nowadays though, I am feeling more energetic, I can eat some Korean food, and I am not sick every single day. Daniel and I are definitely excited and definitely nervous. I heard having two kids is really hard and is totally a different experience than having just one. Our plans have definitely changed, but I think it is for the better. We were planning on being here until next summer but, we are going to be coming home in December (I am due in March). It has been fun being here in Korea and I will miss a lot of things, but it will also be nice to be home again.

I also just finished the summer intensive program I was teaching for. I was a TOEFL speaking instructor for Columbia Language Institute and I definitely learned a ton about the TOEFL. I will definitely miss my coworkers but I don’t think I will miss the hakwon teaching experience too much. Now, I am back to teaching my private students until we leave in December.

Let’s see… we are getting ready for my father-in-law to come and visit us again in September and also getting ready for my parents to come and visit the whole month of October.  Both have promised to load their bags with goodies from the States that I have been craving. 

You know, a lot of people have asked me what Maya thinks of me being pregnant. And to tell you the truth, I don’t think she quite understands yet. I think she will begin to wonder more when I begin to show more and she will definitely wonder when a new baby will be around. But, all she sees is mom laying down bit more and being sick. She’s been such a sweetie. When I’ve been sick on the couch she’s come up to me and said (in a sugary voice), “oh, are you sick? Do you need to take some medicine?” or she will come and scratch my back and say, “There! All better!” And I am also so blessed to have Daniel too. He’s had to cook dinner and wash all the dishes and clean the apartment so many times.

This post is long time overdue. My mom came to visit us in Seoul during the last part of May and first couple days of June. I originally didn’t post on this because we shared pictures with my mom over Facebook. But that doesn’t prove to the world that my mom did in fact visit us in Seoul. We had an awesome time together, which is definitely cause for publication on our fine blog. 

So here is our proof. 

One of the first places that we visited with her was Deokseogung Palace, which was smaller than the main Gyeongbokkung Palace, but less crowded and definitely worth seeing. 

Maya starring in “Little Person Big Palace” and lovin the space. 

Oh, you may think she looks innocent, just pushing the boundaries to see how far she can get from dad. That’s only half of it. This girl is up to something more. I’ve got a documented intrusion on fenced-off grounds. Just follow the pictures and you’ll see what I mean. 

She takes a quick look to make sure mom and grandma aren’t looking. But she doesn’t know the power of dad’s zoom lens from further off in the distance.  

Caught you!

This is the point where I stopped taking pictures and started running over to stop her from getting too far on the other side. The sad thing is that most of the patches of grass that exist in Seoul are off-limits. I let the girl off easy because she was American and wasn’t used to such regulations where she comes from.  She also claimed that she couldn’t read the keep-off sign. OK, I’m not really that crazy as a father, I just thought it was funny that she actually checked to see if anyone was watching her–and I snapped it. 

Here’s one of Marquita and I by the wall of the building that you see behind my mom above. 

Here we are all together at Jogyesa, a Buddhist temple in Seoul. Tourists aren’t allowed to go in where the big bell is alone, but we lucked out by meeting a man who could show us in. He also answered our questions and related some interesting facts about Buddhism. That big piece of wood hangs by ropes from the ceiling and is used to ring the bell behind us. I can only imagine how low it would be. 

Here I am with a fish that is another instrument of sorts–pretty small compared to the ones I catch. 

And here is one of three massive Buddhas at Jogyesa. 

Odds are, if you’ve ever even looked at tourist information for Korea, you’ll have heard of this show: 

We had a blast. Mom, of all people, got picked to go up on stage and be made fun of. They made her eat soup (I forgot to ask how it tasted) and marry another member of the audience. She was a great sport. The percussion and acting couldn’t have been better; in fact, I’d have to say it was one of the best things we did, even considering the high ticket price. 

One day that Marquita had to work, Maya, mom, and I took a nice stroll along the Han river, which bisects Seoul.

 

Sorry, mom was taking the pictures here so she’s not in them. It turned out to be a much longer walk than we expected. Maya didn’t care because she rode most of it, but my mom and I were beat when we got home. 

We also visited the LDS Temple in Seoul. The spires are hidden from view by all the other tall buildings close by, but the grounds are peaceful and well kept. 

As you can see, Maya is getting too big to be held, but she doesn’t see it that way yet. Actually, that is the only way that we were able to get her to take pictures with us. Even still, the results were questionable, because while I might be able to hold her, I can’t make her look at the camera and smile at the right time. 

Here’s mom helping Maya up after having fallen while descending the stairs from the National Museum of Korea.

Not to worry, she was back to herself in seconds. Luckily, we were  at the end of the stairs that she insisted on running down. 

