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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Asia, Culture, Missions, Religion, Travel

Passport Pile Ups

There are literally 18 people on this flight. I know because I counted. This is my 4th trip (7th flight) on Lao Airlines, which I think should qualify me for Frequent Flyer status. 

Waking up from a jet lag induced sleep is probably like waking up from a coma. I wouldn’t know, but I feel like that’s maybe accurate. I slept really, really soundly and woke up in a dark, strange room by myself, wondering where I was at. I set my alarm for 9 am, to make sure I made it in time for breakfast. Which I did. A bowl of miso soup, a salad, rice, watermelon, and coffee. 

Breakfast of champions


Now that I think about it, I’ve had a salad for breakfast three mornings of the last ten mornings.. Strange. 

You always have plenty of time, until you don’t. I’m not the best at managing time, as noted in my number 1 instruction from my brother before I left: “Pay attention to the time.” 

I needed to leave the hotel in Bangkok to go back to the airport at 1:30 pm. That gave me the morning to work out, chill at the pool for a bit, then get ready to go. I made it to the airport perfectly on time, checked in with no problems, flight boarding at 3:15 pm. 


“Hope the lines aren’t long!” Famous last words. Security was fine, my bags only got searched once. Passport control: another story. I can tell something is going on as I approach the escalator to go down. Sure enough, I look down to see a sea of people. The passport control is so crowded that they won’t let anyone else go down til it clears. Looks like plenty of time just turned into running late. 


I’m at the front of the line to go down, so when I get on the floor, I go as far forward as I can and start trying to figure out how I can make my way ahead faster. This is where it comes in handy to be blonde. One older Chinese guy sees me looking a little concerned and yells at his friends to let me ahead. I take the small pass gladly and focus only on what’s in front of me. Which happens to be 300 other Asian tourists. 

I hate it when people start yelling in a crowd. But, add in the element of not being able to understand what is being yelled and it’s slightly terrifying. I’m in the middle of trying to elbow two Asian women out of the way because I was in line in front of them and they knew it, when I hear the yelling from behind. 


As I turn in the direction of the commotion, I quickly realize the escalator is going and people are still coming down, but we’ve run out of floor space. There’s a pile up at the bottom of the escalator, literally. People are just running into other people and falling down on top of each other. The ones coming down realize too late what’s going on and can’t turn around. The people on the floor have no where else to go. 

One American guy decides to bail off the side of the escalator as he gets closer to the bottom, which sends people into a panic, trying to get the escalator shut off. Which causes all the more yelling in about 5 different languages.

Finally, someone shuts down the whole operation, as people are trying to shove forward to make more room. My flight is boarding in 30 minutes and the line is still forever long. Causing me to panic. Because there is one Lao Airline flight per day. And I don’t wanna be stuck in Thailand. 

Somehow, I successfully manage to keep the Asian ladies from cutting in front of me, get my passport stamped and make it to the gate with a little time to spare. Check ya later, Bangkok! 

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Asia, Food, Missions, Religion, Travel

Time Lapse

I woke up at 5 this morning. There is something about waking up and realizing it will be around 30 hours until you see another bed that makes you kinda not wanna get up. 

Since I get asked quite a bit what it’s like to travel so far, I was going to detail everything from when I woke up to when I went back to bed. But, 30 hours is a lot to cover and I really don’t think anyone cares that much. So, I’ll (try to) condense it for you. Woke up at 5, picked all the raisins out of my bowl of Raisin Bran because I don’t like them that much, got to the airport, screaming baby, rain delay, gate change, fly to Chicago, 30 minutes late, rush to gate, early, grilled chicken salad 10:41 am, still early, last minute phone calls and boarding. 

Brunch


*note that all the time stamps are based on home time, since I don’t really know how to convert it in an understandable way across so many time zones.

11:47 am: got an aisle seat and both seats next to me are still open, trying not to glare at every passenger who walks by, silently deterring them from taking the seats I could sleep in. 

