Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ever feel like this?

This picture is the epitome of how I feel right now. I don't thrive on drama like some people, I don't even like drama,. I prefer things to be easy and uncomplicated. I don't even like it when there is too much drama in the lives of TV characters, I cover my eyes or hide behind a chair. I love to lie on my back staring up at the starry night feeling the peace and wonder of simplicity. But sometimes life has other plans than your own. Sometimes as your minding your own business finding your way along the yellow brick road, life hands you, a tiny bird, a spool of black thread and says, "move this tree from here to there, good luck." Is it worth it? Should one even strive for what seems like the impossible? I guess that is the ultimate question. Is it better just to walk away, or keep pulling at the thread?(Painting by Laura McCabe)

Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's ironic that when I saw this photo, the first thing that came to mind was peace and tranquility and how badly I crave that in my life at this point. It is ironic because this is a picture of a forest in Brazil burning. The smoke which I mistook for haze, adds to the allure, even. I guess it goes to show, that what looks like peace in someone else's life, might not be what you were searching for after all. Somehow, even after the knowledge of what this photo is, I still feel that quiet sensation within when looking at it; that feeling that most people feel when looking at the ocean in the moonlight, or listening to the sound of the rain on a tin roof. Somehow, amongst the caos, this photo captures the essense of tranquility. I wonder if someone took a picture of my soul if they could capture a similar image, one that portrayed calm, but somehow only captured the eye of the storm.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Korean wedding

We attended a co-workers wedding a little over a month ago. I am not sure why I put off writing this post for so long, maybe I was still trying to gather my thoughts on the whole thing. Upon attending, I had few if any expectations, except from what I had been told by other foreigners: lots of food, lots of pictures and very short. So I am going to give you a step by step of the events of the day as best as I can.
-first of all it was very exciting to get to dress up. I don't get many opportunities here in Korea to dress in fancy attire, so it was thrilling looking for a fancy dress, shoes etc. Sometimes I am such a girl! I just love dressing up! However, I have to say I am disappointed with how I looked in pictures. I was pretty confident that I was rocking the house with my outfit, but my few pictures were unflattering- kind of a bummer.
(outside the wedding hall)

-We then had to take a bus to a hotel. We felt even more out of place than usual being so dressed up and taking a regular bus to our destination, a hotel I think.

-The bride, our co-worker Jessica, sat in a designated picture taking room for all who wished to take her picture before the wedding. She looked like a princess. A beautiful Korean princess wearing a very typical western style wedding gown.

- Unlike in a typical American wedding, we sat at a table in a huge fancy smancy reception hall rather than in a church or a designated ceremony room. This reception hall had a long run way running down the center.

-Several projectors displayed engagement and wedding photos. I found it odd not only that they would have wedding photos displayed before the actual wedding, but also many of the pictures showed her wearing a myriad of wedding gowns rather than the one I had just seen her wearing. After further inquiry into this matter, I discovered that brides in Korea do not purchase their wedding gowns, but rent them in a package deal. You can rent 3 or 4 gowns for the wedding photos which are almost all taken before the actual wedding day. Personally, I like this idea of getting to wear several different dresses. In our system you wear the dress for one day of your life and spend hundreds if not thousands on a gown that will probably spend the rest of it's lonely days hanging in your closet.

-The wedding began with the bride walking down the extremely long aisle to pre-recorded music. The ceremony was held all in Korean, so I am not sure what was said except that I was told it was mentioned in the proceedings by the officiator that the man should make sure and make his family his first priority rather than his job like most male Koreans have a tendency to do. They then bowed to her family, and they bowed to his (and at this point the groom and his mother both started to cry, it was very sweet). And then without the very important first kiss at least to western society they walked back down the runway (which felt more like a super model runway than an aisle as it was raised much higher than the ground.)The mothers walking down the runway

-Amazing food was then delivered in 5 courses to our tables. The food was western style. Our boss explained to us that they are typically given three choices of styles; Korean, western or Chinese. I am so glad she choose western, we got real steak!

