Sunday, April 3, 2016

Finding my Morning Calm

  I have not been to church in a while.  When we were little, in our little Baptist church on Ridge Drive we used to give our "testimonies".   In between the grown-ups talking about how the Lord had changed their lives, we little ones would take our turns and say "I just want to stand up and say 'I love the Lord!'"  Such a simple statement.  So pure and innocent.  

  It's funny how things appear just when you need them and make you remember little scenes like that from so long ago.  I had posted this verse while recovering from cancer in 2011: 
  It was as important a verse to me that morning as it is today, five years later.  
  What we didn't make public at that time was that for years, we were dealing with an addiction to alcohol in our house.  Folks, addiction and the emotional abuse that accompanies it, ruined our family.  It drove out all the love we once had and replaced it with fear, bitterness and anger.  Divorce doesn't cancel it out.  It doesn't make it go away.  It doesn't matter what continent you live on, you cannot run from it.  The ONLY way to heal the wounds and start rebuilding relationships and trust is to make true change; to face your demons through faith and treatment.  Divorce doesn't make you stop wanting the person to change.  Though the relationship has ended, you still pray for healing. Healing of trust, healing of relationships, and healing of the physical body.  

  After my divorce, I have done my best to let go of the anger I felt.  It's an ongoing process for me while my former husband still struggles with alcohol.  Because we have children, my anger flares again after every incident with their dad.  Though they are old enough to make their own relationships with him, when they are affected, so am I.  I use each incident as a guide, helping them work through it, and learn something from it.  

The lesson this week is that ignoring the actions of the addict continues to enable them.   Their actions have consequences.  Yet, being angry only allows for further manipulation and control. We must set healthy boundaries, even if that means excluding them from our lives. 

  Talking about the effects of the addiction helps.  Knowing you are not alone has helped tremendously.  I have had many angels along the way, who I know God has placed in my path, to help me deal.  Some have counseled, some have just been a shoulder upon which to cry, or a ready ear to let me vent.  Many are strong women who have been through it themselves.  A few are men who have been through similar situations with their fathers.  

  I woke up this morning to a gentle rain falling.  Lying there listening I came to the realization that while here in the Land of the Morning Calm, I have reclaimed my life, my strength.  I have worked very hard through the years to show my boys that truly, you can do all things through your faith.  I believe that we were meant to come to Korea for this reason.  I have been shown that no matter where you are on the planet, God will be there too.  All you have to do is look for the love he shows you.

  If I can show my boys and others that you can come through the fire and be strong on the other side, then the pain will have been worth it. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Random Rant....

Random Rant Upon Viewing Social Media & Seeing There Was ANOTHER Mass Shooting

   I don't have cable.  I get to tune out.  I don't have to listen to politicians droning on about what they are going to do to help the American people during their term in office.  In turn, I don't have to witness everything staying the same.  
   When I left Oklahoma, where I was born and raised, I considered myself a pretty conservative Republican.  I mean, I was even a member of my local Southern Baptist Church. But, Folks, I've seen stuff.  I've traveled.  I've met people.  I started having THOUGHTS.  So, I took an online quiz to figure me out.  And, low and behold, I'm a moderate Democrat.  I could almost hear my father, God rest his soul, curse under his breath in my ear.  
   Thing is though, I have friends from all over the world, with such different views on these hot topics, it'd give you whiplash from the swing.  Guess what, they are my friends.  We get a long.  I respect their views.
   I'll be moving back to the U.S. after this school year.  I'm becoming more and more acutely aware of the turmoil in my home country.  As a single woman, a mother, it is particularly disturbing.  My oldest son will be moving home as an adult.  My youngest son will be entering high school.  I'll be living in the U.S. as a single woman.  It all scares the crap out of me.  
   So, this is what I'm seeing after 3+ years living abroad....

   We have elected officials who try to do their jobs, and have good intentions, who quickly find that their hands are tied.  Like this guy. Others, on either side of the aisle, have been in their seats so long they have a permanent butt dent in the cushion of their rollie chair.  They are perfectly content with status quo and all the money from donors and lobbies to keep their bellies fat. 
   Fix this. Roll your ass to the middle of the aisle. Freakin' work together. Shut your mouth and actively listen to your constituents and your colleagues.  
   Fix our problem with mass shootings.  
   Fix our problem with access to mental health care.
   Fix our problem with health care.
   Fix our problem with education funding and pay for teachers what they're worth.
   Fix our problem with accessibility to affordable secondary education.

