Sunday, May 31, 2009

An interesting Hike

Hiking in the great outdoors is one of life's greatest pleasures. I love hiking. I love being outside, surrounded my nature; the dirt, the grass, the water, the animals. I feel so at peace when I am able to escape city life and breath air as it was made to be, clean and fresh. However, the hike I went on recently included none of the escapes I usually look forward to, in fact, it was quite the opposite. It was a company outing with a group of 40 plus members. I had low expectations for the serenity factor upon hearing about the trip, but the event was a far cry from my expectations. I don't know what I was expecting but what I failed to take into account was the amount of people who live in this tiny country. South Korea has an area of 98,480 square kilometers (38,023 square miles), with nearly 50 million people. South Korea alone is about the size of Portugal, Hungary or slightly larger than the state of Indiana. But the difference in the amount of people is outstanding. While Indiana has around 6 million, South Korea has 50 million, 10 million people in Seoul alone. Texas, the largest state in the 50 states if you don't count that ice block attached to Canada, with three of the most populated cities in the USA only has around 24 million people. South Korea has one of the highest densities in the world, but what makes it even more dense is that between 80%-90% of those populations live in the cities. I am sorry if you are feeling overloaded with so many statistics, but the point I am trying to make here is that Korea is a itsy-bitsy country with 1/6 of the population of the US within it's borders. There are way TOO MANY people in South Korea. It's amazing that this peninsula doesn't just sink. It's a good thing Korea doesn't have the obesity issues of the US, then it might really be in trouble.

The company ever so often has company events,( you might recall the soccer game and the first lunch) which are not mandatory, but are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED, meaning you need to come or be lying on your death bed. The plan was to meet early in the morning (10 am on a Saturday is early!) take a bus to a mountain, climb up lots of stairs and eat lunch. That is what was rumored at least. The bus dropped us off and we walked past about 4 huge outdoor shops selling any gear you might have forgotten and realize you must have in order to hike a trail, before finding ourselves at the bottom of the trail. We stood around for a good thirty minutes waiting for something, someone, I don't really know, but while we waited we took lots of pictures to pass the time.
bored and taking pictures to pass the time

Not everyone was prepared for REAL hiking

Kimbap (Korean sushi usually with ham or cooked tuna instead of fish) was passed out along with frozen, undrinkable bottles of water and then the hike began. Taking into consideration that it was a company trip, the beginning of summer, and the population density, I knew that our hike would be a bit more crowded than usual, but what I wasn't expecting was to feel as if I were walking the streets of New York, while out in the woods. Honestly, it was as if I were back in NYC except with trees instead of shops, and bird noises instead of honking. I couldn't get over the amount of people we were surrounded by. All I wanted was that feeling of tranquility that comes with being out in the woods, and instead I felt claustrophobic, overcrowded and completely covered in sweat. The humidity must have been high because in general, I am on the low end of the sweating scale, and I am in pretty good shape, but my sweat glands along with everyone else's went into overdrive until the point where we might as well had just gone swimming there was so much salty water coating our bodies. There were a lot of stairs, near 1000 at least, which might account for a small percentage of the sweat, and it wasn't by any means an easy hike, but it wasn't Mt. Everest. We made it to the top in less than an hour. The top, some 5,000 m. above sea level, was more than a little disappointing of a view. The view was hazy, and mostly buildings, lots and lots of buildings, with a few trees doting here and there.(the view, but keep in mind this is Sepia colored, not the true color)

At the top, can you see the number? 5825 m. above sea level

Not everyone made it to the top, but here is a pic of those who did
This was a random monk on the path up the mountain.

He was very friend and spoke English

Climbing back down the mountain was more of what I was accustomed to in terms of scenery and the amount of people. Following two of the Korean staff, a fellow teacher and I found ourselves on a path which was unfamiliar. Throughout the way down, I kept having flashes of images that we would find ourselves on the other side of the mountain and end up having to climb back up to the top in order to find our original meeting place along with the rest of the group, but the boys (the Korean staff) did actually know where they were going, and we ended up right back where we started, miraculously.
On the unfamiliar path down with the other foreign teacher and two other female Korean staff who also didn't trust where the boys were taking us.

And as with every company event followed a meal with plenty of mysterious food, booze, soju, and rice wine. We were excited as they told us the meal was chicken, but as we pulled the "chicken" out of the pot of typical Korean juices and spices, the bones didn't seem to match our idea of a chicken, a turkey maybe or some other type of bird, but unless Korea has started breeding giant chickens, our food was and will always be a mystery. But living in another country, in a completely different culture is like constantly living in a mystery book, and I have started to become accustomed to not really knowing what is going on all of the time and that is ok. In fact, it can even be fun some of the time, sitting back in complete ignorance watching the world go by, not having a clue as to what is going on and just being able to laugh at it all. The lunch ended with ice cream (my idea). I am always irritated that we have these long meals with so much food put in front of us, but never the best part of any meal, nothing sweet to finish off the deal so when they came by asking if we wanted to order anything else, I asked if there was any dessert. Dessert- what a silly idea for a restaurant to have! But the convenient store next door to the restaurant had a bin full of different ice creams so to appease the silly foreign staff, that is what we were given!Rice wine


We were home by 6 pm for a nap before we were to go out 2 hours later for the farewell party for two of the British teachers leaving this week. Another fun and crazy Saturday in South Korea.

Not apples, tomatoes

A veggie market with your typical ajumha (older Korean lady)

So many veggies, way too pricey!

This game is called, how many people can you fit in the back of the bus. We fit 13.

Here is a little video from when we made it to the top of the mountain. I wasn't a very good videographer. Sorry.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

South Korea and suicide

Last Saturday, the former president of South Korea committed suicide at the age of 62.

To read the entire article click here. It was a shock to the nation as he was a beloved president who was touted as doing many great things for his country. My Korean co-worker informed us Saturday morning of his death. She said when she heard the news, her heart started thumping uncontrollably. She couldn't believe "the president was dead."
President Roh Moo-hyun- a reformist shamed by a corruption scandal that tarnished his image as a "clean" politician — jumped to his death while hiking in the mountains behind his rural home in South Korea, his lawyer said.
Roh was hiking in Bongha village when he threw himself off a steep cliff around 6:40 a.m.

Roh left a suicide note.

"Too many people are suffering because of me," he wrote, according to South Korean media.

Roh, a self-taught lawyer who lifted himself out of poverty to reach the nation's highest office, prided himself on his clean record in a country with a long history of corruption. He served as president from 2003 to 2008.

But he and his family have been ensnared in recent weeks in a burgeoning bribery scandal.

The suicide — the first by a South Korean leader — stunned the nation.