-They came back in wearing different outfits, cut a funny shaped cake, poured and toasted campaign on a campaign tower with changing neon lights complete with a smoke machine, and that was the end. No dancing, no party, no drinking (very strange for Korea.) Watch, eat and go home, time for the next wedding. Seriously, these places have several weddings a day, and one on every floor as well.the cake

The whole event seemed surreal to me, in less than two hours they had presented a proper performance up on a stage, fed hundreds of people a very expensive meal and then said adieu. I realize that the same can be said about western weddings. "They are a waste of money, why spend so much on just one day." as I have heard many say. And as much as I complain about the costs of wedding because they are exuberant and over priced, I wouldn't trade mine for anything. I loved our wedding, and I loved that we could make it so personal and reflect who we were, why we were there and celebrate our union with all of our friends and family. This wedding however, wasn't really a celebration at all, it was more like a show, I mean it literally had a runway. The ceremony was short, they fed us and that was the end, time to go home. It felt incomplete and impersonal. I think the impersonal aspect of it bothered me the most. It just felt rushed as if they needed to get down to business so the next wedding could take place, like we were in a wedding factory. I don't know what a traditional Korean wedding looks like or looked like in the past. I know that traditionally they wear the hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, as you see the mothers in, but other that I am in the dark. It was a fun event, and to be fair by the end of it I was exhausted, even without a party or dancing, so I was even a little happy to be going home.
I am not sure how Jessica and her husband met, but according to wikipedia, many marriages are still arranged by parents or match makers. I have a feeling this particular union was what is refered to as a 'love' match as they were together 7 years before tying the knot. One reason, at least that I have infered for putting off marriage here in Korea, is the amount of responsibilty, mostly on the wife, that comes with marriage. Your husbands family becomes your family in the sense that you are responsible for the cooking and events that the family celebrates. A co-worker once told me that when she worked in the country one of her Korean co-workers said that she dreaded the weekends because of the amount of work they involved almost every weekend to entertain her in-laws.

Arranged marriage

Arranged marriage is popular in South Korea. Koreans usually refer to this type of marriage as Seon (선). Generally, parents arrange a meeting. The reason why this type of marriage is prevalent in Korea is that marriage in Korea is not just a matter of a bride and groom but a merging of two families. Because the potential spouses are pre-screened by the family, there is much less of a chance of family opposition to the marriage. It is extremely rare that a single Seon leads to a marriage; many succeed in finding a suitable spouse only after dozens of Seon meetings with different individuals. Following the initial meeting, the couple typically date for several months to a year before the actual marriage. The distinction between an arranged marriage and a "love" marriage is therefore often blurred, although in an arranged marriage the families tend to be more closely involved throughout.


Matchmakers are common in South Korea. Families present their son or daughter to a matchmaker, or a single man or woman arranges a meeting with a matchmaker, to analyze their resume and family history for the purpose of finding a marriage partner who is compatible in social status and earning potential. Koreans keep precise lineage records, and these are listed on the matchmaking resume. Today, almost all single people meet their matched partner prior to the marriage and have more say about the match than was previously allowed. Matchmakers earn a fee for their services.

A Korean friend of mine mentioned once to me that it is still common practice to consult a fortune teller to help parents decide on important events in their childrens life such as marriage. According to this article, parents, armed with their child and the prospective spouse’s birth information (date, time, place, etc) will ask if the couple are a compatible match and if the union will be a happy fruitful one. Marriage plans, even today, may be cancelled if the reading is unfavourable.

Sometimes I think that parents in Korea are way TOO involved and controling of their childrens lives. Thank you parents for allowing me to make my own choices. I feel oh so much more appreciative now.
(me and some of my fav Korean ladies)

Hopefully I will get attend another Korean wedding in the future to compare the differences.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What do you do with pieces of a broken heart

A wonderful friend of mine sent me this little video and I thought it was great. I don't really have a broken heart as I am still fully in love with my husband, and as each day passes find my love continuously growing, not just from the distance but also from his absolute and unwavering positiveness in this dreadful situation. However my heart is hurting from being so far apart from my other half so the song is still relevant and oh so lovely.

p.s. I really want to find myself a Chinese bird that can play the guitar too!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Baseball- the favorite Korean pastime

We went to a baseball game a couple of weekends ago. I should start out by saying that my liking for baseball is minuscule, minute even. In fact, if we want to get right down to the facts, I don't like baseball. It's boring, no it's beyond boring, it's mind-numbing. It's like putting one's brain in a freezer and probably causes just as many brain cells to die slow painful deaths from boredom. The only other game I attended previous to this one was a minor league game in San Antonio with a couple of friends and we ended up sitting in the grass with our backs to the game eating pretzels and nachos rather than torturing ourselves by actually watching the incredibly tedious game. But, despite these facts, I decided with my own free will, to go, mostly because I had nothing better to do, but also because I wanted to see what a baseball game in Korea might look like. As it turns out, it is pretty similar to that of an American game. In fact this game, had a huge crowd, much larger than the only other game, which to be fair was minor league while this one was their pro-team, I had been to back home. The game was held in the Olympic stadium in Seoul and although it wasn't completely full, it was close enough to impress the likings of lil ol' me.