   Here's the thing:  Since 1995, as a U.S. public school teacher I've taught this listening skill to really small children.  I didn't say hearing. Key root word here is listen. There is a difference.  
   If you don't understand it, I'll sit down and educate you.  Upon entering my classroom you might have to step over my rolling cart that carries papers I'll grade at home after I get home from my second job I had to take to pay for insurance and my son's college education. You'll just have to excuse the ceiling tiles falling down around our heads & bullets whizzing past our ears (but, I'll use my own body to shield you because our security guard can't carry).  I'll offer you my own wheelie chair to sit on.  It had a wheel break off last year, so I had to remove the other three and cover the stubs with used tennis balls.  But, it still works. I'll move my little metal chair across the aisle so you can listen close.  

  I'll continue to do my job. 

  Please do yours.   


Saturday, August 17, 2013

One Odd Year

  One Odd Year.  

  That's what the front of my Senior yearbook from 1991 has on it.  I've thought a lot about that year for lots of reasons in the last few months.  It applied then, as it does now.

  We started this journey to teach in South Korea as a family of four.  Now, there are only three of us here to further our adventure.  

  Korea isn't to blame for my marriage breaking apart, just know that you can move across the U.S of A, or even try a new continent, but your troubles follow you.  Korea is just what this small town Oklahoma girl needed to find her big ajumma panties and decide to go it alone.  I have found 'me' again in the Land of the Morning Calm.  

   Korea is a safe place for a single mother.  I still go anywhere, even after dark.  I let the boys go on the subway without fear.  There is always someone who speaks enough English to be helpful.  It's hard for family and friends who have not experienced this place to understand this, but, spend a month here and you'll soon realize it's true.  

  I thought I'd document my One Odd Year, 2013, for posterity.  A year ago, I named this blog Seoul Pokes, because we were two Oklahoma State grads (aka Pokes).  Now, we're one grad and two OSU legacies.  So, it still works! 

  If I ask my boys, Quade (or Will as he likes to be called in Korea because the Q doesn't translate) and Zane (he doesn't care the Z doesn't translate), what their favorite thing about Korea is...besides their independence...they'd say FOOD!  We love to eat out and we love to cook in.  I try to vary the stores I shop at because they all offer a different variety of Western foods.  Keeping our diet pretty normal and eating Korean at school or when we go out seems to help with homesickness, too.  As funny as it may seem.  I frequent Emart in Jukejon, Homeplus in Ori, Kim's Club in Migeum, I Love in Jeongja. I also head to EMart Trader's in Guseong and Costco in Yangjae when I can. Prices are more than you'd pay in the States.  Sometimes a lot more.  But, you get used to it and when you want it bad enough, you learn to just deal with it. I a say that, but I still refuse to pay 25,000 won for a watermelon!  I will pay almost 3,000 won for a can of black beans, though.  

                                                             Quade, my oldest son, loves to cook.  And, I let him.  

Here he added onion and octopus to ramen.  

There are two Butterfinger restaurants I have found.  One in Gangnam, one in Jeongja.  Both are expensive, but when you just need a taste of's so worth it.  You gotta try the Orangeaid.  It's about 8,ooo won, but yummy.

This was lunch...I often feel like I'm on an extended vacation, so why not have breakfast for lunch?  With whipped cream!!  There's also a yummy waffle place in Irwon Station that smears banana or strawberry butter on the waffle, then folds it in half for you to eat.

Occasionally, we have to take pictures of what we want to show the person behind the counter.  I love my iPhone even more at times like this. 

Sometimes, you just need a taste of home.  And bacon.

When you find a good, cheap, and convenient place to eat, they will take care of you the more you go in.

More comfort food to keep some normalcy to our lives.  I can't find ready made pie crust, so I'm getting good at making my own.  Finding Campbell's cream of chicken wasn't too hard, but it's not just cream of chicken.  I've found different varieties I never saw in the States, like Cream of chicken and mushroom and Cream of chicken with herbs.  Both made this pot pie pretty scrumptious.  

Korean BBQ.  Need I say more?