Last month, state prosecutors questioned Roh for some 13 hours about allegations that he accepted more than $6 million in bribes from a South Korean businessman while in office — accusations that deeply shamed him.

"I have no face to show to the people. I am sorry for disappointing you," an emotional Roh said April 30 before speaking to prosecutors.

He denied the allegations against him during questioning, prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-sok said.

The president was the first public official to commit suicide but suicide is not uncommon in Korea. In fact according to a government report taken last year South Korea was the highest ranked country in suicide rates in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with Hungary and Japan following closely behind. And it is the No. 4 cause of death in South Korea next to cancer, cerebrovascular diseases and cardiovascular ailments such as strokes. According to the report compiled by the National Statistical Office (NSO), 26.1 out of every 100,000 South Koreans committed suicide last year, a sharp increase from 11.8 people in 1995. Sometimes listing just numbers doesn't convey the message, the suicide rate has doubled in the last ten years. The death rate translates into an average of 33 people a day taking their lives.

Although suicide is No. 4 cause of death in Korea among the general population, it is the leading cause of death for people in 20's and 30's. When I read that it was the leading cause of death in Korea for our generation, I had scoop my jaw off the ground. How could it be possible that so many young people would choose to take their own lives? So many that it is the NUMBER ONE reason for death!
The president was the first public official but many public icons have been setting a suicide trend. Choi Jin Sil had been one of the most well-known and popular movie stars at the time of her suicide. She was the mother of two and had a lot to live for, but after a brutal attack on her character and extra-circular hobbies in cyber-space she choose to take her own life.

The suicide trend has been fueled by South Korea's status as one of the world's most wired countries with a highly developed Internet infrastructure, meaning finding methods to kill oneself or partners for group suicides are just a few mouse clicks away. Websites promoting suicide and encouraging group suicide pacts have recently been banned as the government looks to combat the recent string of suicides. Keyword searches relating to suicide are now blocked by the government.

But why is Korea the leader in suicides? As with many questions, there is not a simple answer. An article in USA today says this,

Although there are different motivations for suicide, the common denominator is "stress and pressure," Lee said, pointing to an unfortunate side-effect of the country's rapid economic development.

"Rapid change is the biggest problem in all areas — the economy and family system," he said. "At the same time the support system is getting weaker."

There is extreme pressure on not only adults but on children and young adults in Korea. South Korea is often hailed as a success story, but with the rapid increase of economic growth came the pitfall of competing for highly coveted positions in the top ranking universities which are crucial to finding the better jobs. Living in a semi secluded area requires taking taxis weekly. Some of our taxi drivers are friendly, while others are not. One particular friendly taxi driver keen to practice his English told us that he was a boxer when he was in school. We thought he must have meant high school but when we pressed, we found that he had in fact been a boxer in University. Why would a man with a 4 year university degree drive a taxi? Which university one attends has a decisive impact on what type of job one is eligible for in Korea, much more so than at home. The academic pressures on children and young adults are often beyond ridiculous. They have no time to be children. Many children start classes at 7am and go until midnight and that doesn't include their homework. It is one reason we don't give grades at SNET. Our hope is that their time at SNET is more relaxing and fun-filled than that of their regular school week. It is a place where English can possibly be fun, rather than that topic that keeps them in school that much longer. The Asia Times paints a morbid picture of the pressures of getting into college from 2005:
During last year's CSAT [college entrance exam], there was a spate of student suicides. This year one student committed suicide in Seoul on the morning of the CSAT. Numerous school-related suicides occur throughout the year, with this past April being especially tragic. A father in Gongju drove to his son's high school and torched his wife, daughter and himself with gasoline because his honor roll son disgraced the family with bad grades. All three died.

Statistics are unclear as to how many students end their lives because of education-related stress. Numbers from the National Statistical Office indicate that more than 1,000 students between the ages of 10 and 19 killed themselves from 2000 to 2003. In another report supplied to the education committee of the National Assembly by the Ministry of Education, 462 students (both primary and secondary) committed suicide in the last five years. Two surveys, one by the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union, the other by the Korea Youth Counseling Institute, found that 43% to 48% of students have contemplated suicide.

Older Koreans have increased the frequency of suicides as well. Many feel they are a burden to their family and are better off dead. I find this topic very depressing and in all honesty when I began to write this post, I had no intention of discussing suicide in such depth. I wanted to address the president's death and mention South Korea's high suicide rate as a side note, but the more I researched, the more I was horrified. In the blog in which I found so many resources on the topic, I read about a sixth grade boy who committed suicide during his vacation because he could no longer handle the pressure. Somehow their reasons for suicide seem different, less emotional and more of an escape from society. The government is taking strides to combat this sad statistic with more outreach groups and facilities. Let's hope the needed change will follow.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Budddha's lantern festival

If you haven't noticed, I have been a little lazy lately with the blog. Some days I am really inspired to write, while other days I could care less if I saw or touched my computer again. I would say that these mood swings are intertwined with my productivity spurts and the status of Kyle's progress in getting here. There are periods of times when my dedication is as strong as Hercules and I am super productive all of the time, I work out regularly, I write often and I manage my time and money well, and other times when the dedication wanes to that of a pillow; soft, weak and squishy but since it isn't living doesn't do much but assist with sleep. (Do you like how that makes absolutely no sense? I couldn't think of anything clever so I went with an inanimate object which has no strength at all! Good thing I am not writing an essay for school.) But back to my laziness with the blog, I mention it because this post is about the Buddha's lantern festival nearly a month past and I am just now getting around to writing about it. Ooops! How did that happen?

The weather had been really lovely. The sun had been shining all week. My long sleeve shirts remained in their shelf for the entire week making way for my short sleeve shirts and even a skirt or two. It was all very exciting, this exchange of cold weather clothes for warm weather clothes. I had planned on going to the lantern festival with a friend until the cold, with a stubborn furry stormed back in to ruin the weekend. You may not have gathered by my multiple posts about my dislike of cold weather, that I really hate any type of weather that doesn't have the word warm and/or sun involved in it's description. I considered crawling back into my hibernating state, but was somehow persuaded to enter the land of the living even if it included engaging in battle with cold weather and possible rain. I threw on my coat, scarf and gloves and we ventured into Seoul to meet up with some other foreigners whom were friends of friends.

The lantern festival is a celebration of Buddha's birthday with festivities such as lantern making, games, activities and a parade. The Korean tourism website says "The lighting of a lotus-shaped lantern in Buddhism traditionally symbolizes a display of religious devotion to performing good deeds and lighting up the dark side of the world filled with agony. "
Unfortunately, the lantern festival which main attraction was making one's own lantern stopped making lanterns by the time we joined in on the festivities. We had read that it would be happening until 7pm but at 3pm the lantern making booths started to close. We wandered aimlessly unsure of what to do next for a while until we came upon the Buddhist temple. Many performers dressed in traditional Korean clothing were either on stage performing or lined up next to the stage waiting for their next performance. The kids were particularly adorable.