- the cheerleaders were first in pink hello kitty outfits and then changed into clubing attire later on in the game.
- snacks included dried squid, tofu, ramen, and some other strange treats. NO HOTDOGS!!
-we found no water within the stadium to drink or buy
-a guy in front of us watched another baseball game on his phone while watching the live baseball game.
-No American anthem.
- Adjumas (old ladies) sold the concessions.


Eating squid

- Huge, lively crowd that went crazy!
-they had many similiar cheers, except that the words were in Korean.
- Their noise makers (the large red balloon things that when banged together make a large "Bong" noise) were in English, not Korean and read, "The Pride of Seoul"
- As far as I could tell the rules were the same- but honestly you might as well be consulting a donkey.
- Beer was a huge seller- but rather than being sold for $8 as at home it was $3.
- it was still boring... even in Korea.
- they had funny mascots that danced the Margerena.
Before, in their Hello Kitty uniforms
After, in their clubbing outfits

Despite that the game was boring, I had fun. Plus, the forecast predicted rain all day long so I packed my raincoat and it didn't rain a drop! Major advantage considering the last game we went to was a soccer game in which we stood in the rain the entire time! Way better dry than wet!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Reading troubles

I love to read. I love to read so much so that I willingly admit to the nickname "bookworm." There is just something about curling up with a good book. You can enter into a world all on your own, using your own imagination to guide you. Growing up my favorite books were R.L. Stein thrillers and anything to do with the paranormal. I loved the thrill and the spookiness that only a mystery can provide. I then moved to mystery novels, my mother's book of choice. She would read a mystery and then hand it off to me. It got to the point where I never expected any other type of genre from her.

She once handed me a book called "The India Fan" by Victoria Holts. A few days later she asked how I was enjoying it. I explained that it was good however, the murder was taking a while, as I was 100 pages into it and no one had died yet. Come to find out, it wasn't a murder mystery which is why no murder had taken place. We couldn't stop laughing about that for days.

I graduated from murder mysteries in high school, when my book of choice centered around classics like "Gone with the Wind," "Jane Eyre" and "Pride and Prejudice." I found these types of books more rewarding than the easily predictable, choreographed murder mysteries I had grown up on.

Since arriving in South Korea, I have read around 13 books, however recently I have found I've lost my reading zone. The desire to pick up a book as escaped me. This might be a great title for a book "The Mystery of the Fallen Avid Reader," except that the mystery isn't that difficult to solve making the book a bit too short for my liking. Directly after I had plowed through some really wonderful books, I decided to pick up a classic I had been wanting to read for a while, "Catch 22." I didn't know much about the book except that it was a MUST read as it was a classic. However I hated it, ok that might be too strong of a word, strongly disliked it. And I can't say that about many books. There are few books that I refuse to finish, but "Catch 22" is one of them. The book is about the absurdity of war, but every character is insane in the book and no one makes any sense intentionally. I couldn't follow what was going on and 70 pages in I threw the book down in disgust. The next book I picked up was "Beloved" by Toni Morrison becuase it was in our community bookshelf and had raving reviews. However, I found the writing style bizarre. Let me clarify, I like interesting writing and I love metaphorical writing, but this book reminded me of reading Faulkner. WHAT IS GOING ON? Something about a baby haunting a house and a possessed wedding dress, and a tree growing out of scars from the ladies back. WHAT?? And that was it, two books in a row that I couldn't finish and I didn't pick up another book for a month. Has this ever happened to you? I know I can't be the only one. What books have you not been able to finish?

Recently however, I made a decision to climb out of my reading slump by picking up an easy, fun, pink, chick book that a friend lent me called "Can you keep a secret?" by Sophi Kinsella. It's kind of like reading a bad chick flick. Seriously, I don't think I have ever read a chick flick book quite as bad and as corny as this one, but it's entertaining and most importantly it got me back into the zone so I plan to finish it just because I need to finish something I start even if it is turning my mind to mush.

So that's the end of my tradgic reading troubles, two books I couldn't finish and the unlikely book hero that saved the day!