We had a great time at the Children’s Grand Park with Marquita’s Aunt, grandfather, and family friend. The park contains a zoo, gardens, amusement park, and more.

(Marquita’s aunt was taking the picture)

Of course we should have taken more pictures. We did a few other fun things together that we didn’t get pictures of, including visiting namdaemun market and insadong street, eating great Korean food at various restaurants, spending time with Marquita’s very hospitable family, and wandering around the city and its parks. 

I think we tired my mom out somewhat, but at least she wasn’t bored. She seemed to enjoy visiting and learning about Korea, and I know she really enjoyed seeing her granddaughter. We enjoyed having her over, which was somewhat more difficult than a drive across town for her. She had to come halfway around the world–travel that was difficult, long, and expensive. We are very blessed that she was able to come. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see her again.

This was inspired by my friend Carrie who happened to get a picture of a funny billboard on her drive in Utah. When I read her post I instantly remembered the picture we took of a billboard (well, 2 actually) in New Mexico that just cracked me up. I think this was on our drive back up to Utah after visiting my father-in-law before we left for Korea. These billboards were in Kirtland, New Mexico, I think.

This next picture gives you more of an idea of the placement of the billboards. The “Jesus is watching you” billboard is before an adult video store. Hehe.

The temperatures here in Seoul have really only been in the 80’s. And coming from a place that easily reaches over a hundred would make it seem that I could handle the heat. But, it is so humid here and it just makes the weather very uncomfortable during the day. Plus, it is 장마, Korea’s monsoon season, so things are especially wet. Just yesterday I had dropped off Maya at her little preschool and went to the store to pick up a couple of things. I was wet when I got home, it was ridiculous. It hadn’t rained. Sweat only accounted for a part of it. It was like the air was misting me from all sides. Seriously. I started carrying a small fan and a handkerchief with me to wipe myself off every now and then. What I don’t understand is why I am the only young woman on the streets who is wiping myself off like an overweight ajussi. I mean, I guess I could stand to lose a few pounds, but still. Everyday I walk outside, I regret the fact that I have bangs. I just can’t understand how all of the young people with their fringed hair can stand the wet. 

The nights are kind of pleasant though….

I’ve stayed my hand in writing anything about the US beef protests in Seoul for a couple of reasons. One is that many other people with more talent at writing and more knowledge of the issues have written excellent pieces on different aspects of the protests, there causes, and the aftermath. The other reason is that the whole issue is so complex, much more than just beef, and addressing all of them would be a nightmare for me, especially since I am not very good at being analytical. Daniel has however written a very good piece on the ordeal. You can check it out here at surviving ourselves. This is his blog on things a little more political-economical and much more about the world at large. I read his post before he posted it and found it, though it was very opinionated, to be very good at talking about the issues driving all of the protests. He also links to newspaper articles. 

So, what I will say about all of this, my two cents if you will, is that I am shocked at the whole thing. Owing to naivety and not being old enough to remember large movements of people under a single cause in my own country, I was surprised at the veracity of so many thousands of people here in Seoul. No matter how meaningful or how stupid their causes were….it was still shocking. It passed from peaceful candlelight rallies to outright violence and then back to peaceful candles again all within a very short period of time. And not all of the action was contained just on the streets of central Seoul. With such a tech savvy society as Seoul, internet lynching of individuals who went against the grain were common. Butcher shops who are currently selling American beef receive phone threats that their store will be vandalized. Classrooms also became grounds for political statements.  Daniel links to an article in the Chosun Ilbo titled The Teachers’ Union is Using our Children. The latest article I read which I want to link to today is again from the Chosun Ilbo titled The Ordeals of a Truth-telling Teacher. Here was a commerce teacher who taught that the US beef and a free-trade agreement are good things and he gets in trouble for punishing a student who was being very disruptive in class because the student believed the lies about the safety of US beef. I am glad to hear that a student was willing enough to stand up to a teacher, but you don’t hear them standing up to the teacher’s spreading propaganda in the classroom. This teacher was laid off from his job because word spread that he was punishing the student for participating in the protests. Anyway, take a look at the article. 

The other thing I was shocked at is the participation of religious groups in all of this. The Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists were all out there protesting as well. The Catholics said they were upset at the harsher crack-down of the illegal anti-American protests and they believe firmly that the issue is about national health and Korea’s right to that health. It is true that the involvement of these religious groups have made the protests peaceful again…. I don’t know. Here’s an article from The Korea Times, which is mainly talking about the tents the religious groups set up, but was far more disturbing than that. 

“Seoul City has not authorized the tent pitching. It sent letters to the religious groups asking for the tents to be dismantled for the second time Wednesday, but they have been ignored. The government said it would not remove the installments by force. 