There were hundreds of booths lining the normally busy street with many different attractions. The group of people I was with however didn't seem too interested in stopping to look at the different booths, which I found odd and a little frustrating. Why go to a festival, walk the streets, but not stop to participate in the activities? What was the point in going to this festival if all you wanted to do was walk the streets in the cold? Alison, the friend I went with, and I nstopped at a fan painting booth and sat down to paint. The design was already on the fan. My job was to fill it in with paint, kind of a like a paint by numbers. The Korean lady helping out, however was unhappy with some of my painting choices. She informed me that I needed to change the color of the center part which unbeknownst to me was a seed. I tried, but was unsuccessful. Not to worry, I was told, for her "teacher" would make it beautiful for me. She whisked me and fan away to a little old lady running the booth. With little concentration, she took a brush, and painted away at what she saw as my mistakes. In the end, the fan was more beautiful than my original copy, but the whole experience was a bit strange. I liked the end product, but why couldn't my fan just remain in it's ugly condition?

After the paint by number failure we found ourselves at the next booth- a small lantern making booth! Hurray!! We wouldn't miss out on the lantern making after all. And we found it just in time because they were running out of leaves faster than you could sneeze. The process included taking a toilet paper roll thingy-ma-jig, dipping your finger in glue, smearing the glue on the toilet paper roll and sticking on the brightly colored lantern leaves in the shape of a flower. I was working as quickly as my sticky glue covered fingers would work as I could see that the flower leaves were running out quickly and the green leaves which went on the outside seemed very sparse. In fact, the only ones available by the time I was ready for the finishing touches were torn up bits littering the floor. In the end however, my lantern was able to be completed because a few booths down, another lantern making place had some left over green available. I was actually quite pleased with the state of my lantern- granted it wasn't hard to make and probably very difficult to screw up, but it isn't uncommon for me to find a way- I mean since my fan was unsatisfactory with the paint by numbers.

After the lantern making, we found refuge in a little Korean restaurant that served porridge. This isn't breakfast oatmeal we are talking, it is something similar to oats but not oats and served with chicken or seafood. It isn't sweet, it is a regular meal, one that Koreans are great fans of. Personally, I have decided, I prefer my oatmeal without meat.

After our strange dinner was the parade. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen to go home considering that not only was it too cold for my liking, the heavens had opened up and were beginning to shed light tears. Rain plus cold weather plus sitting outside in this weather equals NO THANK YOU. But that is what we did, sit in the cold drizzle to watch the Buddha parade. It was a lovely parade, and the rain even stopped after a while. My camera stopped working half way through the days so I have very few photos to share, but all in all, it was an exciting day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The kiddos and apple cider vinegar is amazing!

Two quick things before I have to go back to work.
It's Saturday- and yes, I am working- don't worry- it's only every other Saturday. We have a Saturday program where the children in the community are invited to spend their free Saturday learning English (for a pretty penny of course). The program is filled with many fun activities and the kids generally have a lot of fun. For the past few times I have participated in Saturday program, I have taught first or second graders, but today, I am teaching third graders. My class level is pretty low, so through most of the class the children are speaking to me in Korean while I try to explain to them that I only understand English which can be frustrating for both parties as you might imagine. For today's program we are discussing music. One of the assignments was for the kids to draw a picture of their favorite entertainer/musician. However, my kids didn't seem to know any, not even the BEST BAND OF ALL TIME (according to our regular sixth grade kids) BIG BANG! Big Bang is like the Beatles of Korea, anyone and everyone knows Big Bang, even the household pets learn this word it is so commonly used. I knew I was in trouble when they didn't recognize Big Bang so instead I had the kids draw an instrument. Some of the girls asked me to look up some pictures on the Internet of a piano and a flute. And through miming asked for the picture to be printed out. There was no printer in the room, so being the clever little children they were, they grabbed their cell phones and took pictures of the instruments they were planning on drawing! I nearly died laughing. These children really are born with cell phones attached to their arms. It's amazing how technologically savvy they are.

Number 2 point- The wonders of Apple cider vinegar. Have you any idea of the myriad of ailments that Apple cider vinegar is claimed to be able to cure. It is the cure all and end of all of anything and everything. I just discovered this after a friend told me that it was helpful in preventing UTI (urinary track infections) and so I looked it up and my oh my what did I find!! It cures everything, everything I tell you!! Home remedies watch out, apple cider vinegar is going to put you out of business! Just look at this list. I haven't tried any of these out yet, but I plan to very soon. If anyone has had any experience with apple cider vinegar and it's cures I would love to hear about it.

Apply a solution of apple cider vinegar and water (2 tablespoons to 1 eight ounce glass of water) with a cotton ball several times a day. This will help reduce infection and dry out inflammation.
Another natural healing home remedy calls for the daily application of apple cider vinegar which has been infused with horseradish.
Prepare the solution by adding two cups of ACV to one pound of grated horseradish. Let it sit for two weeks, then strain.
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This book can really change the life of anyone living with the effects of acne and resulting scarring and comes with a full, risk-free, 60 day money back guarantee.

Apply daily, to these darkened areas of the skin, a solution containing 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of onion juice. According to this home remedy, the spots should begin to fade within 2 weeks.

Message the sore joints with a liniment made up of 2 egg whites, ½ cup (125 ml) apple cider vinegar, and ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil. Also, simply taking the apple cider vinegar tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) before each meal has been an effective natural healing home remedy for many people.

Some people have found relief from mild asthma by taking the apple cider vinegar tonic along with applying a vinegar-soaked compress to the inside of the wrists.

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection which is quite difficult to get rid of. One of the best home remedies involves soaking the feet twice a day in a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Or, you can apply pure apple cider vinegar to the affected areas several times a day and before bedtime.

Soak a cotton ball in pure apple cider vinegar, have the person lay his head back and then place it in the bleeding nostril. This home remedy will help stop the bleeding quicker.

Take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey in a glass of water twice a day to help lower blood pressure. The high potassium values in both natural healing substances helps to balance out sodium levels in the body, which aids in maintaining blood pressure within healthy limits. Apple cider vinegar and honey also contain magnesium, a mineral that works to relax blood vessel walls and thus lower high blood pressure. To maximize the benefit of this and other home remedies, take the holistic approach, and couple this with dietary modifications such as a reduced fat and salt intake, increased fiber intake, moderate coffee and alcohol, no smoking, and daily exercise.

