Today’s Encouragement Came from AAA Batteries

I bought a new (to me) car a few months ago, a 2010 Chevy Spark. It’s a unique car, fit for my personality, customized in many ways. 2013-08-04 15.33.21 The interior feels like a sexy love motel, in the non sleaziest way possible. lol 2013-08-04 15.33.49 My car has a push-button start. You must have an electronic key in close proximity in order to lock / unlock and start/turn off the car. As a back up, it also has a code you can “knock” on the windshield and unlock the doors. Nice!

Well, today the battery in the electronic key apparently died. I was able to use the knock system once to get me to/from my morning classes, but this afternoon, the car decided the knock system wasn’t gonna work and triggered the alarm. The car alarm is blaring  neeenuuu neeee nuuuuu neeeenuuuuu. I had to get to class so I decided to walk across campus to get to class as that walk is long and time was short.

I make it to class and when it’s complete, walk back to my car. On my way there, I am making phone calls and trying to figure out how I will get my car to the Chevy shop (about a 35-minute drive away). I sit in my car and try to see if my electronic key does, in fact, have a battery somewhere—- Found it!  AAA

Ok, where can I find AAA batteries, within walking distance? I try (on a hunch alone) the office’s restaurant. (Yea, it’s a long shot, but whatever, can’t hurt to try, right?)

Me: Do you have batteries?
Older lady/ clerk: What? Batteries? No, we don’t sell batteries.
Me: hmmmm. ok. *Looking around* Do you know where I can find some?
Clerk: Wait, what’s this? [next to the register, there “happens to be” one pack of AAA batteries] *She has a confused look on her face.*
Me: *smiling, knowing that my needs have been answered* Uh, how much?
Clerk: I don’t know, we don’t sell batteries. How much?
Me: *shrugs*
Clerk: 1,200 won? (about $1)
Me: ok. *handing her the money*

Guess what? It worked, of course!!!

Grateful that what I need is always available to me. I simply have to remain calm, listen to my inner voice and step out in obedient faith, no matter how illogical it seems. It’s something I know in the depths of my being to be true, but I don’t always obey. Who would of thought AAA batteries would encourage me today. Thanks, God! Thanks, universe! Thanks, intuition!

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I Became a BIRD!

Ever wonder what a bird feels as it’s soaring through the air? Not a care in the world,  it just enjoying the wind in its wings. I did, well, still do actually. I do believe I came close to finding out though when I took my first plunge out of a helicopter from 10,000feet in the air. That’s right. I went skydiving! IMG_0025

I’ve been wanting to go for quite some time. In fact, my home state, Kansas, has perfect conditions for skydiving: vast open fields, flat lands, little to no wind– oh wait, not that so much. Anyway, I had thought about it when I lived in Kansas but to be honest it was a very fleeting thought as my fears and nay sayers dissuaded me to let it go beyond that- a fleeting thought.

While living in Korea, I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of very elite, interesting people whose jobs would blow your mind. Obviously that’s not the focus of this particular blog, but a dozen or so of those people happen to be Skydiving Instructors.  2013-09-18 13.02.16I have been trying to get a couple of them, whom I am close with, to take me skydiving for a few of years now, but as circumstances would have it, it just wasn’t possible—- until I randomly saw a friend’s skydiving photo on his social media app and made the comment, “I wanna jump tandem so badly!” (It was a photo he took of someone tandem skydiving.) He informed me that he would be going that very weekend, if I wanted to join! I called him immediately, and basically we sorted it out for a couple weeks later.

The price is a little expensive, compared to other countries, but since I COMPLETELY trust this guy, live here (not in those other, cheaper skydiving locations), and it was imminently possible, I decided to commit my 500,000won (about $475 US) to the adventure.

Me being me, I was concerned about the details of what I was supposed to “do”/ learn. I shouldn’t have been. JongIl, my friend coordinating my skydiving adventure, set my mind at ease early on. He told me that I didn’t need to learn anything. I would have about 10-20 minutes of instruction the day of and that all I needed to do was enjoy the ride.

