Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kennedy in Kindergarten

It is May already...I can't believe it! On Friday, it will be just five weeks before we fly back to the States! It's still only in the mid-60s this week. When I checked the weather this morning, I saw that on the same day last year it was 85 degrees. So, I'm not crazy; it was warmer last year. Last year, the day of our staff picnic was really warm. I don't think it's going to be really warm this year, but it should be comfortable this afternoon. I don't have many pictures to go along with this post, so I'm just going to post the pictures I took the other day while walking through Namsan Park.

I can't believe that this girl's first year of school is coming to a close. There is a Kindergarten graduation ceremony, which is a pretty big deal around here, in just a few weeks. This year has flown by!

She has really been enjoying her new camera. And I'll admit that my little "photo walk" the other day was a lot more fun when I wasn't the only one taking photos. I also got left behind much less!

Last week Kennedy got "in trouble" for the first time. She had to move her clip, which meant that she was in the warning zone. All year she has had a heart on her calendar to show us at the end of the day, until now. She was devastated. Eric and I were happy that she finally knew what it felt like to get in trouble at school--it's a learning experience for anyone. Of course, Eric has heard the whole story from her teacher before he even picked her up after school--the perks of being a staff kid--but she was so worried about the whole thing. Poor kid.

Other than this event, Kennedy has had an impeccable record this year. Her report cards have continued to reflect the fact that she is learning what she is supposed to, and she still has more learn, so we're happy. She even won the Guardian Way award for her class in 3rd Quarter, reflecting the fact that she is performing above and beyond in terms of our school's expectations in truth, excellence, and diversity. We were very proud parents!

Eric and I are continuously amazed by the things that come out of her mouth and how different our children's lives are compared to our own. A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting at the dinner table when she started talking about the colors of her classmates' passports. The way she spoke wasn't any different than any other 6-year-old: "Jayme has a green passport. DaHyun has a green passport and a blue passport. Kanon's passport is red." It was the content we couldn't get over. Eric said, "I didn't know what color my own passport was until I was almost 30, but my 6-year-old discusses it with her friends at recess."

Her life is very different than ours in terms of technology, too, of course. She doesn't call people, she Skypes them. She doesn't write notes, she sends texts. And she's starting to pass us up already. Last week, she convinced me to join Twitter! (My principal may have influenced that decision, as well.) Her class has a Twitter account, so her teacher posts their daily happenings in class. Instead of a written "what did I learn today?", they get to Tweet it! You can follow along with them (even without joining Twitter!) at twitter.com/kinderinkorea.

We are also very thankful for the growth that she has had in what she eats, as well. I can't say that I'm proud of some of the foods that she has started eating: hamburgers, hot dogs, and pizza. But, she has had huge growth in trying new foods, and while this time last year, she was eating beef (as long as we called it bulgogi), she was still rarely eating chicken, and that I am relieved to say she eats all the time now--even when it's not fried. The other night after dinner, she told me, "Mom, I'm falling in love with your cooking." My heart melted.

Last night, we had a party in honor of our HR director and his family who are moving to Malaysia at the end of this year. There were a lot of people in a little Korean apartment--and a lot of kids in a small space! Kennedy has struggled a bit this year with the concept of "friend." She and her best friend, Jade, from last year are in different classes this year. She hadn't realized that their friendship was one of convenience, being the only two staff kids at the same age. This year, with so many more kids in the mix in school, she was surprised to realize that she and Jade didn't have that much in common (though at times they are too alike to get along!). As it turns out, she likes other girls in her class more than Jade, and Jade feels the same way. But, last night (and nearly every Saturday), they still managed to play well together. She has matured and grown in so many ways this year, and we are very proud our little girl!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Means Baseball!

The cherry blossoms have come and gone, but I still have pictures of them to share, so we can enjoy them for one more day! All of these shots were taken at school with the exception of the last one, taken in our apartment complex. We have another busy week ahead of us with the start of May. The goodbyes are beginning already, starting with our beloved HR director and his family this week. We also have the start of the spring festivities at school with our staff picnic this week as we celebrate Korean Labor Day on Wednesday.