Use apple cider vinegar as a natural body deodorant and eliminate the bacteria causing offensive body odor. For example, check out these two related home remedies:
Underarms can be kept free of odor causing bacteria by wiping them once a day with undiluted apple cider vinegar whereas foot odor can be greatly minimized by soaking the feet two or three times weekly in a pan of warm water mixed with 1/3 cup (75 ml) of ACV.

Due to its mineral content, Apple cider vinegar helps to sustain bone mass and fight against osteoporosis. The important minerals involved include manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and silicon.
Take the general apple cider vinegar tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) to boost the body's supply of these minerals. Click here to find more about the mineral content of apple cider vinegar.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in ½ cup (125 ml) of warm apple cider vinegar and apply it to the bruise as a compress.

Apply pure apple cider vinegar to the burn, whether it's from the sun or a hot surface, to reduce the pain, to disinfect, and to supply nutrient required for healing.

Apples and apple cider vinegar contain numerous substances that protect against many types of cancer. They contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, and phytochemicals such as flavonoids and polyphenols that are also protective against cancer formation.
Plus they both contain pectin, a soluble fiber , which binds certain cancer causing compounds in the colon and speeds up their elimination from the body.
So eat an apple a day and take the general apple cider vinegar tonic home remedy (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) to maximize these benefits.

It is thought that the water soluble fiber pectin, found in apple cider vinegar, absorbs fats and cholesterol and eliminates them from the body. And at the same time, the amino acids present in apple cider vinegar neutralize some of the harmful oxidized LDL cholesterol.

Recently, researchers from Mizkan, a japanese food manufacturer, reported that regular vinegar intake of 3 teaspoons (15 ml) or more per day can significantly lower the level of cholesterol in a persons blood. They found that acetic acid, the major ingredient in vinegar, is responsible for this effect.
The results were presented at the 59th Annual Meeting for the Japanese Society of Nutrition and Food Science in May 2005.

Maximize this benefit by taking the apple cider vinegar tonic home remedy (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) and increasing the amount of fiber rich food in your diet (more fruits and vegetables) while reducing the amount of saturated and unsaturated fat.

At the first sign of a cold, take 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in half a cup of water several times a day. The body becomes more alkaline during a cold and the vinegar will help to rebalance the body's acid level. If you have a chest cold, a long-standing home remedy calls for soaking a piece of brown paper in vinegar then sprinkling one side of it with black pepper. Place the peppered side of the paper on the chest, cover with a towel, and relax for 20 minutes.

A low fiber diet and the reduction in digestive acids and enzymes as we age, can lead to constipation. More fruits and vegetables and a daily tonic of apple cider vinegar (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) is a natural healing home remedy to combat constipation.

Soak your feet for half an hour in a warm bath containing half a cup of apple cider vinegar. Use a clean pumice stone to rub the affected areas then apply pure apple cider vinegar and cover with a bandage. Reapply vinegar and bandage the following morning.

A home remedy to sooth a nighttime cough is to sprinkle apple cider vinegar on a cloth placed on a pillow.

Muscle cramps can be caused by a calcium and magnesium imbalance in the body and by a lack of vitamin E. To help prevent the recurrence of cramps, take a regular tonic of apple cider vinegar (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) along with 1 teaspoon of honey.

Apply pure apple cider vinegar to the scalp and work it into the roots of the hair; allow the vinegar to stand for a half hour or a full hour before washing your hair. This will help to destroy the bacteria and fungus that cause dandruff and itchy scalp. Click here for information on how apple cider vinegar can be combined with certain herbs to make an extra strength natural hair care product for combating dandruff and soothing itchy scalp.

A daily tonic of apple cider vinegar (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) supplies dietary fiber and other ingredients, which are beneficial in controlling blood glucose levels. As well, the acids and enzymes promote better digestion and nutrient absorption, which is impaired in many diabetes sufferers.

This home remedy has been the subject of new research that shows that apple cider vinegar can help lower blood sugar levels.
Click here for more details.

Use a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to eliminate the bacteria and fungus that cause diaper rash.

Pectin, the water soluble fiber in apple cider vinegar, will help to absorb water in the intestines and provide more bulk for the stool. Also, intestinal bacteria transforms pectin into a protective coating which sooths the irritated lining. The well known over the counter diarrhea preparation, Kaopectate contains pectin. So take the natural healing apple cider vinegar tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) to help eliminate diarrhea.

As we age, it is common for people to produce less stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) which can lead to digestive problems. Taking the apple cider vinegar tonic home remedy (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) before a meal will enhance the action of your stomach's acid and digestive enzymes.

Use an ear syringe (found at drug stores) to squirt a vinegar solution into the ear and let it sit for a minute or so, then turn your head and let the liquid drain out.

The vinegar solution can be a 50/50 mixture of ACV and pure water, a 50/50 mixture of ACV and rubbing alcohol or a solution consisting of one-third vinegar, one-third pure water, and one-third rubbing alcohol.

If the ear problem persists, see a health professional.

To help relieve the itching and dryness of eczema, apply a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to the affected areas.

It is thought that the potassium and enzymes obtained through regular use of a vinegar tonic can help beat fatigue. Some experts believe that the addition of 1 or 2 teaspoons of raw honey to the ACV tonic will also help.

Many people avoid eating certain foods such as beans due to the gas they produce in the body. This gas is a result of incomplete digestion and can be minimized by soaking the beans in apple cider vinegar prior to cooking them.

Try this home remedy for sore and tired feet which sometimes ache at the end of a long day: Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to a basin of warm water and allow your feet to soak for 15 minutes.

Although not yet backed up by scientific testing, many people have found that gout home remedies using apple cider vinegar are very effective.
The procedure involves either ingesting an apple cider vinegar tonic or applying ACV to the affected area.
Click here for detailed information on gout and how to use apple cider vinegar as an alternative home remedy for gout.

Research has shown that people have slightly more alkaline urine when they have a headache. An apple cider vinegar tonic will help restore your body's acid/alkaline balance.
According to one home remedy, inhaling the vapors from a small bottle of apple cider vinegar can also help or if you have a vaporizer, add about 2 tablespoons cider vinegar to the water and inhale the vapors for five minutes.

Heartburn or acid reflux is a condition in which some of the acid content of the stomach periodically backs up into the esophagus.
Even though testimonials abound throughout the net on the effectiveness of using apple cider vinegar to relieve heartburn, no scientific studies have been done to substantiate this.
A recent survey, however, conducted at the Earth Clinic web site found that vinegar was the best of all the home remedies suggested to relieve heartburn or acid reflux.