(If you ever want to keep up with what I am reading, you can click down below on my Shelfari book shelf. It is this great website that allows you to share which books you are reading or have read with friends and family. The thing I love about it is that I can keep track of what books I have read and what books I want to read in the future. If you love reading as much as I do, or even just a little, you can check it out and select me as your friend. )

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The importance of sleep

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I love my sleep. Let me emphasize this point, I LOVE SLEEP partially because without it I am far from pleasant, probably on par with Godzilla! People who don't need very much sleep boggle my mind, and I might argue that they just aren't part of the true human race. Personally, I am similar to a lion in that I would prefer to sleep most of the day only waking for important events such as eating, grooming and relaxing. Lions sleep up to 20 hours a day and that sounds just about purrrfect, doesn't it. Ok so I don't think I could actually sleep that long as my body prefers 8 to 9 1/2 hours a sleep per night, but doesn't the lion's life have an appealing ring to it besides the hunting gazelles and eating them raw part? I chose to write about the topic of sleep however because of a discussion, a rather impassioned discussion, maybe a little too impassioned on my part about the importance of sleep. One of the teachers mentioned to me the other day that one of her students wasn't very excitable and she asked her what was wrong. The student replied that she didn't get any sleep. She had gone to school all day, then to her hagwon (private English school), didn't arrive home until 1 am and then had homework until 4 am in the morning before having to get up in the morning only to repeat the whole process all over again. I was horrified, absolutely dumb-struck at the absurdity of a sixth grade girl getting such few hours of sleep in order to remain competitive in Korea. At 12 years old, I was in bed by 10 pm if not earlier and still struggled to get up in the morning for school. But one of the things that alarmed me the most was how unhealthy it was for a young adolescent girl to be getting so little sleep. Inadequate sleep is correlated with many problems such as weight gain, depression, mood, safety, inefficiencies in academics that we often attribute to other areas in our lives.
Harmful to Growth

A study by researches at the University of Philadelphia has revealed that even children are suffering from lack of sleep and this may be harming their growth. The researchers at the University compared the sleep patterns in young children from Caucasian and Asian countries. Dr Jodi Mindell of St Josephs University in Philadelphia revealed that children from United States went to bed by 8.52 pm, while children in Asian countries were being sent to bed by 10 pm or later.
Children from India get 8 hours of sleep every night, while children from New Zealand slept for 10.5 hours a night. Dr. Mindell revealed that lesser duration of sleep hurts the growth of kids. Inadequate sleep affects the carbohydrate metabolism in children and caused impaired glucose tolerance. This impaired tolerance in turn affects the secretion of hormones that regulates fat storage. These developments will ultimately result in kids gaining weight. Lack of sleep will also mean less hormone secretion that can stunt growth. This is owing to the fact, that the growth hormone which is released by the pituitary gland is secreted during sleep. The study was presented on June 11 at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Baltimore called Sleep 2008.

Sleepy teens have more car accidents, are more likely to be obese, and are more likely to be depressed or anxious than kids who get enough sleep. Plus, sleep is physically restorative, so teens that don’t get enough impact their growth, hormones and metabolism.

Harmful to Academic performance
A new study has shown that getting more high-quality sleep positively impacts academic performance, especially in maths. The study's authors say that the findings provide overwhelming evidence of the importance of sleep during a period of development that is critical in adolescents, and highlight the importance of the development of sleep intervention programs for students in order to improve existing problems with sleep and daily functioning. (ANI)

In the March/April issue of Child Development, it was reported that one extra hour of sleep significantly improved school performance. Children with an added hour of sleep significantly improved their performance on tests assessing attention span and memory; children who lost an hour of sleep performed significantly poorer than they had before they were sleep-deprived.
Depression and Suicide

The findings are the first to examine bedtimes' effects on kids' mental health — and the results are noteworthy. Middle- and high-schoolers whose parents don't require them to be in bed before midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens whose parents require a 10 p.m. or earlier bedtime. And teens who are allowed to stay up late are 30% more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in the past year.

"We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time," he says, "but we pay for it in many different ways."

