Asia, Celebration, Dessert, Family, Food, Funny, Travel

Settle Down, Seoul

There’s some political unrest in Korea, in case you haven’t heard. One of my friends sent me a message the other day about how they were glad we weren’t in South Korea right now, but I had just been wishing I were there. 

His message reminded me of this post I’d written when I was there last. Same country, slightly different political outburst, but here it is: 

I accidentally got caught up in a political rally today. 

This happened in Thailand a few years ago, when I dared Jake to go wave the huge Thai flag. 

Jake at the Shutdown Bangkok rally

I don’t know if political rallies can be your thing, but I really kinda like them. Such a sense of national pride, even if it isn’t my own nation. 

A couple of my friends are a news anchor and a journalist for a newspaper here in Seoul, so both of them have been catching me up on the political climate. 

Hyoseung, the news anchor

This rally has nothing to do with North Korea, so no need for immediate concern. In case you don’t keep up on South Korean politics like I do, their president Park Geun-hye has recently been impeached. It’s a long story, but some people have accused her of being involved with a cult and all sorts of other things. She had a 5% approval rating and was finally impeached a few weeks ago. 

As I am told by my friends, even though she’s been impeached, they are still calling for her to resign her position. (Which if you’re reading this now, and not when I originally wrote it, you’ll know that she did resign). I’m not exactly sure why, some of the more technical political terms get lost in translation. But, you get the basic idea. People aren’t happy with her. 

We were taking a taxi back to our hotel today when we were stopped by a lot of commotion. I knew that there was going to be a candlelight vigil tonight in the city (as there has been every Saturday night since the impeachment) to peacefully protest the president. I also knew that they were expecting a million people to show up to said candlelight vigil. I, however, did not know that the million people would be marching down the sidewalk that leads to our hotel to get to the point at which the protest would take place. Which is what the taxi driver hurriedly spouted off to us in Korean as he dumped us out in the middle of the madness. 


I love the Korean people because they openly embrace Americans. So, upon seeing that we were walking with them, we were quickly given flags to carry and Korean flag pins to wear. We were asked by about 100 different people where we were from. We had our pictures taken with more random people than I could keep track of. I eventually just stood off to the side, holding my Korean flag and waiting for people to come stand by me for their picture. Someone came up to us with a video camera to ask us questions and film us as we were walking along. 


Then, someone asked us what broadcasting network we were with. Which got me to thinking: maybe I should become a journalist. I do have an affinity for crazy crowds and political unrest. 

If anyone needs some quick, unofficial coverage of a B list event, let me know. Until then, I’ll be down in Hongdae, eating these little beauties. 

Standard
Asia, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

Jet Lag Junkie

Jet lag has set in, which means I’m up at 2:48 am drinking a coffee and eating a kiwi. From 3 – 4 am, I went to the hotel gym for some yoga to start off the day, then was at breakfast, wide eyed and ready by 6. 

The unfortunate thing about being up so early is that nothing is open. So, it doesn’t really benefit you to go wander the streets. There is one place in the city that opens at dawn: the fish market. 

Early morning eel cleaning

Noryangjin Fish Market is where all the best restaurants in the city come to buy their seafood. Not surprisingly, there were no other tourists there at 7 in the morning, so we were quite the spectacle. Probably because I kept stopping to take pictures of stuff like this.

Is shark fishing even legal?

Yes, I wore white shoes this day

After our fish market tour, we made our way to a neat little shopping district. 

We ducked into a random restaurant that we walked by for lunch. It was the sort of place that requires you to take your shoes off at the door and sit on the floor to eat. 

When we were properly barefoot and seated, we realized that there was no menu in English. Our waitress also quickly realized that we didn’t speak Korean. A conundrum ensued, in which she was presumably asking us (in Korean) what we wanted to order. She was getting blank stares in return, so she did what any good waitress would do. Babbled at us in Korean, made a two sign, and just brought us something. 

Two steaming bowls of something.  

Still unsure of what we’d gotten ourselves into, I started pulling out chunks of bone and meat, hoping to identify something. If you’ll remember back with me to What Did You Say?, unidentifiable bowls of meat and vegetables don’t always work out in my favor. 