So to relieve occasional heartburn, try drinking the general apple cider vinegar tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) before each meal.
Click here for more information on acid reflux and how apple cider vinegar and some simple lifestyle and dietary changes have helped others.

Apply the natural healing abilities of pure apple cider vinegar directly to hemorrhoids to help reduce stinging and promote shrinking. Use a cotton ball to apply the vinegar every few hours until symptoms are relieved.

To stop hiccups, try sipping a glass of warm water in which one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar has been mixed in. This is a lot simpler than many other home remedies for hiccups.

Bee and wasp stings, as well as itchy mosquito bites can be soothed by applying undiluted apple cider vinegar to the affected area.

Dr Jarvis in his book "Folk Medicine" recommends the use of honey and apple cider vinegar for those who have a hard time falling asleep at night. Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in one cup of honey and take two teaspoons of this mixture just before going to bed. Repeat after an hour if required. (You can sleep on that one!)

Some people find that simply taking one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water just before bedtime, helps them to get to sleep quicker and sleep much longer.

JELLYFISH STINGS (Chironex Fleckeri and Chiropsalmus Quadrigatus)
The sting of the large box jellyfish, found along the northern tropical coastline of Australia, can be deadly. The venom injected by these animals is capable of killing humans within minutes.
When a sting occurs, pieces of tentacle may be left in the victims skin which can continue to release venom. However, by dousing the sting area with regular vinegar (5% acetic acid content), the further release of poison will be rapidly and completely stopped.
That's why Australian lifeguards always keep vinegar on hand and it's their initial first aid treatment of choice.

Australian Resuscitation Council Guideline 8.9.6

Take the apple cider vinegar tonic regularly (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) to help the body's absorption of calcium and magnesium and thus protect against painful leg cramps.

A glass of apple cider tonic (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water) in the morning has been reported to help reduce the flow of a heavy period.

Many women experience nausea and vomiting, often in the morning, during the first three months of pregnancy. A home remedy reported to help keep morning sickness at bay involves simply drinking, as soon as you get up, a glass of water containing a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

Apply a cloth dampened with apple cider vinegar and a dash of cayenne pepper directly to the sore muscle for 5 minutes and reapply as needed.
For sore muscles all-over, try soaking in a warm water bath into which you have added 2 to 3 cups of apple cider vinegar.

Nail and toenail fungus infections are very difficult to cure even with modern drugs which many people prefer not to use due to reported side effects and poor effectiveness.
Fortunately there are many vinegar home remedies used to cure this condition some which use only vinegar and others involve combinations of vinegar with hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, olive oil, etc.
In all cases the treatment lasts for months and is usually applied to the effected area twice a day.
Click here for more information on nail fungus and a description of one of the simpler vinegar nail fungus home remedies involving just plain white distilled vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar has helped reduce hot flashes and night sweats for some menopausal women who for various reasons can't take hormones. Use the apple cider vinegar tonic regularly (2 or 3 teaspoons to 8 ounces of water).

The health and fitness expert Patricia Bragg recommends spraying a solution of equal parts apple cider vinegar and distilled water on to the affected areas to stop the pain, itching and ease the swelling. Cooling the spray in the refrigerator will provide even more relief.

To help relieve the pain of sinusitis, both Patrick Quillin PhD, in his book Amazing Honey Garlic and Vinegar, and Cynthia Holzapfel, in her book Apple Cider Vinegar for Weight Loss and Good Health, suggest drinking a glass of water with 1 or 2 teaspoons of ACV added, every hour for 6 to 8 hours.

For sinus headache, Marie Nadine Antol, in her book The Incredible Secrets of Vinegar, recommends adding an eight of a cup of ACV to a cool-air vaporizer and inhaling the infused-air directly for 5 minutes.
After that lie down for 20 minutes and wait for your respiratory passages to clear.

For excess mucus in the nose, throat, or sinus cavities (post nasal drip), try a solution of warm water and 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Place a small amount in the palm of your hand, block one nostril, then place the other nostril into the vinegar solution and sniff hard. You'll experience the disinfecting and mucus-cutting benefits of apple cider vinegar deep into your sinus cavities. Let the solution run down the back of your throat then spit it out. After that, repeat with the other nostril.

One of many natural healing home remedies for a sore throat involves gargling with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to half a cup of water, using 3 mouthfuls of mixture each hour.
As P. Bragg warns in her book "Apple Cider Vinegar-Miracle Health System", don't swallow the gargled mixture, because ACV acts like a sponge drawing out throat and mouth germs and toxins.

If the sunburn is localized, apply full strength apple cider vinegar on the affected skin to obtain relief. Do this by soaking a thin towel in apple cider vinegar and placing it over the burn. Leave it on to help prevent peeling and itching.
If the sunburn covers a large part of the body then try this home remedy recommended by Patricia Bragg in her book called Apple Cider Vinegar-Miracle Health System:
Take a cool bath in which one cup of ACV has been added. After soaking in the bath, gently dry the body and pat ACV directly onto the needed areas. Wait 5 minutes, then pat on aloe vera gel.

A preliminary study in Japan showed that taking a weak vinegar solution can give over 95% protection from alcohol-induced ulcers.

Drink a daily tonic of apple cider vinegar to help you keep the right pH balance in the urinary tract since the proper acidity creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria and yeasts that cause these infections.
Cranberry juice is also a well known home remedy for urinary tract infections. It prevents bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract.
For a tasty drink, try adding 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to an eight ounce glass of cranberry juice and benefit from both home remedies at the same time.

Dr Jarvis notes that the following folk remedy is used not only in Vermont but also in Scotland, England and Germany.
Apply undiluted apple cider vinegar to the varicose veins at night and in the morning, and take two teaspoons of ACV in a glass of water twice a day. Shrinking of the veins will be noticed after one month.

Patricia Bragg cautions: do not rub warts since this could spread them. Apply an ACV soaked gauze bandage to the wart overnight and in the morning replace it with a castor oil soaked gauze bandage. At night alternate the ACV with crushed fresh garlic and vitamin E (prick open capsule).

Click here for details on warts and another effective (and simpler) home remedy for the removal of warts using apple cider vinegar.

The use of apple cider vinegar as a home remedy for weight loss is centuries old. Dr Jarvis maintained that an overweight person could lose weight gradually by taking 2 teaspoons of ACV in a glass of water at each meal. No change in the daily food intake is required except to avoid high fat containing foods.

Click here for more information on apple cider vinegar and weight loss.

According to one home remedy, relief can be obtained by the use of a vinegar douche, consisting of 2 tablespoons of ACV mixed in one quart of warm water, applied twice a day until the burning and itching symptoms of the infection have stopped.