Teenagers, sleep problems and drugs

According to a long-term study published in the 2004 April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, young teenagers whose preschool sleep habits were poor were more than twice as likely to use drugs, tobacco or alcohol. This finding was made by the University of Michigan Health System as part of a family health study that followed 257 boys and their parents for 10 years. The study found a significant connection between sleep problems in children and later drug use, even when other issues such as depression, aggression, attention problems and parental alcoholism were taken into account. Long-term data on girls isn't available yet. The researchers suggest that early sleep problems may be a "marker" for predicting later risk of early adolescent substance abuse—and that there may be a common biological factor underlying both traits. Although the relationship between sleep problems and the abuse of alcohol in adults is well known, this is the first study to look at the issue in children.

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.

One teacher begged the question of whether all of this stress and excess studying was actually bringing Korea the results it desired. I don't know the answer and I would love to hear anyone else's opinion on the matter. Another teacher brought up the point that maybe the importance of sleep differs culturally and argued that possibly Korean children didn't actually need as much sleep as other children in other countries, as they have grown up in different environments. Most research I had read in the past had been conducted in the U.S.A as far as I knew so I couldn't dispute the validity of her argument. And to be honest, I still have yet to find any definitive answers that agree or disagree with this possible argument, besides that individuals can differ on the amount of sleep they need, but research across cultures seem to agree on the importance of sleep.
Below is a snippet of an article that comes from the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics which seems to suggest that sleep issues are not individual to one country or even one continent but runs rampant across the globe. As you can see I searched for sleep and differences in cultures and it helpfully highlighted my keywords within the article which did not disappear when I copied and pasted this section into the blog.
Many types of pediatric sleep problems are common to both Western and Eastern cultures. These problems include bedtime resistance, night wakings, inadequate sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Although prevalence rates may vary and the etiologic and contributing factors may differ somewhat across cultures, the similarities are often more striking than the differences. In particular, specific sleep issues that were perceived as being universally present across cultures included insufficient sleep in both school-aged children and adolescents, the influence of television and other electronic media on sleep behavior, the impact of academic demands and school schedules, and the integration of sleep practices with family lifestyles. The heavy emphasis on academic achievement in many cultures and intense competition for school placements and jobs was a commonly cited reason for insufficient sleep at many levels, which may imply some degree of "homogenization" across cultures, especially in urban areas (which tend to look quite different from the more rural and thus less "Westernized" areas in terms of sleep problems). There is universal agreement that sleep problems impact on children's health, learning and school performance, and quality of life, as well as on the family. In addition, there is increasing recognition that inadequate sleep may coexist with other unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco and alcohol use. The level of awareness of both practitioners and parents of the interaction between poor sleep and poor functioning/poor health also varies widely. There was a general acknowledgment among the participants that sleep problems are fundamentally a public health issue and need to be addressed as such.

So there is my speal. I may have gotten a little overzealous in my research or with sharing my impassioned zeal with you. I apologize if I have gone a little overboard and you feel that you are drowning in statistics. I have always loved my sleep and I love that I am justified in my attempts at getting an adequate amount of beauty sleep. Sleep is not for the weak, but for the strong!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My day so far

(painting by Caroline Wang)

What do I have to show for myself? Nada! zilch!

What have I done today? Absolutely nothing!

What have I done so far on my day off... here is the list of events so that you can grasp the severity of the word "nada"

12:01 am (before going to bed since it is 10 am at home Sunday)- Called my dad because I thought it was Father's day. Turns out I was wrong- that doesn't happen very often :) But as he didn't answer, I didn't make too much of a donkey out of myself by saying "happy father's day" on the wrong Sunday. But hey, I am out of the country, I have more of an excuse as they don't have Father's day here.

Night- Dreaming about escaping from zombies. Maybe that is a sign I watch too many zombie movies.

10:00 am- wake up with good intentions. I put on work out clothes, ate an energy bar, told Kyle I was going to call him later when I had finished with my run. Let my food settle while checking my email.

10:15- stomach hurts a tad- that run is going to have to wait

10:20- now it hurts worse. I know, I will lay back down for a short time and then go for my run.

10:40- put my sleep mask on, sleep is impossible with all of that sunlight! I know I was just going to lay down and not actually sleep, but sometimes your body just says "go to sleep" and you have to listen. Run? What run?

11:30- oops, time for lunch. I guess I will have to wait even longer for that run. I will just wear my stinky work out clothes all day for motivation until I go for the run.

12:00- Wow! Lunch was unappetizing. I basically just ate two fried eggs and rice. I really want to eat some chocolate now, but I have nothing to reward myself for yet. Now I really have to go for that run so I can eat chocolate!

12:30- chat with Kyle over skype. "How did your run go honey?" "what run?" Ha!

