Asia, Missions, Travel

Moving On…

Airplane bathrooms baffle me. You get one square foot of space, but they include a full length mirror. Why thank you, I did need to see a full view of myself standing three inches away. Yep, just as I suspected, travel worn and weary, that was just the look I was going for! I cause scenes in airports. I liken it to having a toddler at the DMV. All my normal social standards just go out the window. I try, I really do. I always go in thinking I’ll try to be normal this time. But, it never works. I stand in line, everything is going well, then our baggage is too heavy, hidden fees ensue and all the sudden, I’m sitting on the floor, shuffling dirty clothes from one bag to another, trying to balance weights among bags, muttering angrily to myself, with about a hundred sets of Asian eyes all on me. And, after that, it’s all over. I guess I figure once I’ve literally aired my dirty laundry to everyone around me, there’s no turning back and I can throw whatever kind of temper tantrum I need to at that point.

4 of our 8 bags

4 of our 8 bags

My frustration gets me nowhere though, and after an hour at the check-in desk and being ushered into a back room to dig through my checked bag to show them my hairspray (for reasons that didn’t translate), I still find myself running through the airport, with a now 25 lb bag on my back and dragging a 35 lb bag behind me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an elephant run, but I have and I know they look more graceful than I did. We made it onto the flight though and God shined a little light down on me in my distress: the seat next to me is open, allowing for some much needed room to breathe. Next stop: Cambodia!

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Asia, Food, Travel

No Soup For You

Finding a post office around here was a little bit difficult. Fortunately, not only did we find a post office, we found the post office. As in, the central headquarters of the post office. Which was huge. And, it just so happened that we found it in the middle of a protest. So, I crossed the police lines to try to find out what was going on (and where I could buy a stamp) I figured it wasn’t too dangerous because they were all eating soup. I was actually just trying to find out how I could obtain a red vest so that I could get in the soup line too. But, then, I figured I probably couldn’t pass for a protester. So, no soup for me.

Soup Time Selfie

Soup Time Selfie

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I’ve basically covered the scale on Korean dining. I’ve done street food, home-cooked, traditional, and fine dining. As you can probably tell, fine dining is not my usual fare. I guess if I had to describe my dining style, “hole in the wall” would probably be the best phrase. Give me a grungy taco shop where I have to order in Spanglish and I’ll be a happy camper. (Have I mentioned that I haven’t had Mexican food for 7 days now? This may be a personal record for me.) However, fine dining experiences are fine.(I can never pass up an opportunity for a pun!)

Let me go ahead and explain what a fine dining experience entails in Korea. They sit you down at a table that is full (as in 20 or more dishes) of food that ranges from recognizable to “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.” You begin eating, mostly picking up bites of things with your chopsticks from all the different dishes. Then, they begin coming in with more dishes, replacing the ones on your table with new things and continue this parade of food for an hour or so.

Part of our crowded table

Part of our crowded table

They say there’s a first time for everything, so I’ll detail a few of my firsts.

Mugwort pancakes: I thought the green ones were seaweed, but I was wrong. I actually really liked these (plus mugwort has great health benefits) and Jake graciously gave me his portion.

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Kimchi, corn, and mugwort pancakes

Lotus root: I saw the gray disks presented and they sat on the table for the entire meal untouched. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked what they were (knowing that if I asked, I was going to be obligated to try them.) I was told they were lotus root, and so I picked one up, prepared for it to be squishy. But, again, I was wrong. They were crunchy and slightly nutty tasting. Also really good! I was told that lotus root has blood cleansing properties that make it a great food for health.

Lotus root and anchovies

Lotus root and anchovies

Jellyfish: Slimy. That’s the only word for this. It tastes exactly like what you would expect. Chewy and slimy. Appetizing, right? You kinda just chew and swallow and move on. Did I mention that refusing something is basically not an option?

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

One of the meals we attended had 35 dishes, so as you can imagine, there was much much more. However, I think I hit the high points with these three.

Pair of Choux

Pair of Choux

Oh, and we finally did find our shoes at Dunkin Donuts, what luck!

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Asia, Religion, Travel

Salt

Misunderstandings are always a little funny. The father of my friend was trying to tell us about a pastry we should try and Jake thought he was telling us about shoes (to be fair, it was a French word, so it did sound a little bit like shoes). I was just trying to figure out why they would be selling shoes at a bakery.