Frequent douching however is no longer recommended, since recent studies have shown that this can cause more harm than good.
A vinegar bath, prepared by adding one cup of ACV to the bath water, can help provide external relief.

If you tend to get frequent yeast infections, try to find the cause (such as antibiotic use or a diet too high in refined sugars) and reduce or eliminate it.
Many have found that a daily intake of yogurt helps to get rid of this problem.

For more information on yeast infection symptoms and causes as well as an an All-Natural Cure that is quick, safe and effective, check out Sara Summer's e-book called: "12 Hour Cure for Yeast Infection".

Sarah Summer, a former yeast infection sufferer herself, is a health researcher and author.
She offers a full 100% refund for up to 8 weeks after purchase if for any reason you are not completely satisfied with her e-book.

This is by no means a complete list of natural healing home remedies that use apple cider vinegar. Many more can be found in an excellent book titled: Dr Earl Mindell's Amazing Apple Cider Vinegar.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mother's Day

I meant to write this post for Mother's Day, but as you can see, I am a little late, not even fashionably late, just plain Jane stinking late. I did call my mother on the actual day and I had Kyle buy her flowers and take them to her office, so my tardiness, although it is embarrassingly late, isn't too reprehensible.

In the United States in the year 1914 the United States Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday of every May to officially commemorate Mothers. It is a day of much needed recognition. It is a day to honor the woman who carried us for nine months, bore us, and raised us. From the many bratty Vanessa stories, I can attest that although my mother is only the mother of one child, it took much patience and perseverance to raise me. Personally, and I realize my opinion is biased on the matter, I feel that I turned out to be an OK adult (even one might say a good adult if that is really quantifiable) and much of the credit goes to my wonderful and loving mother. And I am very grateful to everything she has ever done for me, which is more than I could ever asked for in a mother. She deserves this honor, and day and so much more.
(My mother and me in my ornery adolescent years)

You might wonder however, if Korea has a mother's day. The answer is Yes and No. Parents day is celebrated on May 8th to commemorate both Mother's and Father's day together. It is not an official Korean holiday, no one gets the day off if it falls during the week, but flowers, especially carnations, are very popular gifts. My first question when I was told about this combined holiday was, "what if your parents are divorced? Who do you celebrate with?" The divorce rate in Korea is near 1/3 but it is still very much frowned upon and kept behind closed curtains. Most of the older generations are still married, but the younger generations are getting divorced with more regularity so the issue of which parent gets to celebrate on parents day wont be a huge issue for a few more years.

And although parent's day is not an official holiday, Children's day is and occurs only a few days before parent's day. Children are given gifts and typically have Children's day off to celebrate with their families, however the kids at SNET this year had to attend school. They were very dissappointed to be in school for the last year that children's day would apply to them. This article helps to explain the origins of Children's day and helped me to understand our kids true dissappointment.
If you ask a Korean first or second grader what important event took place on June 25 they most likely won't be able to tell you, but ask them what holiday takes place on May 5 and nearly every one of them will answer Children's Day. Children's Day in Korea is viewed by Korean children in a similar manner as Christmas is viewed by many children in the rest of the world -- as a time for gifts and fun. Because it is a national holiday, parents are free to indulge the whims and wants of their offspring by taking them to amusement parks, movies, parks, zoos, and other places that draw the excited laughter of youth.

Children's Day in Korea traces its origins to Bang Jeong-hwan, a children's story book writer, who, on May 1, 1923, wrote "An Open Letter to Adults." This letter called upon adults to, among other things, "speak to children with respect, and speak softly." One translation of Bang Jeong-hwan's letter states: "Children are the future of our nation. Let's show respect for children. Children who grow up with ridicule and contempt from others will become people who disrespect others, while children who grow up with respect from others will become people who respect others in turn." [1] According to various Internet sources, Children's Day in Korea was known as Boy's Day up until 1975 when it was officially accepted as a holiday, but, as seen below, there are other sources from the 1950s that clearly denote the day as "Children's Day." Perhaps the sources are confused with the Japanese holiday, on the same date, known as "Tango No Sekko" (Boy's Day). On this day a carp-shaped kite is displayed for each boy in a household. Considering Korea was under Japanese control at the time, it is very likely that this holiday was celebrated in Korea and that Bang Jeong-hwan, aware of the prejudices against little girls, declared it "Children's Day" to honor both sexes.

Although Children's Day is a celebration of youth and innocence, its history has been marred by the politics of adults. In 1946 South Korea moved Children's Day from May 1 to May 5, but North Korea chose to celebrate International Children's Day on June 1, "a date that was established in November 1949 at the International Democratic Women's League Council held in Moscow."[2] Perhaps the most poignant account of the terrible repercussions of the war upon the Korean youth is Time Magazine's description of Children's Day in 1951: "Some 30 years ago, in the days of Japanese rule, the elders of Korea saw no hope of freedom for themselves. But their children, they felt, might be more fortunate. They began to observe May 5 as Children's Day. Last week battered Seoul celebrated Children's Day with a parade by the police, who marched 600 strong behind a brass band and a huge placard: 'Children Are the Nation's Flower.' "The nation's flowers emerged from caves and broken buildings. Beside the budding, shrapnel-scarred elms along the streets, they watched. Now & then a youngster clapped or smiled, but mostly they stood with wooden faces, like tired old people who have found life very hard and who take little joy in parades." The article noted that the band avoided the South Gate and the bombed Seoul Station where "the abandoned, the homeless, [and] the orphans prowled restlessly, begging, stealing, conniving to stay alive." It ended by noting that the police handed out small packets of candy and food to the children, and those with parents then went on long happy walks, while those who were orphaned by the war and "had no parents to take them home melted back into their caves and cellars." [3]

Fortunately things have changed since the war and children are now able to enjoy the bounty of living in a prosperous nation. Parks, museums, and other venues of entertainment have been built for the benefit of children. One of the largest parks in Asia, the Seoul Grand Children's Park, was built under the guidance of then president Park Chung-hee who, echoing Bang Jeong-hwan, wrote: "Children are the heroes of tomorrow. May they grow to be gentle, vigorous, and wise." Let us hope.

Korea even has a Teacher's Day. Wikipedia said this about the holiday : Originally it was started by a group of red-cross youth team members who visited their sick ex-teachers at hospitals. The national celebration ceremony had been stopped between 1973 and 1982 and it resumed after that. On the celebration day, teachers are usually presented with carnations by their students, and both enjoy a shorter school day. Ex-students pay their respects to the former teachers by visiting them and handing a carnation. Many schools now close on Teacher's Day because of the rampant bribery implicit in the expensive gifts often given to teachers. Schools can use the day to have an outing for the teachers.