“We are positioned to demolish unauthorized tents on Seoul Plaza. But these are built by religious groups, so we will continue trying to talk them into dismantling them voluntarily,” a city government official said.

Since there are 4.7 million Catholics and more than 8.5 million Protestants among a population of 50 million in the nation, drastic measures against the installments could trigger strong reactions, they said. “

And I can believe the fear they had. It really might have sparked a strong reaction. 

Well, I was glad that the protests of late have been peaceful and it seems as though they are fizzing out. I am just sad at the consequences of all of this. Less tourism, less foreign investment, a government who is immobilized, an image of Korea as a mass of mindless followers… all of this is really taking its toll on Korea. 

I love salsas and I especially LOVE fruit salsas. I started craving mango salsa one day and decided to make it. Fresh mangoes are insanely expensive, so buying fresh ones were out of the question. Then a friend of mine introduced me to Dole frozen mango chunks she buys at Costco.

She uses them to make an awesome mango sherbet-like dessert that I will post about later. I bought a bag, initially to make the sherbet, and found that it works awesome for a mango salsa. Not only do I not have to worry about making a big juicy mess trying to peel and dice a fresh mango, but the frozen chunks are sweet and just as good as using the fresh version. Note: This is a very simple mango salsa using ingredients that are readily available here in Seoul. If you are able to get your hands on some fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and some limes, by all means throw them in!

Ingredients

2-2 1/2 c. Dole frozen mango chunks

1 large tomato

Half of a large cucumber

Half of a medium onion (I can only get yellow onions)

3-4 hot green chiles

juice of one lemon (well, not quite one lemon, but more than a half of a lemon)

salt and pepper (a few dashes and pinches)

1 tsp. minced garlic

Method

First, you want to pull out the necessary amount of mango chunks and let them thaw in the fridge for a bit. Don’t thaw them completely. If you leave them a little frozen when you cut them then they don’t make such a mess. I like to dice all the veggies all about the same size as the the mangoes, except the chilies… I dice the chilies very, very small. Then I squeeze the lemon juice onto the mixture, add the salt and pepper, and the garlic and mix together. Then, I taste it. If it needs more lemon or more garlic then add it. This is a great healthy snack you can eat with some chips or it goes great on chicken or fish. It even tasted good on the flat bread I made. 

Like I said, this is a very simple salsa and you could use sweet onion or red onion instead of yellow. You could also use bell peppers too if you want. 

Here’s a pic of my mango salsa:

 

In the picture you can see the green chile I used. I can’t remember the name of it in Korean. But, it smells very similar to jalapenos and it has a similar taste.

At least a month ago while I was taking Maya to her little preschool, she seemed quite fascinated with a little old lady walking on the sidewalk near us. I tried to tell Maya to stop staring but it didn’t work and it brought the old lady towards us. She asked me where I was from and things about Maya. Then she told me that she had this newspaper from SGI that she would love to give me. Before I knew it, I had given her my address and told her that I would love to get a copy of that newspaper. A couple weeks passed and she, sure enough, came to my door with the newspaper she promised. Daniel and I looked up SGI on the internet and found out that it is a Buddhist organization with branches worldwide. Since then she has come over (with friends) to bring us different things, like magazines and pamphlets and to see if we have read them. Just the other day she came over and brought an invitation to a young women’s meetings and asked me if I would like to attend with them. I was a bit surprised, but I accepted since I was a bit curious. So, today I went. Two younger ladies came and picked me up and it was nice to chat with them as we walked over to their center. We walked in removed our shoes and relaxed a bit before the meeting started. We sat en masse on the floor and listened to a few stories and watched a skit. I hardly understood any of the stories since they were talking so fast but I did understand the skit which was about a housewife who was not happy at home and then decided to read this book written by the leader (?) of SGI on being happy and finding contentment. And then she of course was happy. Then they had one lady talk about stuff (again, I didn’t catch very much) and then some chanting before a scroll in the front of the hall. It was all really quite interesting and I wish I had understood more. It seemed to be a meeting for all the women to get together and socialize and find inspiration together. My friends introduced me to some more people and then we left. I asked one of my new friends why she believed in Buddhism and what I understood from her was that she felt it was a good way to live life. She felt that she had received many blessings from it as well. I told her that I was a Christian and that I was a bit interested in SGI and that was why I came. She told me that there were a few people that attend meetings at that SGI center who were also Christian.