I did a happy dance when I found this green chili salsa at Homeplus.  I only bought one jar, though, in case it wasn't any good.  MISTAKE!!  It was great, and they haven't had it since!

Pork cutlet is a good go-to food for kids.  Pretty normal breaded pork.  

Starbucks are everywhere!

When you don't have 6,000 won for a coffee, these coffees are at any convenience store and under 2,000 won.  You can have them hot or cold.  Add a yummy prepackaged pastry and viola!  Breakfast!

I get this ox-bone soup anytime I see it on the menu.  They say it's a great hangover soup.  Not that I'd know....  Restaurants provide water free as 'service'.  They don't seem to frown on you bringing in your own drink, as I did here, with my coffee.

   Though our year was pretty crazy, we managed to do some pretty cool things. Korea has so many areas to explore.  You can go to certain areas that sorta specialize in one thing or another.  My favorite places for day-trips this year were Dongdaemun for fabric and jewelry making, Itaewon for Western apparel and food...Taco Bell...(or to go hear people speaking English since it's right off the base), Myeongdong for clothes, Insadong for souvenir-type items, musical instruments, art supplies, Icheon for handmade pottery, and Gangnam for the cool underground clothes shops in the subway and trendy shops above ground.

   Here are some of the highlights:

Boryeong Mud Festival in July was a lot of fun.  Grown-ups playing in mud.  The boys actually got bored and spent most of their time at the beach looking for shells and starfish.  

Seoul Tower has amazing views of Seoul.  We took a tram to the top and then walked down hundreds of steps.  The walk is worth it because of more amazing views. 

Icheon, ceramic village.  These are kimchi pots.  


Nakwon, near Insadong, musical instrument market.  Floor after floor, store after store of instruments.  Bandites would hear angels upon entering it's doors.

A ride on a tricycle in Lapu Lapu, Philippines.
The view from my chair on Bantayan Island, Philippines

Our trip to Mactan Island in the Philippines at Christmas was an adventure in itself!  But, after 6 weeks in the hospital with Quade for his splenectomy (see previous blog), we finally found our beach, and some serenity.  Once we left the bustle of Cebu and Lapu Lapu.  

Zane and I were privileged to attend the International Special Olympics in Pyeong Chang with Korea International School in January.  It was a chance of a lifetime to go to support our American special athletes, some of whom visited our school to put on a demonstration a few days before.

 Quade, Zane and I went with several other families for a long weekend of skiing at Yong Pyong.  This place will be a venue for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  We can watch the downhill and say we skied that run!

Dongdaemun is a crafter's paradise.  If you can sew.

Jeongja, just east of our dong is a great place to find good food.  It's a bit pricey, though.

Seoul National Forest is a neat place to spend the afternoon.  There's timed fountains the kids can run through on a hot day.

We went with a school-sponsored group for paintball!

Zane teamed up with two friends to do a triathlon.  He biked 15k.

Quade and I got our feet cleaned by some fish at Dr. Fish in Gangnam.  

Korea War Memorial is a somber but beautiful place.  The boys enjoyed looking at the military aircraft and vehicles on the grounds.

    The first year passed quickly.  I know this coming year will too.  I have yet to decide if we'll continue our stay here.  There are a lot of personal factors going into my decision.   But, I know for certain we will continue to have a great time exploring all this beautiful country has to offer!   

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I got my hair did!

I got my hair did!  Ok, a really Okie way to put it, perhaps, but hey!  I did!  I'm not sure why on Earth I have put off getting my hair cut in Korea.  Especially at Juno Hair.  (Maybe it's my loyalty to Janelle at Beyond the Bridge in Durango who last cut my hair in June!)  But, I'd heard about this place from teachers who have been here a while.  I've heard it's an awesome experience from teachers who got here the same time as me, too.

So, yesterday, I walked to Sunae, found Juno Hair and headed up to the 2nd floor to make an appointment.  The receptionist spoke enough English to take my name and wrote me down to see Jessica the next day.

I got there a bit early with my freshly purchased White Chocolate Mocha from the Starbucks down the way.  I sat looking at a magazine while I waited for Jessica to appear.  This place is set up like a spa.  There's even a barista!  Jessica rounded the corner and introduced herself.  She spoke English.  ~I'm not sure why it's still such a treat to find people who do, but it is.~  She took my purse and umbrella and put them in a locker, then returned with the key and placed it around my wrist.  My coffee was placed behind the bar for keeping.  Next, she helped me into a robe and said we'd be going to 'counseling first'.  Great!  Hair therapy.  I need it.  