The day of, I wore comfortable clothing and closed shoes (tennis shoes, in my case). One of my good friends heard that I was skydiving that day (from JongIl) and came up to Seoul with his daughter to surprise and support me. I have the best people in my life! 2013-08-24 11.57.52 I waited my turn, got my instructions — which are super simple– and up we went.  I wasn’t scared at any point. This surprised me because I thought there would be certain points, at the doorway of the helicopter, At the doorwaythe free fall, the spinning, etc that I would be afraid, but I wasn’t! Putting the experience into words is extremely difficult. The best way I can describe the sequence is:

Woooaaahhh—– WOW, so cool— PEEEAAAACCCEEEE.

Falling out of the helicopter was amazing- a total adrenaline rush that I didn’t want to miss even a millisecond of– I consciously reminded myself to try not to blink. We flipped a couple times on the free fall and watching the ground- sky- landscape was fantastic! Then began the free fall. I remember watching my friend “swim” in the sky to position himself for proper photography- I was impressed to say the least at his skills. Me-free fallin I remember trying to smile, keep my eyes open, stay in proper position and enjoy the moment. And in the moment I was. I have heard that living in the moment is its own euphoric feeling. I try to live my life enjoying my present while planning for the future and being grateful for the past. This moment– those couple of minutes of my life in the air- has truly opened my world up. It was a peace beyond description! I have experienced peace. Peace in the presence of God. Peace in meditative states. Peace in my daily life—- but THIS PEACE– it is so far beyond words, I feel at a loss to find an ample word for it. IMG_0046

Needless to say, I am hooked! I MUST do it again. I am not sure if I’ll actually take the time and spend the funds to learn how to skydive alone, although I am told that doing it on your own is 200 times better, but I will definitely “become a bird” again in the near future. In fact, if this is truly how a bird feels when flying, I don’t know why it ever lands!

If you wanna become a bird too, I HIGHLY recommend Seoul Skydiving School. The school’s number is (+82) 02-404-4194.

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A blog about NOT blogging

So, for the past (almost) year, my life has been super busy. I could list my excuses why I haven’t properly blogged, but the reality is- YOU MAKE TIME FOR WHAT’s IMPORTANT to YOU… I will try and do better.

I have found that I truly miss blogging and making videos. It is a stress reliever and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I have so many ideas swimming in my head, waiting to get out. Anyway, this blog is short, because, as I mentioned, I am busy! hahaha

Thanks for reading and recommending my blog! I have a blog about my March trip to Boracay (Philippines) coming up someday…. PROMISE~

Much love and light….

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CHINA

My first vacation choice is always beachside.  However, since Meagan had China as a top choice country to visit before leaving Korea, we booked flights to China. We got a great deal on the tickets but they were non-refundable/non-transferable so, when Meagan couldn’t get her Chinese visa, we were stuck with tickets. NOTE: If you apply for a Chinese visa from Korea, you must have at LEAST 6 months left on your E2 Korean visa in order to be approved for a Chinese visa. AND a dual entry visa is impossible (again leaving from Korea) if it’s your first trip– so, that left out Mongolia as I had originally planned to do a week there before making it back to China for my return flight.

I arrived in Beijing and made my way to the hostel I had booked for the first week. It was so horrible that I checked out the next morning, deciding that finding a new hostel with availability would be difficult the first day in. Plus, I would lose the first night anyway, so I toughed it out. Besides the horrible customer service, this place had basically turned into a love motel instead of a hostel. Apparently, after talking with the French guy who used to manage the place, it was doing very well as a hostel, but upper management decided to fire him to save costs. Yea, it was clear that the French guy was making it a great place prior to his being let go.

ANYWAY, enough about that. The second day I found Drum Tower Hostel on hostelworld.com (my favorite site to book hostels by the way) for a great price, and in a good location. The staff were great, friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, I became ill due to the air pollution and spent a full 24 hrs in bed with an extremely dry nose/throat, a low-grade fever and an overall fatigue. The air is so dry that my nose literally bleed on and off the entire time I was in Beijing.