Anyway, yesterday, we headed to our first Korean graduation. My friend, Boryung, graduated from her university and invited us to the ceremony. Here she is:

Bo's Graduation Day

Bo’s Graduation Day

While we were waiting at a subway stop, I noticed some women handing out brochures, and I brushed it off as another sale ad for one of their many malls. We were sitting on a low wall, soaking in the sunshine, and finally, one of them took notice of us. She handed me a packet and brochure and at first, I thought she was trying to sell me something. Everything was in Korean (both her spoken words and all the material she gave me) so it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. Upon looking at the packet, I realized she was witnessing to me.

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I don’t know many Korean words, but I am familiar with the words for God and Jesus, among a few others. As I studied the pictures while she talked, I understood that she was sharing the true Gospel. She knew almost no English, but she didn’t let that stop her. She was very nice and in an effort to make conversation with her, Jake asked (in Korean) what he thought was “what’s your name?” After her flustered response, he didn’t go any further. I finally showed her the cross necklace I wear, and made some motions to let her know that I was a Christian and she seemed very satisfied, said what I assume was “God Bless” and went on her way. When she left, Jake said, I don’t know why she didn’t answer when I asked her what her name was? To which I responded, you didn’t ask her what her name was, you asked her how much it costs? (Again, I don’t know much Korean, but I know that market phrase in many different languages)

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We had been to church with Boryung this past Sunday and I had talked to my grandma on the phone before we left for the service. She had asked: will you get anything out of the service since it will all be in Korean? And, to answer her question, it is a little bit difficult. I’ve been to a lot of church services in a lot of different languages and it takes some effort to engage in what is going on. However, I am a firm believer that The Lord breaks beyond the barriers of language and I was overcome at this particular church service on Sunday. As I sat there with 300+ Korean believers, I couldn’t help but think of how the Gospel had spread. Presbyterians sent many missionaries here throughout the 19th and 20th century and Christianity spread. Where would this country be without those missionaries? Look at the impact their work is still having decades later. Today, South Korea is second only to the United States in the amount of Christian missionaries that it sends out. In Matthew 5, believers are called to be the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth. Those Presbyterian missionaries took that call seriously, and because of their work, the Gospel continues to spread.

PS, did I mention that Jake was an honorary graduate, earning his degree in Foreign Studies, yesterday?

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Asia, Food, Travel

Street Food Chronicles: South Korea

Leave it to Jake to know exactly what he wants when he smells it. He asks no questions about what it is (although, since the little grandma selling it couldn’t speak English, I don’t think asking would have done us any good), just orders and eats. Our plan was to meet a friend for a traditional food market tour, but on the way, he got a little distracted.

Eat First, Ask Later

Eat First, Ask Later

Japchae Hotteok

Japchae Hotteok

We later found out it was a “pancake” made of mung bean filled with sweet potato cellophane noodles. Looks delicious, right? Jake had told me about this food market we’d be going to for awhile. To put it in US terms, imagine an outdoor buffet where you walk to each food station, sit and eat a few bites, then move on to the next. Except in the US, you probably wouldn’t be okay with eating your food with this sitting in front of you…

Woo Pig Sooie?

Woo Pig Sooie?

Pig Feet and Lungs

Pig Feet and Lungs

I was told by my friend and gracious tour guide, Hyoseung, that every stall has a pig’s head to bring good luck. And, it was true, I saw this at nearly every food stall, along with the pigs feet and ears and lungs piled up on top. My thought was, does it bring good luck if it scares away customers? But, then, I happily sat and ate with it staring me down, so I guess I wasn’t too deterred. Hyo, first, walked us through the market, imparting knowledge of different dishes to us, allowing us to see the full range of our selections. I had decided that the “sausages” I was seeing at many of the stalls would be on my Do Not Try list. So, when we sat down (with me coincidentally seated in front of a big pile of the steaming things) at our first booth and she ordered in Korean and was promptly presented with a plate of said sausage, I was all too excited as you can imagine.

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Upon further explanation, I discovered from Hyoseung that they were called Soondae (which can also be spelled sundae, not to be confused with the western version of a delicious ice cream dish we all know and love). They are pig intestine, stuffed with the sweet potato noodles that have been marinated and cooked in pork blood. These are also known as blood sausage.

Blood Sausage with a side of Liver

Blood Sausage with a side of Liver

The powder is mixture of salt and Korean pepper, made to dip the sausages in. You might be wondering at this point, how did you eat this? And to answer that, I got my chopsticks, picked it up, and took a big bite. It was actually really, really good (which I know you’re not believing right now). I ate more of this than I did of anything else. The liver wasn’t bad either, if liver is your thing. Does everyone have an opinion on liver or is it just me?

Anyway, moving on to our second stall, we were greeted with mandu, Jake’s favorite. Mandu are essentially steamed dumplings, stuffed with different fillings. There were piles and piles of them everywhere. The stall we chose had kimchi mandu and gogi (beef) mandu.