All in all, it was an interesting morning. I still don’t know that much about Buddhism but it was neat to learn a little more about how they live here in Korea. There have been a few times now where I have been stopped on the street by a pair of Buddhist “missionaries.” They usually ask me where I am from and about my beliefs. One pair of young ladies began to tell me about dreams they thought I have probably been having (after I told them my 띠 (my chinese zodiac sign…which is, by the way, a rat). I didn’t recall having any dreams like the ones they were telling me, either because I have a hard time remembering dreams or because I didn’t have them at all. But it was interesting to listen to them. I am not really sure if it is proselyting that they are doing. None have actually invited me to their Buddhist temple or meditation groups. I wonder if some of this has come about because of how diligent the Korean Christians are. If anyone happens to know, I would love to find out.

And here are the other books I have been reading. I just realized that these two books, though very different, deal with the effect that one decision can make on a person and all those around him or her. Even for a life time.

The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

“…I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” (p. 359)

“War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.”

(p. 115)

This really was a heart wrenching story about two unlikely friends in the midst of the upheaval of modern day Afghanistan. There were parts that I just couldn’t read and I would set the book down, take a breath, and then pick it back up to continue with the story. The themes are definitely not for the light hearted (the book deals with war and everything that encompasses that and also with child sexual abuse). I never really knew much about Afghanistan, and I still don’t, but after reading this book I have gained a little insight into the life during the Taliban and just before their rule. I heard it was a really good movie and I plan on seeing sometime soon. Definitely a good book to read.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Kim Edwards


This was a very sad novel. It is about the decision one father makes when his twin daughter is born with Down Syndrome and the impact it has for the rest of his family’s life. When I read this novel I was quite surprised how the United States around the time of the 1960’s and 1970’s treated children born with Down Syndrome. Most were institutionalized while all were diagnosed with a grim and short future. This was very well written though sad to read.

Fishers of Men Gerald n. Lund

I was initially excited to read this novel. Daniel was reading it while I was reading the other books I listed above. He seemed engrossed in it. Though this was a very interesting subject to me; a family set during the times of Christ, struggling to know whether He is the Messiah or not, it was a little disappointing as well. The good points were that I learned a little more about the life during that time in Israel, I learned more about the Jewish religion at that time, and I was reminded that the figures we read about in the New Testament were real people and not just characters we sometimes think about them as. The bad points were that I felt the author trying to stretch too much to get each of the characters in the right place so that he can include some of Christ’s miracles and teachings. Though the story was action packed I thought the story a little unbelievable especially with the roles of some of the characters. I also thought some of the dialogue was way to wordy…I don’t know. Anyway, I would recommend reading it if you are interested in this subject and the history of the times (Gerald Lund did a lot of research for this book).

So, those are the books I finished this past month. All worth reading. Right now I am working on Paradise Lost by John Milton which reads like Virgil’s Aeneid or Homer’s Odyssey. So I am thinking it will take me a lot longer to finish.

Wow, Daniel and I are really bad bloggers. We have so many stories backlogged here at Hangul and Seoul it is ridiculous! Anyway, I have been spending a lot of free time reading since my mother-in-law left us not too long ago. She brought with her some books that my mom sent for me. Here’s a quick review of each of the books so I can remember what I read in the past month of whirlwind reading and get me back into writing on the blog.

Life of Pi Yann Martel

“If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for?…Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” (p. 297)

It is funny how one of the themes of this book, storytelling, was what drew me to read this book in the first place. I was searching for books to read this summer and the idea of a young boy surviving 227 days out at sea with a tiger in his life boat peaked my interest. There are many themes in this book, fiction and reality and the power of a good story, the will to survive, religious belief, etc… but what I found to be most interesting about this book was the way it supported religious belief. It supports it not by explaining the reasons why God exists but, by telling the reader that it is a better to believe in something then in just mere facts. That a good story makes life easier and more fulfilling to live. In one part of the book, Pi, the main character, talks about how he can understand the atheist. At least they have chosen to not believe in God. However, he can’t support the agnostic because living a life of doubt is a poor way to live. The agnostic doesn’t take a leap of faith in either direction. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this story to anyone. It is a well written story full of colorful descriptive passages, symbolism, and ideas that will leave you thinking about this story even after you finish it.

1984 George Orwell

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?… Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?… The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

This was a very chilling and thought-provoking novel. It was written in 1949 and the story was set in the future, the year 1984. It follows the life of Winston an Ingsoc (English Socialism) Party member whose thoughts of rebellion lead him to act and hope for something better than what the Party has established. The Party, led by Big Brother, has established a society where you are watched at every moment and where even your thoughts (“thoughtcrime”) can kill you. What shocked me about this novel was how twisted this society was and even though it seems like it would be a far-fetched idea, some aspects of it are eerily possible. I would definitely recommend reading this novel.