I opted for a moisturizer treatment along with my hair cut.  We started off washing my hair.  The first round of treatment happened in here as well.  Next, she had me to into another room where I took off my sneakers and was given slippers.  She placed a pillow behind my back as I sat in the chair.  I received another pillow for my lap on which she placed a very thick Glamour magazine.  In Korean.  But, who really reads the articles anyway, right?  Anyway...I sat under a humidifier for several minutes.  She left and came back with my coffee and a tray with goodies.  A quarter of a chocolate muffin, 2 Saltine crackers, and 3 pretzels.

As sat there with my slippers, in my robe, sipping coffee, nibbling on my yummies and flipping through a Glamour mag, I thought how I could certainly get used to this!  "When in Rome", right?

Oh, but wait.  "Last treatment" began.  With a scalp massage.  I almost fell asleep.  I laid there thinking, "I don't care how much this costs.  I'm 40, I deserve this!  Happy Birthday to me...all flippin' year!!!"

She did a great job on my hair!  I signed up for a free VIP membership!!!  I'm high falootin' know, folks!  She gave me a card, added a discount bar code sticker for next time and walked me to the elevator, making sure to tell me I need at home treatment too....if she only knew.....

Thoroughly relaxed and feeling lovely, despite the rain that was now coming down pretty hard, I enjoyed my walk to the bus stop.  I decided I'd go home, take a hot bath, drink a glass of bokbunjajoo and finish spoiling myself.

As I pulled out my phone to check the bus schedule, I realized I'd missed several calls from the kids while the phone was in the locker.

They quickly picked up and I was jolted back to reality as my youngest son, through his tears, told me their guinea pig had died before they got home from school.  After skipping the bus (it was 39 minutes away), I literally ran home to be with my kiddos.  As we finished burying Irene under a tree, using a spoon for a shovel, in our raincoats, using a flashlight, next to a beautiful granite rock, Zane added these final, heartfelt words:  "Irene, I hope you find Quade's spleen."  :*}

I didn't get my bath or my bokbunjajoo.  But, I was reminded that even though my kids are older, they still need to be comforted by Mom.  They still need me around to dry some tears, even though they pretend to be tough guys most of the time.

All the more reason to take care of me (every now and then) so I can be around longer to take care of them.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Soapbox Moment

I recently heard someone I respect say that anyone can teach special education.  I have been a special education teacher for 18 years in K-5th grade.  This is not just my job, my career.  I look at it as a calling.  So, this naturally bothered me.   My first thought was..."then why aren't all teachers special education teachers?" 

I have known many teachers in my career, which, in my opinion, would make great sped teachers, but they still needed me. Needed my expertise. 

Being in an introspective mood anyway, I’ve been contemplating why I chose to be a special education teacher.  What does it take? 

I remember being in Deanna Mendenhall’s 3rd grade class at Central Elementary, Sand Springs, Oklahoma, USofA.  We would go down to the basement room that was the self-contained special education room.  The teaches would have to take students from their wheelchairs and carry them downstairs to the classroom.  Our class would read to the kids.  How varied were the students.  My special friend was a girl who was blind.  She would sit and rock back and forth as I read to her.   I think her name was Laura.  I thought she was beautiful.  And, I was hooked.

Special education teachers must be familiar with all aspects of the disabilities in the make up of each and every student we work with, from intellectual disabilities that are congenital to those that are a result of harm.  There are physical disabilities, health conditions, sensory disorders, mental illness and more.  Imagine a caseload of 35 + students!

We then have to take all aspects of the child and apply it to the education setting.  Figure out what’s best.  This model looks different for each and every child.  Each class, each teacher, each subject, each building, at home, in the community.  How does it effect?  How can I help?  How can I advocate?  Not only for the child, but teachers and often siblings, and parents as well.  Is this a child who needs me occasionally?  Do I need to be in the classroom, pull them out to see me?  Co-teach?  Provide modifications and accommodations within the regular classroom setting? 