Mandu

Mandu

I guess one good thing about these stalls is that you are able to see your food being prepared. Although, that can also be a bad thing, depending on which way you look at it. We kept seeing these pancakes (jeon) stacked everywhere, then we finally came across someone making the batter from scratch.

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These are mung beans, being ground by this implement, falling into a bucket and being fried into savory pancakes. This was our final course of the market, the proverbial cherry on top of the sundae (or soondae, in this case)

Piles of Jeon

Piles of Jeon

The moral of the story: Don’t judge a sausage by it’s casing.

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Asia, Food, Travel

Kimchi Princess

It’s probably just me, but I think cabbage gets totally overlooked as a vegetable. It’s like that shy girl in the back of the class who you’ve never really noticed and then one day, she raises her hand and you figure out she’s pretty much a genius and it would probably be wise for you to make her your friend. That’s cabbage to me. It has been culturally adapted to just about every cuisine in the world and it tastes totally different but totally awesome everywhere.

Koreans, I think, have always seen the true potential of cabbage and have been making kimchi with it for centuries. Traditionally, kimchi has been made, then stored in big pots, buried in the ground, and allowed to ferment for a really long time. In case I’ve lost you already, kimchi is a deliciously fermented, spicy “condiment” that Koreans eat with everything. Literally, they eat it with every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Typically, kimchi is made in November and December, where the matriarchs take a whole day (sometimes more) to make their family’s supply of winter kimchi. They, then, store it in their kimchi refrigerator. Yes, they have a totally separate refrigerator, set at a very specific temperature, just for kimchi. Because, apparently, the whole “bury the pot” practice has kinda fallen to the wayside. Some families make up to 100 cabbages worth of kimchi. But, I think about 10 cabbages worth is a more normal amount, which I am told will last a family of four approximately 6 months.
The new kimchi can be eaten right away, however it grows in flavor as it ferments, so waiting is preferred. Families will have a “back stock” and will actually be eating the kimchi they made a few years ago. I guess it could be considered similar to canning, in that way.

We got the chance to experience the art of kimchi, as we had a sweet friend and her mom volunteer to teach us. As I said before, Koreans see the true potential of cabbage and I think that starts at the seed. I found the biggest cabbage I’ve ever seen and obviously had to take a picture with it. It was literally the size of a watermelon.

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Back to the lesson though. You start with raw cabbage and cut it up into pieces (I guess I should also note, we were making spring kimchi, which is made with smaller cabbage, is a faster process and eaten fresh). The next step, it was emphasized repeatedly in excited Korean, was super important. You have to kill the cabbage with salt. Killing is key here. And, apparently, the type of salt you use will change the overall flavor of your finished product. We were using solar salt (the very best choice, according to our hostess).

Solar Salted

Solar Salted

Once you salt the cabbage, it needs to sit for 2 hours for spring kimchi (12 hours for winter kimchi). In the meantime, we went to a local coffeeshop for bingsu, another Korean favorite.

Strawberry and Injeolmi Bingsu

Strawberry and Injeolmi Bingsu

When we arrived back, the cabbage was dead, rinsed, and ready to be coated. The recipe consists of many ingredients and in many different forms of measure. Let me just hit the high notes for you: baby shrimp, fish sauce, plum wine, corn syrup, Korean red pepper paste, onion or apple, and sesame oil to list a few. Then, all of this gets blended up into a thick paste and spread over the now dead cabbage.

Kimchi: The Final Stage

Kimchi: The Final Stage

Our Final Product

Our Final Product

As weird as it all sounds, it ends up being really good. And surprisingly good for you! Recent studies have shown that in the fermented kimchi, the probiotic benefits outweigh that of which you find in yogurt. So, steam some rice, get some kimchi, and chow down Korean style!

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Culture, Religion, Travel

Where Am I & How Did I Get Here?

To really answer the question that my title poses, I am currently in Seoul, South Korea and it is 5 in the morning. So, jet lag has officially kicked in. We arrived last night at 8 (after roughly 25 hours of no sleep), got a small “dinner” (my international standard fare of a yogurt cup and a string cheese, I love dairy, what can I say?), and promptly went to sleep. But, I guess that’s not really the exact point of the title.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey The Lord has taken me on. And, I think instead of a formal introduction post (I’m still assuming the three people reading this already know me, hi mom!), I’ll just try to give a little background information to maybe clear some things up. If I’m gonna go way back in the archives, I first felt a pull to missions when I was 12 and I have no idea why. It really is something that I still can’t explain, but I remember questioning God, saying how am I supposed to do anything? I’m 12. But I read a quote recently that transformation happens on the other side of surrender. And I surrendered to that, not knowing what that meant at all. Because when you’re 12, you don’t ever really know what anything means. But, I did learn one thing: missions comes in all different forms and we are all called to share the gospel in some manner so in that way, everyone is called to missions.