Eric's baseball season has begun again. And that means the busy season has begun. All three of them wait all week for Saturdays. The other day, before I got out of bed, Cade came in and told me I needed to get up so that we could go to Daddy's baseball game. I reminded him that it was Friday, so it wasn't game day. Daddy had gone to school, not baseball.

By the time I got out of bed, Cade was dressed. When I went to his room, I saw that his baseball clothes--the shirt that he calls his baseball jersey and a specific pair of pants--were on his bed. He had even been dressed for baseball, just a day too early.

At the end of every game, Cade gets to play catch and maybe even hit a few balls. He's always a bit impatient for the game to end for that reason.

After the last game, he was eager to go play catch, so he had his glove and ball ready when the guys came off the field. He asked me if he could go down to where Eric was, and I told him that he could. He put his hand on his hip and leaned into it and told me, "He's in a conversation, I think. I'll wait a few minutes." I was so impressed with his patience, his language, and his understanding of the situation. What a kid.

This year, a lot of the guys in the Seoul Baseball League are raising money for Not For Sale (NFS)--one of the bigger anti-human trafficking organizations in the US. There are a few MLB players that are spokesmen for NFS, so it has trickled into baseball.

Not For Sale is a great organization--they are probably the most well-known organization in the US because they work so hard to create awareness of human trafficking in the US and around the world. They are probably most well-known for their evaluation of supply chains, allowing consumers to be more aware of what kind of company they are buying from. They even have an app, Free2Work, that allows you to scan the barcode of your product and find out how responsible a company is, in terms of forced labor and labor trafficking. This way, when you are trying to decide between two products: Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, you can scan the barcode and determine which company you would rather support, based on their ethics rather than just their price and quality.

One of the organizations that is not as well known is the International Justice Mission (IJM). This past winter, during our high school spiritual emphasis week, we had a speaker, Brian, from IJM come to the school for a week. As it happened, we were just beginning The Kite Runner in class, and we had been discussing human trafficking, drug trafficking, and prostitution in Afghanistan. I was able to have Brian come into my classes for a day and talk to my students about trafficking all over the world--and more importantly, how they can get involved in stopping it.

Brian really did a great job of explaining to the kids how extensive the problem is in the world, as well as how easy it is for them to get involved and do something. He talked to them about the numbers worldwide and the rate at which it is being eliminated and told them that theirs can and should be the generation that sees the end of human trafficking globally. The world is much smaller for these TCKs who have been to many of countries where trafficking is occurring on a daily basis.

Of course, some of my students were not convinced. We've been talking about slavery since the beginning of the year when we read Uncle Tom's Cabin. We've also talked a lot about the impact that one person can have on the world, and some of them simply believe that they can't have an impact on the world--not without a lot of money or a lot of people listening to them. We talked about Vivienne Harr--an 8-year-old girl on a mission to end child slavery with her homemade lemonade stand.

After spending much of the school year talking about this, we knew it was time to actually DO something. Which brings me back to baseball. This year, Eric and I are donating money to IJM for every strikeout that he has. It's a fun way for us to get involved in a mission that we care about, and it's a great example for our kids and our students.

You can read more about IJM at ijm.org, but this was the organization we chose, both because of the personal connection that I made and because it is one of the organizations that is actually out in the world, doing something to end human trafficking. IJM has offices in more than 16 cities around the world, including many in South Asia: the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and India. They work to get victims out of the situation, then provide rehabilitation and aftercare for them. Additionally, they are one of the only organizations that works to ensure that there is perpetrator accountability, as well as structural transformation in the country in which they are working. If you would like to get involved with our newest mission, you can check out Eric's page here

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Easter Weekend

This week was a little more normal than last. Thankfully, after missing three days last week with headaches and fever, Kennedy was healthy and back to school this week. I was grateful to only have to work two days this week after working four last week. Somehow, I still didn't much get work done, though. I did finally manage to get my driver's license--more on that later. The weather is consistently in the 60s now, so that's exciting, but we have had some rain this week. It's supposed to get into the 70s this week, and I look forward to that!

My final installment in the spring break saga...I can't believe it's been almost a month since they left!

So, Saturday was our last day with Lindy. She left early in the afternoon, so we just relaxed and in the morning, spending our last few hours with her. Then, Eric took her up to the Hyatt to take the bus to the airport by herself. She was a little nervous, but she made it just fine!