Then, I must involve others.  Specialists…occupational, speech/language, physical therapists…social workers, counselors, audiologists, behavior specialists, school psychologists…to name a few.  Utilize school nurses, Educational Assistants. (and find time to train them)  Be familiar with psychological and psycho-educational assessments, how to read them, how to implement them, how to explain them to parents in layman’s terms.  I must be able to seek outside help for support as well.  I have to know people who know people.  We must know about assistive technology and how to adapt reading, math, science, social studies curriculum, music, PE, computer… life skills, social skills….

Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape education (endless requirements of an inept bureaucracy), disability research, best practices, assessments, progress monitoring.   The countless hours of preparation, working with other teachers, developing lessons for the students you have in your room, modifying lessons so they can be successful when they aren’t with you.  Tracking down teachers’ lesson plans, knowing every schedule.  What do you do with a child who can’t eat in the lunchroom because of anxiety?  Autism?  Are they being bullied. 

Did I mention isolation?  Feeling like people don’t like that you are bucking the system because you have a child who doesn’t ‘fit’ in the grand scheme of things? Working with a small number of students’ means you don’t get out much.  You’re on an island unto yourself much of the time.   Not to mention you get left out of staff decisions, get very little in the way of money for your classroom, and are often placed in the most remote recesses of the building.  The feelings at times are so overwhelming it is often difficult to grasp the immensity of this path I have chosen.

And, then the paperwork!  You must know your district requirements, State and Federal law.   Manifestation determinations, Functional Behavioral Assessments, Behavior Plans, Individual Educational Plans, lists of forms you on which must be proficient, because they ARE legal documents…. You must know how to make an IEP not just a document that stays in a locked, fire proof file cabinet, but, taking it, turning it into a living document that keeps everyone involved with that child on the same page, working toward a common goal.  

Did I mention patience? EVERY child on your caseload is a challenge.  You must balance their strengths and weaknesses.  You balance their relationship with the teachers.  You must be able to start with plan A and go to plan Z within the course of a lesson.  Then, pick someone else’s brain after school for another if that doesn’t work.  You are called on to put out every fire, either with administration, advocates, teachers, parents, or other children.  I have been bitten, kicked, punched, called evil words.  I have sprinted to catch a runaway child.   Restrained out of control children.  I have changed diapers, pushed wheelchairs, and wiped boogers.  I have fixed lunches, tested blood sugar levels.  Held them when they are hurting.  Cried when they cried.  Always remembering that there is a reason this child is acting this way.  Always trying my damnedest not to take it personally, but failing miserably in the attempt.

My goal has always been to make my children (and I’ve always referred to them as My Kids) successful in this LIFE.  To make them feel valued and accepted.  To make them feel that they are special, and that they can do it! 

I am so much more than an over-paid tutor! I’ve been known to obsess over a child, a problem I couldn’t solve, conflict with other teachers, who are my friends, regarding a child.  I go to bed thinking of the situation, even dreaming of what to do. 

I live for those light-bulb moments with my students.  I live for the challenge of finding the thing that makes it all come together for this child that God placed in my hands to advocate for, to educate. 

Has it been an easy calling?  Nope.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  My kids have made me pull my hair out, laugh through my tears, and above all appreciate the little triumphs in life. 

Now, dear administrator, tell me.  Can just anyone be a special education teacher?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Playing catch-up: Part 1: WHAMMO!!

It's March 16, 2013.  

Where in the world has the time gone?  The last time I checked in was July.  It was still hotter than hell here in the RoK.  School had just begun and we were all getting used to working and going to school at Korea International.  Meeting friends, students, learning the ropes.  It was a whirlwind, to say the least.

Quade and Zane celebrating Q's birthday, finally, in October
Then, WHAMMO!!  The good Lord above decided we weren't on enough of an adventure!! 

I thought I'd go ahead and write about our experience, in case someone who didn't go through this with us, following our posts on Facebook, might take something from it. Like... South Korea has a great medical system!  

The second Wednesday after school began, Quade came down with a low grade fever.  Being only the second week of school, there was no way we were going to let him stay home.  Right?  Take some Tylenol, put on a happy face, suck it up, and stay in the game!  He went to school again Thursday and met me at my room to ride the bus home because he was just feeling too crummy to walk 10 minutes.  So, Friday, we let him stay home.  He's almost 14, so I instructed him to take his temperature, take Aleve, stay hydrated, and stay in bed.  We called him periodically to check on him, no change, still a fever and stomach pain. I got home to find him in the bathtub trying to cool down his 105 degree temp!  Tre's principal rushed us to the ER at Samsung Medical Center.  