1:00 -thinking about what to blog about. I could blog about the baseball game we went to yesterday, but that would take too much energy and creative juices. I could write about how I made blackened banana bread in our funky extremely frustrating oven microwave. I would rather just write about how I can't get my lazy butt out of my bed to do anything productive.

Plans for the remainder of the day:

Obviously go for a run....
eat chocolate after run
possibly clean my room
write people emails
watch a movie!

Yeps sounds fantastic!
(Painting by Adam Rote)

- I went for the run around 8:30 at night after spending nearly the entire day doing nothing
- directly following the run ate cheese and crackers while sipping on wine on the balcony (with a piece of chocolate)
-emailed some but not all (sorry grandmother, I will email you soon!)
- did NOT clean my room :(

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Crazy

A few posts back, I wrote about the ENORMOUS suicide rate here in South Korea. One of the factors that contributes to the suicide rate, that I chose not to address at the time to keep the post from getting out of control, is the stigma with mental illness in Asia. In our classes because we are silly with our students, we often will jokingly call students "crazy." It is a word that all of the children know, even if they can't answer the question, "how old are you?" they probably understand the word "crazy." It is a word that we use loosely to describe many different behaviors, but never in a derogatory or purposefully hurtful way. However, a couple of months ago, we were asked to refrain from using the word to refer to the children as it is coupled with mental illness, which is seen as unacceptable in their culture. In my mind, probably because I come from a Western culture the words "crazy" and "mental illness" are not compartmentalized together. I hadn't even thought of the two words going hand in hand, but in Korea, they do and they try with all their might to hide any disabilities they might suffer from. The family is seen as at fault for having passed down faulty genes if there are any mental disabilities.

The U.S. Surgeon General in 1999 said, "Powerful and pervasive, stigma prevents people from acknowledging their own mental health problems, much less disclosing them to others.'' In Korea, most people with a mental illness are reluctant to talk about it due to the stigma associated with it. The afflicted person feels a sense of isolation as they maintain a facade of happiness in their daily interactions.

Seeking help outside the family, Kim said, "lets people know there is a defect in the gene," which could jeopardize the marriage prospects of siblings and other relatives. That belief, he said, was especially strong in Korea, where matchmakers were widely used.

"I've worked with families where the parents encouraged marriage almost as a cure for mental illness," said San Francisco's Lu.

(The Washington Post)

"Asians don't view it as a sickness or an illness, but as a family curse," said Esther Chung, a minister and part-time counselor at the Korean Family Counseling and Research Center in Vienna. "They try to take care of it themselves." (The Korea Times)

I mention this now, not because I have dealt with mental illness recently, but children with issues that go undiagnosed or unrecognized. And it isn't just mental illness that have stigmas; flaws, any flaws have stigmas. I understand this, I honestly do. I have flaws. You have flaws, yes you, my pretty little reader you. But it isn't something most of us flaunt. Most of my flaws I try to sweep under the blanket. I feel that I am a pretty honest person and I will confront my flaws and willingly admit to them, but they aren't something of which I am proud. I understand this feeling of wanting to hide issues from the rest of the world when often what we see is a facade of a perfectly happy family making us feel isolated in our own imperfections. We know that others have problems, but at least for me, it doesn't keep me from feeling at least a little bit of jealousy.

So when I talk about issues and flaws, I don't mean to say that they must be laid out for any and all to view and trample, but they must not be hidden away in shame. When these issues effect others in a negative way, they need to be addressed. We have two rival schools this week, and this week especially the children are violent. Just today, I had a boy punch another boy in the face. He looked angry as he was throwing his fist into the other boy's eye and for a few seconds following the punch, but as it was his friend, his face changed to from anger to that of regret and he didn't leave the other boy's side for the next hour after apologizing multiple times. I sent them to the front desk to work it out as it is difficult enough to speak another language but to do it when emotionally charged is nearly impossible.

Another girl in our class was listed on the "special needs list." When we first started receiving the special needs list, I was a bit confused because it would list things like; annoys other children, is violent, father is a gangster (seriously true), has the measles, has tonsillitis. I was expecting things like; has a learning disability, has difficulty concentrating in class etc. I have never once seen "has a learning disability" when it is obvious that some of these children do. This sweet little girl in our class is listed as "doesn't get along with friends," which equals "has no friends as has no social skills." And she is often spaced out, staring out into nothing. The kids tease her, but she has so far showed no signs of reactionary emotion. And she never makes any attempts to interact. She is such a sweet little girl and all I want to do is go up and give her a great big bear hug, but that wont solve her issues, and she may not even like being hugged. There is something wrong with her, that much is obvious, but I don't know if the cause is being treated or addressed as she is only my student for a week and I don't know her life history.