However, once again SNET is not a typical school so we did not have a short day or the day off. In the morning we received a red carnation corsage which was too heavy for my shirt, but was beautiful and thoughtful none-the-less. Our presents from the children were few if any. I was gifted a piece of candy from one of the passing students. Our boss took us to dinner which was fantastic. It was nice to be recognized for our hard work and I think that this should be a holiday also celebrated in the USA!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm still alive

No, I haven't died of a broken or strained heart. And no, I am not on the verge of getting on a plane back to the US. I know I left the blog untouched for a week in a bit of a sad state. I honestly don't know what happened. I was busy... I was distracted...I didn't care...I avoided. The last answer is probably the most accurate. I didn't want to do anything that included the words "need" or "have to." I didn't work out until the very end of the week, which means I let procrastination take hold. My room looked like a tornado blew through only touching down in my tiny room followed by a mad hippo race. I shouldn't really use past tense in that last statement because I haven't actually cleaned anything up. I only threw clothes in piles so it doesn't look so devastated, it now looks more like organized chaos.

I have a lot to write about and share but I still feel so tired. Even after 9 hours of sleep. I am not sure today is going to be the productive day I was hoping for. Oh well...

But I would like to leave you with something funny rather than depressing. One of the new teachers is from Australia and he sent this article copied directly from the FAQ section on the Australian tourism website. Ozzies have a great sense of humor, and the fact that they are actually answering these silly questions on their website says alot about that sense of humor. Anyways, enjoy!

Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
Depends how much you've been drinking.

I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.
Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
What did your last slave die of?

Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not - oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is - oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
You are a British politician, right?

Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum (USA)
Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
Yes, gay nightclubs.

Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
Only at Christmas.

Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Things are looking....well......

Let me start this post by saying that I am still not in South Korea, nor do I have any real idea when I will be getting there. That being said, I THINK that I will be leaving by the 15th of this month. For those of you wondering, I am waiting for my working Visa application to be processed. I had been hoping that things would be sped up by Van's being over there currently and my employment at SNET, however things don't seem to be moving any faster. SO... in the meantime, I have been going through a very interesting stage in my life. Van and my separation is taking a rather serious toll on both of our emotional well beings. I think her last post made that pretty clear for her but it has been brought to my attention that I don't seem to be displaying the same sentiments. Let me just assure you all that I too have had my “sky falling” days. I have discovered that my personal choice for dealing with emotional stress is a far less productive, withdrawal tactic, contrasted poignantly by Vans more expressive and, in my opinion, more beneficial methods. So for all of my dear friends, whom I have not made the effort to get together with, I truly hope that you all understand I still love and care for you all very much. I sincerely hope that none of you take my absence to be an indication of anything other than my stress and poor management of it. It is selfish, foolish and inconsiderate and I am sorry.

So during my time of self induced seclusion, I've had quite a bit of time to reflect on my state of mind and I've realized a few things that I thought I might share. It's not that I think these are words of wisdom or anything. I just think that perhaps by sharing my thoughts, it might help to alleviate some of the burden.

“Distance does make the heart grow fonder.” There's a part of this common phrase that either got left off, or was never there in the first place. Either way, it's important. Distance makes the heart grow fonder of it's missing piece. Distance also makes the heart realize just how incomplete it is.

“Idle hands are the Devil's tools.” Apparently, the Devil likes to play World of Warcraft. No matter how high my level gets, I still have a very low sense of accomplishment. If only I could really vanquish evil with a huge sword and magic spells of death and destruction.

“Sometimes, the best thing you can do for someone is to tell them no.” I can't tell you how many times I've started something I wasn't able to finish because I couldn't say no to it. One of the great lessons of my life will be to learn the value of knowing your own limits. Maybe one day I will get there. Then again, maybe I won't.

“The fool spends his money on possessions, the wise spends his money on experience.” What good are toys unless you use them? I've got way too much junk. I hate that I'm a pack rat. Time to streamline and start investing in my relationships.

As you can see, most of my thoughts lately have been rather pessimistic. I suppose that for someone in my position, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that I've been a bit down lately but that's got me thinking as well. Some of the “new age” philosophy I've read about and have been told about says that for good things to happen in your life, you have to put good vibes out there. If you're thinking negative, you exude negative energy and that attracts MORE negative energy. I get that. I guess I would say that I even agree with it to some extent but here's the thing; I think life is about both. Reality is not purely positive, nor is it purely negative. Our emotional states are constantly in a cycle of ebb and flow, back and forth, happy and sad, angry and relaxed. For me, this funk I'm in is a part of the whole. A process through which I will ultimately appreciate the good that comes of it even more. We always worry about those around us who seem like their having a rough time and with good reason. Some people get in a funk and never really get out. For all of you reading this thinking, man, Kyle's goin through some heavy $#@! right now, you're damn right I am and to be honest, I think it's a bit over due. I always thought of my self as a very happy go lucky kind of guy. I'm the mellow one. I'm the dude that doesn't sweat the small stuff. I think I'm realizing now that that guy, the cool Kyle, that's the real me, and no matter what I do or what I go through, nothing will change my essence. But for now, I've gotta do a little spring cleaning of the emotions and there's a layer of dust a few years thick so bear with me guys. Like they say, “the sweet ain't as sweet without the bitter.”

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The sky is falling

(painting by Jaz Harold)

I sit under a tree, the wind against my face. The breeze is warm but my arm hairs stand on end. The leaves rustle and mummer disturbingly above. An acorn tumbles from it's seemingly secure branch and my head stings from where it bounced before falling to it's resting place next to my feet. My hand searches for the bruised location and rubs away the pain. My eyes close shut and I let my mind wander but it isn't allowed to go far. There are strict boundaries to where it must adhere. I know where it always try to go but I must keep it from trespassing because if it finds the forbidden area it seeks all it will find is pain. But sometimes there is no controlling a mind. It can behave like a two year old, defiant beyond reason.

The first piece lands on my nose it . It is light and soft like a snowflake but warm rather than icy. I cross my eyes trying to get a better look before it takes to the wind. The second floats to my left knee which is pulled into my chest. I hold my legs tight and study this foreign blue object sullying my white jeans. The blue is vibrant but has varying shades depending on how I turn my head. The leaves murmur furiously. Their whispers urgent and frightened. My eyes are drawn towards their fearful words and another blue brushes my face like a kiss followed by yet another. I feel no surprise by the blue bits sprinkling the world. Rather I feel almost as if I have been expecting it, even waiting for this moment. I step out from under the tree. The grass has turned from green to an ocean of blue. The color is radiant yet blinding. I feel that I should avert my eyes, but I can't keep staring. Small lighter sky blue bits are stick to my bare feet as I walk through the blue shower. They don't fall straight as rain does, rather their floating is magical like a modern art ballet performance. They swirl, sashay, spin in formation and curtsy before they make their final landing in a parade down to the Earth.