Samsung Medical Center at sunset
That's where we'd stay for 3 more weeks.  Quade was diagnosed with a lymphangioma.  A large 21cm cyst growing from his spleen and having its own blood supply from his inferior vena cava.  It's a congenital condition that chose to show itself and rupture, causing infection (hence the fever) after our move to the RoK.  Fun, huh?  

Surgery #1 went well, initially.  After over a week of trying to get infection levels low enough for surgery, the plan was to take the portion of the cyst that was outside the spleen, drain and seal it off.  This surgery was done laparoscopically with 5 incisions.  Dr. Seo, the surgeon, was optimistic that he would be able to recover with his spleen in tact. 
Recovering from the first surgery
Oh, here's where I mention that we had TWO typhoons come through while Quade and I were in hospital!  

And, he turned 15.  And lost over 30 lbs. 

After a week recovery at home, Faculty Support staff and friend, Eunice, drove Quade and I back to Samsung for some tests to see how things were going.  He'd been running a low grade fever again for a few days, but was still on medication.  Eunice and I noticed as they did the ultrasound, that it looked like the cyst was back.  We only exchanged glances, and said nothing to Quade as she drove us back to the apartment.  We were to have another appointment later in the evening with Dr. Seo to go over the results.  As we pulled into the parking lot at home, her phone rang.  She told Quade to go on up to the apartment to rest because she needed to talk to me before she left.  It was the hospital calling to confirm our suspicions that the cyst was back and we were to be readmitted as soon as possible.  

So, Eunice left us to repack and wait for our other FST friend, Kwancho (you may remember Kwancho broke Zane out of his bedroom when the door stuck?) to come pick us up for the return trip to Samsung.  He stayed with us until late in the evening through more tests and translated for us.  Our FST friends certainly go above and beyond their job descriptions, for which we are forever grateful!

Quade had surgery a day and a half later to remove his spleen.  This surgery was complex because the cyst had it's own blood supply.  And, had a huge incision this time.  Another week and a half in the hospital for recovery and then home.  

I must say that the nurses and doctors at Samsung were wonderful.  The pediatric doctor who was on rotation in the ER the night he was admitted came frequently to check on him.  He had a touch of pneumonia initially, as well, so the infectious disease doctor came through.  This surgeon, Dr. Seo, was a professor who teaches here in Seoul and had a gaggle of residents that would follow him on rotation with one of them being Quade's primary resident.  The international clinic also had Dr. Young assigned to us.  She was involved with everything so she could answer any questions I had, or ask questions for me.

Who says hospital food has to be gross?
They provided a translator, Grace, for us on call Monday-Friday.  I only needed her a few times because all the staff and nurses did their best to communicate with me through Google Translate or just their best English.  Quade had such anxiety over needles and testing and a low pain threshold.  Everyone was very patient with him.  They allowed me to stay every night and the food was actually really good.  I even had a Western menu to choose from.  The nurses also took my cell number so I could go on some short walks to get some fresh air.  They'd keep an eye on him and call if he needed me.  I had a shower and a cot. 

We had friends we'd only known for a short time at KIS cooking for Tre and Zane. Friends let Zane stay the night and helped with homework, took him to the ballet...which he secretly told me he liked, but won't admit to any other male.   There were friends baking cookies, muffins, sending books, puzzles, movies, pillows, anything fun for Quade to keep him occupied.  People came to visit us, loaned Tre their cars.  We didn't have phones yet, so the director lent us a school cell phone.  Our director's wife even brought us Burger King (and homemade cookies)!  This list could go on and on!! 

Quade has recovered nicely!  He lost a lot of weight, not the way he wanted to, but did all the same.  His red blood cell count is still a bit higher than they'd like, so he sees a hematologist periodically to monitor that.  And, because he has no spleen, he is on amoxicillin twice daily until he's 18.  Other than that, he's as normal as any 15-year-old can possibly be!

Quade recovering at home in October 2012.