But, it tasted pretty good. Jake’s review of the stew was a little different than mine. 

I believe this is a correct direct quote:

“It doesn’t taste exactly like dirt, but just a little bit.”

Later in the day when we met up with some friends, I hesitantly asked them exactly what we’d eaten. 

It’s called Haejangguk, a spicy mixture of pork bones, vegetables, and broth. But, more commonly, it’s referred to as “Hangover Stew”. 

I’m not sure if I should be offended that she mistook my jet lagged looking face for being hungover or thankful that introduced us to the delicious Korean remedy. 

Standard
America, Asia, Culture, History, Travel

Good Question

I literally feel like I’m dusting the cobwebs off of this whole blog thing. I’ve had good intentions. I always have good intentions. It’s on my list of best qualities on my resume’. Right under “go getter” and right above “proficient with Microsoft Word”

What happened is: October. It was the busiest month our business has ever experienced. So, I sat down in my office chair, buckled in, and rode it out. 

The last time I wrote something was on October 17. A lot has happened since then. 

– The Cubs won the World Series. (I was in Chicago on the day that went down, and I’ve never seen more sports fans in my life) 

-Trump became our president-elect. (Equally crazy, I stayed up wayyyy too late watching that coverage) 

– I went to Shanghai (which I didn’t even post anything about, how’d that happen?) 

Here’s a quick pic from rush hour in Shanghai, I’ll write more about it later. Promise.

– And finally, we got some new [massive] screen printing equipment, which they sent a tech out to install. 

His name is Walt. We’ve met once before. He came in and said: do you remember me? 

Yes, I remember you, Walt. 

He’s nice and he likes my music. He’s almost done with the install and I’m currently hiding behind a stack of t-shirts, hoping he’ll quit chit chatting and leave so I can go eat dinner. That pretty much sums up how my day has been. 

Pieces of the machine we got

It seems like everyone thinks that owning a business is the ideal set up, the “American Dream”. You get to set your own hours! Mine were 7 am – 6:30 pm today, so that’s how that works, in case anyone was wondering. Not ideal. Everyone thinks you live a life on easy street, but somehow I got stuck around the corner at “this is hard and I don’t know exactly what I’m doing and it takes more time and energy and patience than I ever imagined” avenue. I’m still wandering around with my map, so I’ll let you know when I find this easy street everyone loves so much. 

I’m really not that cynical. It’s definitely got it’s own unique perks and challenges. Like conducting job interviews. Perk because you get to evaluate the people you’re going to work with. Challenge because I’ve never personally been through a job interview. 

That’s not to say that I haven’t had my share of jobs. I’ve done the standard babysitting, lawn mowing routines when I was in school. I worked at my uncle’s local drug store through high school. But, that didn’t really require a job interview. It was more that the phone was ringing while I was there and I started answering it and I knew how to do what the customer needed, so I just did it and started turning in my hours. 

I also did a typical Arkansas job for awhile: working on a chicken farm. If you ever want to know about a dirty job, go work on a chicken farm. But, farm jobs don’t usually require an interview either. 

As we were getting ready to interview a potential employee, Jake told me to prepare my questions that I wanted to ask. So, I spent some time thinking about it over a couple days, trying to figure out what I needed to know about this guy, what things would most effect the way he and I would cohesively work together. I compiled my list and Jake compiled his, so when he asked me if I knew what I wanted to ask, I was ready. 

I’ve heard interviews are stressful, but the interview day came and I wasn’t nervous at all. The poor guy we were interviewing was. I know that because he came in and told us that. We talked for a few minutes before we got down to the questioning. Then, Jake began. 

When you haven’t done something before and have no precedent for you should proceed, you just figure out your pace as you go along. So, he and I switched off on our questions. 

Jake: “what are the skills that qualify you for this job?”

-a pertinent question, pretty basic, one you’d expect

Brittney: “what is your favorite historical era?”