Black chunks burn in the day sky where the blue once lay. The menacing black is darker than the night sky and it's growing presence is harrowing and disquieting. The air is so thick with blue now it is hard to see ahead and I struggle to breath. I am seated in what was once grass but now shows no remembrance of it's former green life. My hands finds a fistful of blue and I lift it to my face. When I was young, I loved cotton balls. I loved that the soft vibration they made when I rubbed it between my thumb and forefinger. I loved how fluffy and soft they were against my face. They were the equivalent to other children's blankies. Cotton balls were my comforter; what I held onto when I needed soothing. I would often take them and rub them on my face as I sucked lightly on the inside of my lip.

As I hold the blue to my face, I feel the familiar longing as I did with my cotton balls. Unconsciously my lip reverts to it's position of comfort as it had when I was a child. The blue feels like rose petals, rubbery and soft. It is warm and feels almost alive, pulsing with life but it's vibrancy is dulling as the seconds pass. It's aroma is poignant and sentimental. It is somehow one smell and yet millions of micro smells of everything I have ever smelled in my life; rain on a hot summer's day, Grandma's pecan pie, my mother's face creams, a rotting carcass , burning plastic. Even my emotions are aromatic; fear, hope, sadness and love are all present and piquant. The smells interweave together, but do not blend rather remaining separate like marbled bread.

My head lands heavily onto it's blue aromatic pillow, my eyes towards the ever extinguishing darker than black sky. Running from the darkness is futile so I will embrace it. Warm droplets dapple my hands and neck. The sky is falling but it's not raining. The water droplets are my doing, not because I willed them, but because they have been dammed inside their protected walls, but will remain no longer. And I don't attempt to block their promenade. It feels good to cry. It feels good to let them out away from the torment of emotions inside. They are streaming out of me as quickly as the blue is falling and I relish it. The warmth is comforting and makes me feel human, bringing me back to reality. I will wait, maybe when I wake the sky will have returned and then again maybe it wont have. I will wait.
painting by james roper

The artwork was found on artist a day. I felt that both peices seemed to demonstrate the mood and feeling I was trying for in this prose.
p.s. Please don't read too into this. I am feeling down but by no means should anyone worry about my emotional health.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Re-branding South Korea

Re-branding South Korea another article about Korea, you might find interesting.

South Korea has decided the world doesn't appreciate it enough, so it's spending millions of dollars to develop a national brand. Look out, Coca-Cola. You too, Czech Republic.
By John M. Glionna
May 3, 2009
Reporting from Seoul -- In the world popularity contest, South Korea feels a little like the ugly duckling that wants everyone to know it's really a swan.

Citizens flinch on hearing their country ridiculed as a place where politicians throw punches. They despair over a recent poll of foreigners in which four in 10 cited the nation's lack of "charm."

Then there's the outlaw cousin to the north. When much of the world hears "Korea," it envisions Kim Jong Il and his hermit state of North Korea, not the democratic nation that has long been a trusted U.S. ally.

Well, South Korea isn't going to take it anymore. The image-obsessed country intends to repair its maligned reputation by spending millions of dollars to develop a national brand.

A what?

In a campaign that has many scratching their heads, South Korea is convinced that it must match the efforts of companies such as Hyundai, LG and Samsung to promote its public identity. So it's taking part in an international ranking system to compete against other nations on first impressions of outsiders.

Early results are not encouraging. According to one recent Nation Brands Index, South Korea ranked 33rd among 50 nations -- behind countries that officials here whisper are lesser than their own, including Poland and the Czech Republic.

The United States ranked seventh. Germany was No. 1.

President Lee Myung-bak has formed a Presidential Council on Nation Branding and has announced the goal of moving to 15th place by 2013.

"Korea is the world's 13th-largest economy with some $20,000 in per capita income but ranks only 33rd in the global brand index," reporters here quoted Lee as saying. "This is a big problem."

Some find it refreshing that the nation cares about what others think about it. Others hint that it's a bit neurotic.

"Korea's problem is that it doesn't have an Eiffel Tower. Paris doesn't need a slogan -- it's Paris," said public relations executive Phillip Raskin, a branding committee advisor.

"Paris would be attractive even if its slogan was 'Go to hell.' In fact, it might actually be that."

Analysts say South Korea has been dealt a bad hand.

"One unfortunate thing is that South Korea shares its name with a rogue state," said Simon Anholt, a British government advisor who devised the ranking system. "The link to North Korea is bad news. It gets painted with the same brush."

Despite its ancient culture, South Korea is a relatively new player on the modern stage.

"It just hasn't been a significant country for very long," Anholt said. "Other nations have been sending a stream of cultural or political ambassadors into global consumption for many years. Korea hasn't been doing that."

But the ambitious Lee wants to change that, introducing programs to promote the South Korean martial art tae kwon do and pitching the nation as an environmentally friendly "Green Korea." The centerpiece of his agenda is food. The government has announced a plan to globalize Korean cuisine, vowing to put it among the world's top five by 2017.

Every day, newspapers carry articles about image boosting: Should the nation build a robotics museum and compete with Japan in that emerging field? How about building some of the world's tallest skyscrapers, or opening a nude beach on a popular island?

The branding czar talks of a new volunteer program modeled after the U.S. Peace Corps and of "Rainbow Korea," a catchphrase for the nation's so-called expanding multiculturalism.

"I am frustrated that people don't appreciate our culture," said Euh Yoon-dae, head of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding. "For so long, Korea has been sandwiched culturally and economically between Japan and China."

Euh distinguished his plan from a mere marketing or tourism effort. "We're trying to advance the identity of Korea," he said. "It's the substance rather than the brand itself. We want to walk the walk rather than just talk up some new advertising campaign."

Still, newspapers and bloggers have poked fun.

"It's just mind-boggling. A country isn't like some product you can just promote overnight," said Jon Huer, a sociologist and Seoul newspaper columnist. "Korea's image has always been a bit harsh. It's not a Nepal or a Thailand -- both tourist-friendly places. It takes time and patience to get to know the place and its people."

Many here have some advice for South Korea: Relax.

"Korea is stuck in this way of thinking that it has to outdance, outspend and out-palace other countries," said Michael Hurt, a local blogger, photographer and branding committee member.

"It's never been about that. Korea is a quirky taste."

Euh acknowledged that South Korea has a long way to go: "It takes time to change the image of a country."