11:49 am: hopes dashed, other aisle seat taken, but middle is open, so it could be worse. 

12:11 pm: take off, settled in for the next 12 hours and 2 minutes

12:34 pm: scan movie selection, choose The Monuments Men

1:22 pm: decide to paint my nails, finish one hand and part of the other before a flight attendant tells me that nail polish is not allowed because of the fumes.. Mentally plan to finish when she’s not looking, nickname her Nailpolish Nazi. 

1:57 pm: receive lunch, which consists of chicken teriyaki, rice, vegetables, salad and a roll. Eat the dry lettuce and the roll (not pictured for obvious reasons) The rest looks less than appetizing. 


2:38 pm: start second movie (Spotlight), Nailpolish Nazi brings me some green tea gelato. I take it as a peace offering and decide maybe she’s not that bad. 


I get a little lost between 3 and 11 pm.. I think I alternate between movies, reading, and lightly dozing.

11:29 pm: “breakfast” meal, which I only get for the roll. My options are eggs or teryaki noodles. Also, note that the smell of this food is awful and want to tell Nailpolish Nazi that this is what shouldn’t be allowed to be opened on a plane. 

12:13 am: flight lands, it was right at about 12 hours total.

Tokyo airport: (12:45 am – 2:45 am) spend a lot of time waiting in lines, boarding pass change, takes forever. Long walk, where is everyone?, am I going the right way? 


Bright side: upgraded to EconomyPlus seating (whatever that means) for free. Lay down on a bench at my boarding gate and contemplate going to sleep. 

2:55 am: complete exhaustion setting in, board for Bangkok, another 7 hour flight.

3:03 am: realize that the EconomyPlus seating slightly reclines and I cease to care about pretty much everything else.


4:17 am: “dinner” meal, I get a “western” option and a Japanese option.. Choose western, but it looks Japanese anyway. Eat a tiny piece of spongy chocolate cake and leave the rest. Lean back and try to get some rest. 

4:25 am: can’t get comfortable, decide to watch a movie, pick “Pretty Woman” and realize I’ve never actually watched this movie before.

6:13 am: delusional, try to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, realize that I’ve officially crossed the 24 hour mark of no sleep. Feeling every minute of it. 

9:19 am: completely wake up, spent the last few hours flipping from side to side, restlessly, catching 30 minutes of sleep here and there because I’m finally so tired that I can’t physically go without sleep anymore.

9:42 am: land in Bangkok, passport control, bags, where am I?, airport shuttle.

10:48 am (10:48 pm Bangkok time): checked into my room at a hotel near the airport, 29 hours and 48 minutes since I’ve seen a bed, sleep. 

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Animals, Asia, Culture, Farm, Food, Health, Missions, Travel

Ride or Die

 I’m still trying to catch up on my posts from Vietnam.We moved around a lot from place to place while we were there, which provided lots of travel time to write. However, what I lacked was the time to actually post what I was writing. If you know me very well, though, my delay should not come as a surprise.

                                                              

I ate a cricket this morning. And it was surprisingly refreshing. Not because it tasted great or anything. But, because I wasn’t going to do it, then I decided that I could handle it. So, I did. Pushing the limits you set for yourself can be a good thing.

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My carefully selected snack

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 I also rode an elephant. It wasn’t a first or anything. But, I was in the hotel room in the middle of the afternoon and I got a phone call. I answered, of course, and the voice on the other end said: “do you want to go ride an elephant?” No hello, no this is so-and-so, just elephant ride? And what’s your natural response for a phone call like that? Sure.

                                                              

So, we went on elephant excursion number three. This one was pretty typical: elephant, basket, little boy sitting on his head while we trek around. But, the seating arrangement was different. It was a wide metal basket with a narrow bench and no harness or strap of any kind. I’ve only been in bamboo baskets, which create for a little more traction. But with the metal bench and my denim shorts, I was sliding all over the place. Combine this with the fact that we were climbing down a steep embankment and the “driver” kept hitting the elephant on the head with a metal rod: I was sure I was going to topple out of the basket any minute.