I must admit, it’s hard for me to find many positive things to say about Beijing. It’s dirty, the people are really selfish and they fry everything. It’s not uncommon to see people hawking up the contents of their nose and throat and spitting it– anywhere– the bus, the street, the subway, the bathroom, a restaurant floor… yea- GROSS.  Now, if you know me, you know I am not a big complainer. I try to see the positive side of everything. Here are some good things I can say: the food is good and the portions are plenty. Haggling is a blast there as there are vendors galor. Most of them will play along with you and have a fun banter but if you’re the angry negotiating type, it won’t fair well for you. RELAX with it. Here is a rule of thumb: Plan to pay abut 1/3 of what they start at. As with any negotiations, think about what a good deal is for you, consider what you could pay for it in your country and know that it is made in a factory with cheap labor in China… If they don’t make a profit, they won’t sell it to you and the vendor two doors down will have the exact same thing!

Shopping at the Silk Market was definitely the highlight as I was able to (fairly) easily find my size clothes. Clearly, the markets have a lot of bigger-than-Asian-size tourists. I bought 6 pair of jeans, 3 pair of shoes, a coat, a belt, 20 pair of underwear, 2 shirts and some socks. Yea, I re-stocked!

Instead of giving you a play by play, like I usually do, I am basically going to give you the important pointers of Beijing:

*Leaving from Korea, you must have at LEAST 6 months left on your contract and ARC card.
*Single entry visa only if it’s your first time
*If you’re American, a visa is 200,000won (about $200) and can only be obtained from a travel agency (cannot apply directly to the Chinese Embassy)
*Tickets are usually reasonable though– around 300,000won round trip.
*Beijing is SUPER DIRTY– TAKE and USE a MASK
*I stayed at the Drum Tower Hostel– SUPER cheap if you book through hostelworld.com and great accommodations/location/
*If you want to see the Great Wall– of course– It’s much cheaper to go on your own, but you have to be good at negotiations, otherwise, they stick it to ya!
*Mutianyu is the best part of The Great Wall as far as (lack of) tourists but still able to scale by the average person. Simatai is the prettiest but will take you a 4-hr hike in and out! *

*USE THE SUBWAY… taxis and buses don’t have/use English.

I also visited two different cities in the middle/eastern part of China, Shanghai and Nanjing. I have friends who live in each of those cities. Shanghai was the best of the three, in my opinion and I could find a few people who spoke a little English here and there.

I caught an acrobatics show, which China is famous for, so I would definitely recommend finding one in the city you’ll be in.

I know this blog is a little less detailed than I usually give, but hey. I have tried and tried to come up with some exciting, positive things to say, and after a couple months, I am simply ready to put this blog out there. If you have specific questions, please leave a comment and I will get back with you.

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Losing Friends: the nature of working in Korea

If you come to Korea to make new friends, seek new adventures, save money and travel, you have definitely made the right decision. Korea provides all that. One thing to consider, that you may not bargain for, is that your new friends will be saying “see ya later” in a short time. That is, if you plan to stay beyond your first contract year.

Anytime you live abroad, friendship seem to grow closer and at a faster pace than in our home countries. This largely has to do with the situation/stress of the experience. Ask any military personnel. S/He will likely tell you that they form bonds quickly with other soldiers while deployed. Now, there are many more factors for soldiers– like defending one another’s life– that should not be discounted. In some ways, the bonds are similar here. We lookout for one another. We share our woes, victories, frustrations and surprises with one another. We look to others for advice and feedback about our situations. We develop friendships that can’t be easily explained to people who haven’t experienced the “abroad experience.”

Most English teachers here in Korea sign a one year contract, albeit renewable upon mutual agreement. Thus, by the nature of the setup, many people must make a decision each year whether to stay or to move on to the next adventure in their life. For people like me who moved here planning to stay a few years, it would be natural to assume that we would be forced to say good-bye to friends who choose to move on.

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The hard part comes when the person has left a permanent mark on your heart. The kind of friendship that you can’t imagine your life being the same without them in it. I have been privileged to experience a few of these friendships in my short time here.  Each time a friend leaves, it’s as if I grieve the loss of a friend. It’s strange to me how that happens. I literally feel like they are taking a piece of me with them. I guess, emotionally, they are.