-also a very pertinent question. I can tell a lot about a person by their favorite historical era. If you like ancient Chinese dynasties, we probably aren’t going to get each other very well. His answer: Middle Eastern history. That’s a pass, I can be fine with that. Not the best answer he could’ve given me, but it’s okay. 

Jake : “what were your requirements at your last job?” 

-straightforward, to the point. 

Brittney: “what’s your favorite food?” 

-again, tells a lot about a person. You could pretty much give me any answer and it would probably pass. Unless it’s Pop Tarts or French fries or some other boring thing like that. He said he wasn’t picky and liked pretty much everything. He obviously doesn’t know my personal definition for a person who “isn’t picky”, but I can’t fault him for that. In my mind though, I know he’s probably more picky than I would prefer. I’ll give him a very slight pass on that one. 

Jacob: “how many hours a week do you expect to work?”

-boring, but necessary question, I guess

Brittney: “what’s your favorite genre of music?”

-he said “rock”, which was too generic for me. I listen to music most of the day and my music choices annoy most people, so that was not a pass. 

Jake: do you have references?

-basic

Brittney: what was your least favorite class in college? 

-an Ancient Greek class. Interesting, I’ll give him that. So, point from me.

Jake proceeded with a few more questions that I didn’t really care about. I had all the information I needed. 

So, there it is, ya’ll can consider those cobwebs dusted. I’ve got good intentions to post more often now, but because we know how good intentions go, we’ll just play it by ear. 

Standard
America, Asia, Food, Funny, Missions, Summer, Travel

Dear Passenger

Dear Passenger:

• to the person with their window shade up on the 7 hour flight, how do you not know that is inappropriate? Everyone else has their windows closed. The lights in the cabin are turned off. It’s nap time. 

• to the lady boarding with her family and acting like she’s settling everyone in for a week at church camp, while announcing personal family instructions loudly: I appreciate your enthusiasm, I really do. However, I don’t really need to know when everyone needs to be taking their medicine. If you do need me to help you remind certain family members of their duties throughout this flight, I will be more than happy to do that for you. Just give me a copy of your schedule and I will keep an eye on the clock. 

• to the screaming child: it’s tough, I know. I’ve been up since 3:51 am too. It’s a long day. You’re hungry, I’m hungry. We’re all cramped up on this plane together. I feel your pain. And if it were socially appropriate for me to be screaming and crying right now, I might consider it. But, it’s not really “in good taste” for me to join you. Also, thank you for the reminder that I am, in fact, still not ready to have children of my own. I knew that already, but you’re really helping to nail down that point. Thanks, kid, message received. Loud and clear. 

• to the sweet Japanese flight attendant who keeps bringing me water: thank you for recognizing the fact that I am drained and dehydrated and semi-miserable at this point. I wish you would do something about the annoying person with their window shade still up. But, you won’t because you’re too nice and too busy bringing me water. So, I’ll choose to be thankful for hydration instead. 

• to the business man, clacking away on your laptop, I am glad you are using your time productively. However, I am currently on hour 4 of the Hunger Games movie trilogy and you’re just a little distracting. I’ll let it slide, but try to keep your vigorous typing to a minimum. Please and thank you! 

• to the singles posted up by the galley, I know you’re both trying to get your game on at 30,000 feet. It’s a good time to chat because you have nothing else to do. I know that. However, I need immediate and direct access to water and coffee. Which is in the galley. So, could you move your little meet and greet to another location? 

• to the person choosing the meals to serve on these flights, can I lock you in a closed in, airtight container in the middle of the night and open a tray of lukewarm fish over rice? Can I let you experience that smell? It isn’t pleasant. Who is designing these meals?! Who thinks this is a good idea? What happened to a simple sandwich? Maybe some chips? I don’t understand. 

• to the girl who got too little sleep and is overly ready to be home, take a chill pill, It’s going to be okay. The baby will quit crying, the sun will set, the stench of the gross airplane food will fade (slightly), you will eventually pass out on your tray table from sheer exhaustion, you’ll get where you’re going. And when you do, you’ll soon be ready to go again. It’ll be okay, Brittney. Sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Standard
Asia, Cars, Culture, Food, Funny, Garden, Summer, Travel

Cabbage Cartel

My hair smells like cabbage.