Back on track though: I went to college, got involved with the Association of Baptist Students there and wanted to go on a foreign mission trip. So at the ripe old age of 18, I set out with a group of people I had never met before (I met them for the first time in the airport, boarding our flight) to go on a medical mission trip. Looking back on it, I can’t really believe I did that. I mean, I’ve done some crazy things (some of those details will, I’m sure, be filled in later), but I think now that I was pretty bold. I had no idea what to expect and to be honest, it was really spiritually tolling for me. I don’t think I was fully prepared for it. It was a great experience, but it stretched me in ways that I’m not sure, at the time, I wanted to be stretched. Now, on my seventh trip, it is amazing to see where The Lord has brought me.

18 in the Dominican Republic

18 in the Dominican Republic

I’m a really detail oriented person so I am trying to stay focused on the important stuff. I love nutrition. And I love food. I love eating food, cooking food, growing food, everything about it. I switched majors a few times in college and in the process ended up taking a basic nutrition course as a requirement. I was hooked. I had no idea that they offered these classes and I promptly went and switched my major to “Food, Human Nutrition, and Hospitality”, three of my very favorite things. Namely, my area of concentration was Dietetics. I graduated in 2013, and as the date was approaching, I had no real certain idea of what I was going to do. But, The Lord is faithful in all things. An opportunity presented itself and I took on an internship with my college ministry. I worked with them in the Fall semester and I knew a trip was coming up in February to Laos and I knew I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how. The details worked out and we bought plane tickets, and scheduled to meet the group there. The medical missions group I travel with set up to have clinics in different villages there over 10 days and we traveled with the supervision of the government and local health officials to offer health care to these remote areas. The partnership in Laos dates back a few years and because of the mutual relationship, they will occasionally ask for help in accomplishing different health projects. And, it just so happened that on this trip, they expressed a need in one area in particular. Nutrition. So, after a year of praying and prepping and planning and re-planning, we are going to explore the possibilities. We’ll be having meetings with different government officials and groups to see how we can help. God lined up all the pieces, put them all together, so here I am. And here you are, joining in the journey with me. So, I guess we’ll see where this goes!

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Culture, Food, Health, Religion

What is Hidden Hunger?

I had quite a time deciding what to name the blog. I want to cover details about missions and how nutrition can (and is) tying in with that. But, I didn’t want to be too specific to that work because there will obviously be more than just that. Some of my top choices were “Princess and the Pea” (there’s a story behind that, maybe I’ll share that some day), Sticky Rice Confessional, and the one I chose, A Hidden Hunger. This has been a subject The Lord has placed on my heart for awhile now and it truly encompasses so much of the ideology I want to express. As many of you probably already know, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Arkansas in 2013. I need to do a whole post on exactly how I got to where I am today. Well, probably not precisely where I am today because I’m currently in a cramped airplane seat on a 14 hour flight to Korea. Although, it might be interesting to detail to you exactly what got me here. But, that’s for another time. Where was I again? I think I was trying to explain the idea of hidden hunger.

Anyway, the technical definition of hidden hunger is micronutrient deficiencies that are masked by a seemingly healthy individual. In a nutshell, a person can look healthy, be of a normal weight and appearance, but still have deficiencies that are not necessarily presented in their physical state. For example, I look normal (debatable to some, but you can make your jokes later), but I typically have borderline iron levels. You wouldn’t know that by looking at me. This idea of hidden hunger first presented itself to me on the mission field last year. There were people who looked healthy with underlying deficiencies that were causing different health disparities when explored on a deeper level. This was a problem. But as I began thinking and praying about this hunger, the greater issue surfaced. We see people, all over the world, going about their lives, doing their daily tasks, seemingly fine from the outsider’s perspective. However, there is a hidden hunger, one that they are constantly looking to fill, one that hasn’t been satiated. It is the hunger for a personal relationship with Jesus, the Savior and Son of God who died so that we might be set free. I’ve met people who have never even heard the name of Jesus before, yet they have this deep longing for something more. They are searching because they know that something in them needs to be filled. Like a belly rumbling, so is their soul deep within them, saying give me what I need. And what they need is the love and grace and saving power of Jesus. Until we satiate the true desire of our souls, we’ll never be complete. This is the true hidden hunger. So, this is where my journey begins.

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