Recently, three of my closest non-Korean friends have moved on to their next chapter of life. I am excited about the adventures and endevours they are embarking on. I am grateful for the laughs, tears, experiences and joys we shared together. They have taught me a lot about enjoying the moment– EVERY MOMENT. So, if you are in Korea (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) and you find yourself grieving the loss of a friend’s physical [in the sense of distance]  closeness, just know that they must move on in their own destiny. Be grateful for the time you had with one another. Cherish who they are and what they were able to teach you and share with you while you were together. Know that this world is TOO SMALL for your paths NOT to cross again.

If you’re reading this, and I have had the privilege of calling you friend, yet you have moved away from Korea, know that I am thankful for you. Please keep in touch. I am waiting for the day our paths cross again! MUAH!

Oh, and for those of you who are still in Korea, I haven’t forgotten you either. I will cherish our moments together, knowing that one day, by the nature of working here, our paths will likely separate. It’s ok, I can enjoy the moments! MUAH!

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2011 ~ A Year in the Life of ~ ME!

A decade ago, I would write a Christmas “newsletter” of sorts, to my friends/family/loved ones in order to give them an update on me and wish them holiday cheer. With the astronomical advances in technology, even an email seems out dated. Thus, I have decided to make a VLOG.

What’s a “vlog” you ask?

A VLOG is a Video Blog. I am not really a vlogger (n. a person who communicates through vlogs; video rants, or mostly makes up their blogs with videos) but decided to make a video commemorating my year. I am learning some new video editing software that I bought— in the interim while I hold out hopes of getting a MACbook.

Of course, I will link the video, but for those of you who still like to READ~ here are the highlights:

~Visited 7 countries (other than Korea) this year: Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. (Yes, I blogged about each one.)

~In great health with no major surgeries, issues or incidents.

~Many “firsts” again this year: paragliding, hitch hiking, attended a Korean wedding, attended a traditional 1st birthday, swam with sea turtles, ice skating, webisodes, etc.

~I made new friends and grew closer with my existing friends. That, in itself, is enough to call the year a success!

So, what’s to come in 2012? You’ll just have to stay tuned to my blog,  my personal Youtube channel & my webisode Youtube channel, and of course my facebook page! ❤

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Emergency Situation

I consider myself to be quite calm in most chaotic/emergency situations. This comes from several years experience working in chaotic environments. I didn’t imagine I would have to experience MY OWN emergency situation while in Korea.  Here’s what went down:

Christmas weekend, I decided to go to Ulsan (my Korean hometown) to spend the holiday with two close friends. I arrived at the bus station in the early afternoon, around 1pm. Due to the holidays (and not being able to reserve tickets online) I was stuck with a seat in the very back row and had 45 minutes to kill until the bus left. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, but there was a long line at the fast food chain in the bus station. I noticed a blood bank and thought I would inquire about the requirements. Now, I had donated blood a few times in the States, and was on the emergency donor list when I lived in Haiti. When I returned to the States in 2000, I tried to donate again, but the Red Cross denied my donation because of the malaria area/risk. I assumed I couldn’t donate anymore, but a former student of mine told  me  several months ago that I might be able to donate in Korea. Worth a shot… long explanation short, I had passed the quarantine period and am able to donate in Korea. So, I gave blood. It was my Christmas gift to Korea. When I finished, I had to get going in order to make my bus.  —-No Lunch—- but thought to myself, “I’ll pick something up at the midway point. No big deal.”

I make the normal small talk with the people beside me and we’re off and running on the bus. About 30 minutes into the ride, I feel a bit thirsty, which then almost immediately turns into nausea, which then shortly turns into my vomiting into a black plastic bag. The only thing in my stomach was the four (dixie) cups of grape juice I consumed at the blood bank. I’m now sitting on a bus, with a bag of puke, with no water and no rest stop for another 2 hours or so. [There IS water at the front of the bus, but I was unaware of it at that time.] I clean myself up with the wet wipes I carry in my purse, and try to get some rest. —Very strange, because I have NEVER been car sick in my life. I wrote it off as being in the back, elevated seats of the bus, on a very jerky ride through Seoul holiday traffic. —