We had pho for dinner afterward in Itaewon, and Evan and Jen got some souvenir celadon. We stopped for brownies and ice cream on the way home.

On Sunday, we got up early because the kids were excited to find all of the chocolate Easter eggs that Eric and Evan had hidden for them.

They got some clothes-filled Easter baskets, thanks to the stash of gifts that we brought back with us this summer (continued thanks to my aunts and uncles and grandparents!).

Afterward, we went to church. Eric was excited to have one of his good friends baptize him, and to have his brother here to see it. He had been talking about getting baptized again (he was a baby the first time) for several years, so I am so glad that he finally did it!

After church, we walked into Itaewon to try to have lunch at one of the most popular Mexican restaurants around here--Vatos Urban Tacos. It was probably almost two in the afternoon before we arrived, and they had a two hour wait. We tried to make a reservation for dinner, and they said they couldn't do it. Thankfully, our HR director happened to be eating there, knew the owner, and was able to get us a reservation for 7:30 for dinner.

So, we headed to Petra Palace, my favorite Turkish restaurant in Itaewon. We had schwarmas, chicken, hummus, and pitas. Yum!

Then, we walked all the way to iPark Mall and Emart--a first for us. Uncle Evan picked out a new baseball glove for Cade and we checked out the weekend shopping experience in Seoul. Busy. Exhausting.

Afterwards, we took a taxi back into Itaewon and finally managed to eat at Vatos. It is by no means authentic Korean food, but it is an interesting Mexican Korean fusion. They are most famous for their kimchi fries, so we had to have an order of those. They were surprisingly good. French fries covered in carnitas, sour cream, salsa, onions, jalapeƱos, and kimchi. Spicy, but not too spicy. The portions here are ridiculously small--even the wait staff admits to it, but since we'd just eaten lunch a few hours earlier, it was okay this time (even for Eric).

We headed home in a hurry to get Kennedy into bed. It was back to school the next day. We stayed up late chatting with Evan and Jen, since it was their last night. We had a great week with family!

Helping others around this city does help us to see how far we've come in the last two years. Evan and Jen went to Kimbap Heaven on their own on their last day here--after only seven days. We didn't even know that restaurant existed for about the first six months that we were here! Once we knew where it was located, we didn't know how to order what we wanted in Korean for about another six weeks. But, we were able to provide Evan with a map and a phonetic list of what they wanted to order. They were able to get lunch and get to their airport by themselves. Now, they're in Maui, and we are so excited to go visit them in July!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

What's on your mind...

In case you're not familiar, that is what Facebook asks you when you log in. I've never been big on Facebook. I've gone through short spurts here and there where I post thoughts--probably more last year than any other time--but I rarely post anything anymore, except maybe a few pictures. Yet, for some reason, Facebook-type updates still stream through my brain from time to time, as if I were going to post them (though I am addicted to Instagram if you want to follow me there!). Since those of you that read this (usually) actually care what we're doing and what I'm thinking, I thought I would provide you with some of my mental Facebook updates from the past few weeks...

Our weather today has been so weird...45 degrees and sunny when we got up...then PNW-type winds...now rain and snow mix...how is that possible? Totally reminds me of WA!

Watching a Pixar short film with the kids--with no words--so I keep asking them questions about what's going on. What game are they playing? And Kennedy immediately answers with the Korean name for Rock, Paper, Scissors...no idea how to spell it in Korean...Ai-Kai-Bo? The Korean influence from her friends at school is really kicking in!

Kennedy now pronounces many of her words with an -amnida or -ay at the end, so that they all sound like Konglish (Korean/English mix). "Can I have a snack-a?" Oh my. Again, the Korean influence from her friends at school is really beginning to appear! I can only imagine what Cade will sound like a year from now!

The time has come to write a letter of recommendation for our nanny. I am happy to do it, and thrilled that Cade that will be in preschool next year, but terrified of how much more difficult life will be without her! What will we do when my schedule changes for a day or two? And what about the laundry? I'm going to have to actually clean a bathroom in Korea! #firstworldproblems (I don't ever use hashtags either, but as long as I'm thinking in Facebook posts, I might as well throw one in!)