One week we had a girl who was obviously mentally disabled. She couldn't answer questions in English and I don't know how much Korean she spoke. She would make noises and throw her hands around. The rest of the school just ignored her and went on with their merry making except for one girl who seemed to be her friend and care-taker. After having these two girls in my class, I had many issues with this scenario. A) what was this girl doing at SNET in the first place when she obviously wouldn't be able to learn in this type of fast paced evironment. Why did her parents send her? B) Why was she sent without a proper care-giver? If in fact her parents or the school thought she would benefit or enjoy SNET, why did they send her without any helpers, when she wasn't able to cope on her own? C) Why was it allowed that another little girl was to take the position of care-taker. I understand that they were friends, probably so because the girl taking care of the mentally challeged girl, covering her mouth when she yelled out in class, keeping her from swinging her arms about, guiding her to the next class, also seemed to be missing some marbles, and yet they let the responsibilty fall on this little girl's shoulders. She wasn't able to participate in the games because she had to watch over her friend. I don't imagine and I would hope that in the USA this situation would not have been acceptable nor allowed.

It's an interesting world over here. Different than any other I have experienced. I am always learning, but sometimes it feels as if I am wandering around blind-folded through a maze. Or maybe I am the crazy one!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

sleep walking dog

Kyle, don't laugh too hard when you watch this! So hilarious! Enjoy.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The bird that wont stop squawking

I concede I may not be the most patient person in the world. Some individuals may even choose not to use the words patient and Vanessa together in the same sentence fearing that a confusion of a tight-bonded relationship might be misconstrued. I am painfully aware of my lack of patience, but I would like to make the case for another quality which I DO posses which I see as equally beneficial; tolerance. I may not have an abundance of patience but I am tolerant, laid back even. Don't get me wrong, I will get angry, but in general, I let most things that I find irritating slide like melting butter down my back. An unlucky few people have seen my claws unleashed, and to those I apologize, but those few times are greatly out-numbered by the many incidents that could have been disastrous situations.

I mention this now, because I have recently encountered an arch-nemesis and my tolerance which is normally high as I mentioned above has been depleted. This arch-nemesis has come in a wickedly clever disguise for he is part of nature, something for which I have a deep love. He is a bird, but don't be deceived by the images that flood your mind when you think of little adorable love birds, this monstrosity which happens to also have wings is the most annoying bird to grace this planet. Normally I love the sounds of birds chirping, their calls are soothing and musical, but my bird, my villain's call is a far cry from soothing, rather his call is grating, like metal against metal or nails on a chalkboard. The noise he makes reminds me of a broken wheel on a cart such as you would find in the grocery store, high pitched and repetitive. It is an agonizing sound which sends shivers down your back. It is right at that level in the sound spectrum that is close to unbearable and feels as if someone is repeatedly jabbing my eardrum with a searing red-hot poker. It is something that you might try to ignore in the beginning, but as you continue to push the cart and hear that irritating, ear-numbing noise over and over and over again, you realize that the sound is slowly sending you over the brink of insanity. At least with a push cart, you can choose to switch carts once the noise gets to be too much for one person's ear to handle, but he lives outside my room, he has invaded my personal space. I have dreams, nay fantasies of loading a shotgun and shooting him from his perch. I have never even seen with my eyes my tormentor but I imagine that he is an ugly, oily rodent with wings and blood red, squinty and harassing eyes. I know what your thinking. You think that I am displacing my anger of our (kyle's and mine) tiring and frustrating situation on a poor innocent bird. And that could possibly be true, but if you woke up to this bird's high pitched screeching at 6 am in the morning, only to hear it again at lunch time every day, you might go a little bonkers and have violent, unwarranted fantasies as well.
I wish I could tell you exactly what kind of bird he is so that you might give me suggestions as to how to be rid of him without a violent crime, but I have never seen the pest, only heard him. However, any suggestions would be appreciated.

Below is my attempt at trying to record his screeching. There are two things to keep in mind, a) excuse my face, it looks awful as I had just broken out, b) the noise is not as loud in the recording as it is in real life.