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Treacherous looking basket

 But, I survived. Upon dismounting from the basket, the animal wranglers were offering other various rides. I had never seen anyone ride an ostrich, but they had them saddled up and ready to go, so I thought I’d give it a shot. It kinda made the elephant ride feel safe.
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Taking in the view

 The “saddle” has handles on the front and the back, and you are encouraged to hold onto both. Because those things take off like they’re trying to buck you off. Me and my ostrich were pretty in sync though for the most part and it was calm. We settled into a little routine. In fact, in most of the pictures, we even had the same facial expressions.

                                                              

Until the boy with the metal rod came around again and started hitting him. Then he took off and I nearly fell off again.

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Trotting along

I’m thinking some animals just weren’t meant to ride. But, then again, there’s a first time for everything.
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Asia, Beauty, Celebration, Culture, Food, Funny, Travel

I Am Woman

It’s International Woman’s Day.

I hope everyone knows that by now. I had no idea that such a holiday existed until I was ambushed at breakfast. Out of nowhere, a Vietnamese man came up to me, handed me a flower, wished me a happy …. day. Directly behind him was a woman who was snapping pictures of us with a big camera. As usual, I had just rolled out of bed, thrown on whatever clothes were closest to me, and was looking less than picture perfect. I was also halfway into my bowl of pho when they surprised me, so it was a funny scene. After laughing at the absurdity of it all, I asked them what the cause for such a show was to which they more slowly informed me that it was International Woman’s Day. And, that my picture of receiving the flower would be on their Facebook page. I’d love to know what the caption on that reads.

I thought it was just our hotel making a big deal out of this day, but apparently, it really is a big deal. Even CNN says so. The restaurant we had dinner in had a special free dessert for every female customer.

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Grass jelly with dried longans.

Needless to say, Jake wasn’t sad he missed out on this one. I ate it and the longans were good. I tasted the jelly and it really did taste like grass. Imagine black grass jello and that would be about accurate. So, I skipped most of the jelly part.

At this dinner, we also had an appetizer that Jake thoughtfully described as “a gummy bear fish ball”. I should also probably inform you that we selected this restaurant ourselves, so there is no one to blame.

Since this is a day to celebrate, I decided to go all out and get a manicure and pedicure combo. I’m not used to getting both treatments at the same time, but since it cost about $10 for everything, I thought I should splurge. (I also feel that I should take this moment to explain that I had been wearing a sun hat prior to this and threw my hair up and that it, in fact, does not always look like such a mess. It only looks like this 36% of the time. And it is also in the 90 degree range here, so multiple excuses. Also, it’s Woman’s Day {the actual day, not the magazine that goes by the same name. Don’t get confused during my tangent}, so I probably shouldn’t even be explaining because we’re liberated and I don’t need to explain my choices, right? Is that what Woman’s Day is about? I’m literally just finding out about all of this, but if it excuses a bad hair day, all the better.)

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I didn’t plan it out very well though and got thirsty mid way through. But, both of my hands were occupied and what’s a girl to do? I must keep myself well hydrated. So, I made Jake open my water and give me a drink. Which he took a picture of. Which made me laugh. Which made me choke. But, I couldn’t appropriately cough because I had two people holding onto my hands and feet. Surprisingly with all of this jostling around and me pretending to be Cleopatra, my nails still turned out really well.

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So, here’s to all the women of the world. The young and the old. Every culture, every creed.

Whether you’re the woman selling me mangoes in the park.

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Or if you’re selling intestines at the market. And eating noodles at the same time.

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It takes guts to be you. (Sorry, I never could resist a pun.)

Celebrate today.

Because you are a female. And that is something to be celebrated.

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