Actually, everything about me smells like cabbage. 

I’ve gone from Kimchi Princess to Cabbage Patch Kid. 

So, I’ll go ahead and answer the question everyone has been asking. How exactly did I end up surrounded by cabbage on a van from Laos to Cambodia?


Well, the real answer starts back in 2013. I went on a trip to Cambodia then and saw the establishment of the first BMA church there. I became friends with the believers there and have kept up with them since. So, when I found out that we weren’t far from their border here in Laos, I asked if we could go visit.

I have crossed land borders before. We’ve driven to Canada, and that one is pretty easy. We drove from Jordan into Israel. That one was a little bit tougher because of the high security, but still okay. But, as I was told: Laos to Cambodia is a whole different story.

We were told our van would arrive at 8 am to pick us up. Joy had warned me that it would be an “interesting” experience. 8 am and we’re waiting. As I see vans pull up, I ask Joy: is that the one? To which she kept responding, that one looks pretty nice, that one is pretty new.. Which made me wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into. And what exactly our van was going to look like.

Finally, at 8:40 am, it arrived. Looking okay, not bad at all, a little dusty, but that’s to be expected around here. Then, they opened the door.


A Lao-Vietnamese family occupied the first row of seats. As the door opened, they all gave a sort of amused look like: you’re riding in here? The second row was to be occupied by Joy and I… And cabbage. 


So. Much. Cabbage.


The driver gets in the back to start re-arranging and makes just enough room for us. I look at the floor and look at Joy, trying to figure out where to step. And finally, as the driver is getting out, I realize that I’m just supposed to step on the cabbage. Because what else is there to do?


We settle in for the ride. It’s about two hours of pretty good roads to the border. Along the way, I notice, we stopped to hand off some money to a man in a uniform. I thought possibly it was some sort of toll system. So, I asked Joy why we randomly had stopped in the middle of the road. She informed me that these are passenger vans only and not allowed to haul any type of goods. But, our driver has a friend (the man in the uniform) who will look in, make sure we only have passengers (and not 700 pounds of cabbage), take some money, put it in his pocket, and let us pass on by. Seems okay to me. 

About an hour or so in, we stop for a bathroom break. Which looks like this.


We continue on our way, smelling more and more like the produce aisle as we go along. We arrive at the border, where I have to get a Cambodian visa. While I am waiting, I notice the van door has been opened and the driver is ripping into a bag of the cabbage., the one that was at Joy’s feet nearest the door. He hands off six heads of cabbage to a man on a motorbike, who stacks them all in front of him, balancing one on top of the other, and takes off. He starts passing out a few more to the men at the border, which they all happily accept. I finally get all my paperwork filled out, get stamped through, then, we hop back in the cabbage wagon and take off again. 

The roads get more treacherous to navigate as soon as we enter Cambodia. Causing a lot of bouncing around. There are no seat belts, of course, so its hard to anchor yourself to any one thing. We arrive in Stung Treng, which is our transit town where we switch vans. As we unload our stuff at the stop and say goodbye to the cabbage van, all I can think is: what will we be hauling next?

Standard
America, Asia, Beauty, Culture, Family, Health, Missions, Travel

Mother Roasting

I saw Mama Lao today. In case you missed hearing about her, you can see Be Nice. for reference. She saw me and immediately said (in Lao): my foreign daughter! I’m so glad to have you back! I’ve picked up the word for foreign: it’s pronounced like falong. So I always know when people are talking about me. Which seems to happen quite often around here.


I’m a little late on a Mother’s Day post. Things move a lot slower in Laos, so according to our standards, I’m probably right on time for Mother’s Day. Plus, they don’t really celebrate that holiday here, or atleast not at the same time as we do. 

It just so happened, though, that my Monday lesson was about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and introducing children to new foods. Did I mention that I was teaching this lesson to a room full of Lao ladies who have almost all been through this process? Did I also mention that I have never been through any of these processes? I think that should go without saying, but still. Book knowledge vs. real life experience never compares. 