I am a firm believer in providence.  I believe that God has a plan for us.  There is a reason everything happens when and where it does.  So, I believe God was telling me that I needed to dig down deep and find the strength I had had all along, but somehow forgotten.  The strength He'd given me.  The strength to be in a foreign land in the first place.  The strength to face losing my son.  And, the strength to turn it all over to Him and know he was in control of it all.  I just had to trust him.  And, I know I'm stronger now than ever for it.  I know we'll all be stronger for it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lessons Learned

Henry Ford said, "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."  

We've certainly learned a lot in the week+ we've been here.  They are all part of our Korean experience!    

First, you have to step UP into the main part of the house.  The foyer here is where you take off your shoes before entering the house.  That means you also have to step DOWN to leave the house.  You may not notice this when you can't see the floor for the 50 lb. suitcase you've just carried up 3 flights of stairs.

In the same way,  the bathrooms are considered wet rooms, so almost anywhere you go, you must step down to get into the bathroom.  This can be quite a jolt at 2 am, so make sure you're conscious or dribbliage may occur! 

We have met a new friend, Chelsea, who is from Canada.  She's been here a while and offered to take us sight seeing.  We ate lunch at an authentic Korean place, Kimbop Heaven. We then set out for Coex mall via the subway.  I'm learning that most Koreans like to walk while staying to the left.  For instance, Zane exited the subway on my left while I was talking to Quade, who was on my right.  I put my arm out to put it around Zane's shoulders and looked simultaneously.  It wasn't Zane, but a very nice, laughing, Korean lady! 

While still in the subway, we went to the restroom.  I again, stayed to the right out of habit, and got tangled with a blind man and his cane as I turned the corner.  For this one, I may go to Hell, but God knows I've worked with the disabled for almost 20 years, right?!?   Note to self...stay to the left!!

 Here we are in Insadong..a market where you can find most anything.

I've learned you need to get a Korean hairdryer.  I tried using mine an adapter I brought from the States.  It wasn't running at full speed, though the setting was on high.  But, I kept going, bound and determined to not have frizzy hair today!  Three minutes into styling, it powered down and ended with a pfsssft and a cloud of smoke.  Thank God it didn't set off the smoke alarm!  Not sure I could've explained that to my Korean landlord.

We learned you only turn on the air conditioner an hour or so a day or you get fined for excessive electricity usage.  The business office called and told us this after we'd run ours for 4 days straight.  So, the windows are open, make sure you plug the holes in the screens or you get rabid gnats!  You also learn with the windows open, that the garbage truck comes in the middle of the night.  It's not a hobo going through your trash for aluminum.
(We've since learned that it's not a fine..but more like a graduated scale for your bill...the more you use, the more you pay.)

Zane has learned to bat his baby blues and he can get free stuff.  The Korean ladies love him.  At the convenience story the other day, he bought a Gatorade.  One clerk physically turned him to show the other clerk his eyes.  He didn't get anything extra on this trip but a boost to his ego.  But, he did get me 2 extra dumplings last night from the street vendor who also gives him extra buns.  I don't get anything extra when I go alone.  I guess I need the Zane touch.  (We now know that this is 'service'.  But, Zane does get extras all the time, too.)

Quade has learned that Koreans love spicy food.  He and Tre got into a contest to see who could eat the most.  They were both sweating and moaning.  There was no real winner, but Tre said he wouldn't get in a contest with Quade again!  

We learned that you have to recycle.  Which I love!  But, the rules are strict and you can get fined if you bag something the wrong way.  You have to buy the bags for regular non-recycled items (pink bags) and food waste (yellow bags) from the local market. 

We've learned that Itaewon has a great Mexican restaurant!  If you need to see some American faces, this is the area.  Right near the US military base.

We learned if you get off the subway at a different spot just to see what you can find, you might find something awesome!  And, we did.  Yesterday, we let the kids take the subway to the Jukejon station by themselves.  This is where Emart is.  They'd found some models there and wanted to get more.  We got off at Ori station just to see what was there.  We found Home Plus.   Sorta like a super Walmart.  I was so glad.  We found a mattress pad. They'd been over 245,000 won at Emart.  They also have their workers do exercises periodically, which offers much comic relief..but we didn't let them see us, of course.  (See Tre's video post on Facebook.)

That's the Final thing to share about what we've learned thus far...queen sized mattresses are as hard as a rock.  For some reason, it's literally like sleeping on your box spring.  So, this is my new best friend.  A mattress pad.  Best 69,000 won I've spent so far!