Another 20 minutes or so, and I woke up out of my light sleep needing to vomit again. I had already tied the previous bag and couldn’t get the knot undone fast enough. I vomited in the open part. Unfortunately, before I could get that portion squared away, I suddenly felt the world spinning around me and now recognized the feeling of impending blackout.  Now, having previously held an EMT (Emergency Medical Training) license, I was conscious of what I needed to prepare for the EMTs I would surely soon be meeting. I tried  communicating with the man (whom I had small talk with earlier) beside me. I gestured that my head was spinning and I was going to pass out. I spoke to him in Korean, telling him that I couldn’t see and I needed help. I rambled through my purse, trying furiously to race against the clock of consciousness, to find my emergency card, my health insurance card and my id. All I could think to myself was, “DON’T PASS OUT! You have to find these cards!” A bright, white light was ever creeping in and I noticed the glow of the red seats in the bus. I tried to focus, squinting and fighting a bit in order to fight the light trying to win the battle against me. I then got my phone and sent a message “SOs….blackout.” The message was broadcast in a class/group chat I had set up with my students. We use it for quick communication to all class members. Unfortunately, they were in class and not able to do my next command “call.”

It felt like an eternity passed. You know, that slow-motion-yet-mind-racing-a-mile-a-minute feeling you get just before a car accident? That was the feeling. In truth, only about 90 seconds had passed. I couldn’t wait for the call any longer. I was thinking, “I’ve got to get someone on the phone. I can’t die on this bus today.” I called the person at the top of my call log (who speaks both English and Korean). It happened to be my student. The phone rings twice, he picks up and whispers, “I’m in class. Wait” and hangs up the phone. –I pass out–

I doubt I was “under” for long, as I came-to “fighting” again. I feel the paleness in my face. The perspiration on my upper lip. I text again “i have an emergency.” (I have no idea how there were no typos in this text.) It’s now break time for my students and Leo calls to investigate the matter. I can’t really make full, intelligible sentences, but I manage to convey that I am in trouble. He instructs me to put someone on the phone. The only candidate is this guy –who has gone from a small talk / stranger, to a man who I’m relying on to “take care of me” in my time of need.

Things go white again and I am really struggling to stay conscious. I keep chastising myself about not speaking better Korean and not to lose control of myself.  It was a very scary feeling, especially for someone who doesn’t get drunk because I don’t like the feeling of being out of control of my own body.  My body settles down, I go to sleep.  At the rest stop, I get something to eat, more juice, another plastic bag– just in case– and some crackers. The man asks someone up front to switch seats with me. Although not feeling 100%, I was much better for the remaining 2-hour ride to Ulsan.

Here are some “lessons learned” from this experience:

1-LEARN MORE KOREAN

 2-KEEP THE EMERGENCY CARD HANDY  

3- HAVE A FRIEND (who speaks Korean and English) ON SPEED DIAL

Medical emergencies are not easy for an untrained eye to spot. I was fully aware of what was happening, but those around me had NO CLUE what to do. I am not convinced they even realized I had an emergency.

In Korea, people often “ignore” situations because they don’t want to cause someone to lose face. I think this is further exaggerated by the fact that I am a foreigner and the language barrier intimates the best of us. So, what would YOU do if you were in my situation? I hope that you at least have an emergency card (2:05) to present should you find yourself in the unfortunate event of an emergency situation here in Korea. I don’t know if I handled it “perfectly,”  but I am confident that I handled it the best I could have, given the circumstances.

Hopefully none of you reading this will ever need this info, but in case you do, I hope that you have learned from my experience. Let’s continue enjoying this great country in health and prosperity. ^^

SIDE NOTE: This is my theory on what happened (medically).  Since I didn’t eat, and I lost a fair amount of blood, I was automatically weaker than normal. Sitting in the extreme back caused me to become car sick and when I vomited the contents of my stomach, I subsequently also vomited the only nutrients keeping my blood sugar in line. Thus, my body had a bit of an issue regulating things, and caused me to pass out. SO, NO MATTER HOW BUSY YOU ARE, TAKE TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

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