I'm so thankful that Eric is teaching Cade to kill all the bugs he sees in the house, so that I can continue my streak of never-touching-bugs! I'm also thankful that the presence of bugs means that it's warmed up enough for the bugs to be present!

This afternoon, the kids were snacking on carrots. They each took four carrot sticks, and Kennedy told Cade that he couldn't eat any yet--they were going to do math with them. For the next twenty minutes, she gave her little brother subtraction problems to do with his carrots. So proud of that girl!

At lunch the other day, the kids were saying "hello" in all of the languages they know. Kennedy started with English and then Mandarin. Cade piped in with Thai and then Korean. Spanish is still iffy for them; sometimes they remember it, sometimes they don't. We added Hawaiian, since we'll be there this summer. It's still astounding to me how different their childhoods are from mine!

I had nothing in this post related to cherry blossoms, but it's that time of year, and really, what does one say about cherry blossoms? They're beautiful. I love the chance to get creative with my camera. Their lives are so short, though. It rained this weekend, so they only lasted about five days. They were amazing while they were here. And now, the azaleas are starting to bloom...they are also all over the city!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What to Eat?

On Friday morning, Eric took everybody to Namsan Park to walk around while I stayed home and worked on preparing Hamlet. Kennedy took her camera along, so we have evidence!

After their walk, they brought home Pizza School for lunch. Evan and Jen got their first experience with the eclectic pizza toppings we have here--sweet potato was the favorite, I think.

Afterwards, we headed over to Namdaemun to check out another outdoor market. This one is much more tourist-friendly. It has nearly anything one would want to buy in Seoul--you could spend hours perusing everything. If it wasn't so cold. I found a little shop that had some imported items I've never seen here before--like couscous. So exciting!

Earlier in the day, we had called a friend and asked for a recommendation for another Korean restaurant to try for dinner that night, since we'd already gone to our favorites. He suggested something, and it sounded easy enough, so that's what we planned on.

It was a short hike to get there, but we managed fine. Then, we struggled a bit with finding it. Eventually, we found the place. It turned out that it was not exactly what everyone had been expecting. No one seemed to thrilled with the idea, so we were off again to find something else.

On our long walk through town, we discussed multiple options. Eventually, we ended up settling for one of the restaurants we always settle on--foreigner friendly and warm.

We thought we were having samgyupsal, but we ended up with kalbi again. Along with the typical banchan--kimchi, radishes, a soup, and even a macaroni salad this time.

We also ordered a dolsot bibimbap--basically rice and vegetables in a hot clay pot. Jen and Evan enjoyed that along with their kalbi.

After dinner, the ladies took a cab home while the men took a brisk walk in the cold evening air. I am so glad that it is finally starting to warm up around here! We even had highs over 60 three days this week! What a thrill!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

North of Namsan

This week is even more insanely busy than normal! I have to work four of five days this week. Gasp. I have two Shakespeare plays to attend this week: A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet. We have the book fair at school this week, a history fair, the high school retreat, the junior/senior banquet, and a professional development day. Thankfully, we don't have to attend all of these events!

This week, Kennedy has been sick with a fever and headaches, but I'm finally getting over this nasty cold that I've had for the last two weeks. We've survived another week of North Korean threats and a visit from John Kerry, who was staying at the Hyatt Hotel not far from our school. We are still waiting impatiently for warmer weather, though!

On Thursday of spring break, we got started early because we had a lot to see on our adventures north of Mt. Namsan.

We got on the bus and headed toward Insadong-a typical tourist stop in Seoul. One main street of little shops with every souvenir one could imagine surrounded by tons of little alleys with every type of Korean food imaginable. Therein lies the problem. Too many options! So, we ended up at Pita Pit before walking along the stream--the Cheonggyecheon--on our walk to Gwanghamun Square.

I know. You just heard about this. We were just there a couple of months ago with my dad. It was a tad warmer this time. Eric wore shorts while the rest of us froze.

After taking pictures in the famous Gwanghamun Square, we headed to Gyeongbokgung Palace.

We opted out of watching the changing of the guard show this time, but we did stop to take pictures with them!

Eventually, we made it to the Folk Museum, so that we could go inside and warm up.

After a long day of walking in the cold, we were ready to go home and have bulgogi for dinner--the one Korean meal I know how to make!
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