And, as with everything else, they had quite a bit to teach me. Our sessions are really informal, with me introducing topics and then asking them questions about it. Then, inevitably, they’ll ask me questions about America and the way we do things. It’s a learning experience from both sides. Which I love. 

They asked me about water births. That’s something that is so foreign to them, so they wanted to know how it works, if it’s beneficial, etc. I know a little about the subject, so I was able to share with them what I knew. 

Then, they said: do you do mother roasting in America? 

That’s the literal translation of it. Mother roasting. 

I had read about it before, so I wasn’t unfamilar with the process or terminology. But, I’d read about it in the context of villagers in Cambodia. So, to be in a roomful of doctors who had experienced this surprised me.

Mother roasting starts right after child birth. They keep the new mother in a room, with coals under her bed and keep the temperature extremely hot. It’s supposed to be a cleansing process for her body. In some cases, the mother is also required to squat over hot coals as well, for cleansing purposes. And, they insist that every new mother take a scalding shower a few days after childbirth with water as hot as they can get it. 

The time for mother roasting varies from woman to woman. It’s essentially a time of confinement for the woman, where she stays in the house, alternating between time on the hot bed. Relatives will come visit and the woman does not cook at all during this time. A lot of them see it as a treat. It’s almost a welcome to motherhood. 

Most of the doctors said they had done it only for about two weeks after birth. Other mothers had their roast for 1 to even 3 months. It’s been 111 degrees here for a few days, so I can’t imagine being trapped in a hot room on top of the already unbearable heat. But, it’s a very culturally accepted and necessary practice. 

So, I’ve decided that I’ll wear the Lao skirt, I’ll eat the Lao noodles, but I don’t think mother roasting is a practice I’ll adopt. Once a falong, always a falong. 

Standard
Asia, Auto, Food, Health, Missions, Religion, Travel

Not of this World

I’ve done it, guys. I think I finally have mastered the art of riding side saddle on a motorbike. Hands politely in my lap, balancing carefully as we go around the corners. I’m officially a Southeast Asian lady. 
So far, I think I’ve had my picture taken about 73 times since I’ve been here. This morning, I saw one of the ladies in our nutrition training session trying to take a picture of me as we were preparing to begin. So, I stopped what I was doing and stood still to smile for a picture. Because, if you’re going to take my picture, I atleast want it to be a good one. Then, that opened the door for personal pictures, so some of the other women took pictures with me. 


I forget sometimes that I stand out here. I’m trying my best to blend in. I wear the Lao skirt. I sit side saddle on the back of the motorbike as we navigate the streets of the town. I know their greeting, so I greet the people that I meet in their own language. I fold my hands and bow politely when I meet someone. 

Today, one of the women brought me a Lao traditional basket of black rice (because I had asked some questions about it yesterday), so I took it for lunch. As we were walking from the hospital back to the motorbike, with my Lao skirt on, carrying my Lao basket of rice, I thought to myself, I am blending in. Adopting a few of the customs. Dressing like them. Eating like them. 


Then, I looked up, came out of my day dream, and realized that I am a blonde girl, who is about a head taller than everyone here, and people are still staring at me. Actually, they’re staring at me more than if I were dressed in my normal clothes.

Why?

Because they can see by the way I look, by the way I act, by the way I speak, that I don’t really belong here. Not that I’m not welcome here. I feel very welcomed here. But, by taking on some of their culture and adapting to some of their ways, they’re wondering even more: who is she and what is she doing here? She’s obviously different, why is she trying to be the same?

The Bible speaks about this phenomenon a little bit too. In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul urges the believers to not conform to the pattern of this world. Again, in John 18:36, Jesus reminds us that His Kingdom is not here in this world, but beyond. 

As believers, we are called to be different. The way that Christ lived, the example that He gave for us to follow, doesn’t look anything like what this world promotes. Where we want to hate, Jesus said to love. Where we want to judge, Jesus said to forgive. Where we want to fight, Jesus said to make peace. 

Like me in a Lao skirt on the back of a motorbike, true believers stand out, even in the midst of the world all around us. Why?

Because we don’t belong here.

Standard