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    Can’t Stop the Reading

    Read-A-Thon is back at YISS! Our elementary students celebrate reading during February and March. The theme this year is Camp Out with a Good Book.

     

    readathon17-1

     

    David helped with the music video again this year. He rewrote the words to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and changed it to “Can’t Stop the Reading.” We work with so many talented people! From singing to sound mixing, video editing, and dancing… I love how the final product showcases the creativity and joy of our school!

    Watch it on Facebook, Vimeo, or below:

     

     

    readathon17-2

     

    This year, each grade level team was featured reading together. (The third grade teachers at the pool were my favorite!) This is David with his fifth grade team (and yes, he’s surfing on his friend Ross in the river):

     

    readathon17-4

     

    Here are the lyrics:

    I got this feeling inside my bones
    What adventures will this new book take me on?
    All through Seoul city, all through my home
    I can’t put down this book, I’m in the reading zone

    Cuz I got that new book in my pocket
    It’s got stories, oh so sweet
    When I read it, it’s exciting, I can’t stop, ooh
    I can’t take my eyes up off it, reading so phenomenally
    I’ve got more books on the docket, so I don’t stop

    We’re reading tonight and everyone knows
    Whether it’s fiction, drama, or prose
    When you read, well, you already know
    We just imagine, just imagine, just imagine

    Camp out with a new book, this is your chance, chance, chance, feel
    This one’s a good book for you, so just glance, glance, glance, come on
    Reading’s so exciting, so let’s just dance, dance, dance
    Everybody’s reading, so keep dancing

    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance, come on

    Ooh, there’s something wonderful
    I read the Good Book (Scripture) and it helps me carry on
    In every season, it leads my soul
    It shows me Jesus Christ, who came to make me whole

    Cause I got that Good Book in my pocket
    Gotta get up off of my feet
    I’ll tell everyone about it and I won’t stop, ooh
    I can’t take my eyes up off it, living so phenomenally
    It’s His guidebook, He designed it, so don’t stop

    We’ll shine our light, so everyone knows
    He came and died and in three days he rose
    He’ll come again and will call up his own
    So just imagine, just imagine, just imagine

    His good plan offers you a second chance, chance, chance
    The Good book explains it all to you
    So you glance, glance, glance, come on
    Everything He gives will make you
    dance, dance, dance
    Jesus will be coming soon, so keep dancing

    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So keep dancing, come on

    I can’t stop the, I can’t stop the
    I can’t stop the, I can’t stop the
    I can’t stop the reading

    Camp out with a new book, this is your chance, chance, chance, feel
    This one’s a good book for you, so just glance, glance, glance, come on
    Reading’s so exciting, so let’s just dance, dance, dance
    Everybody’s reading, so keep dancing

    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So just dance, dance, dance
    I can’t stop the reading
    So keep dancing, come on

    Everybody sing
    (I can’t stop the reading)
    Gotta share it with somebody
    (I can’t stop the reading)
    Gotta share it with somebody
    (I can’t stop the feeling)
    I think reading’s my new hobby
    (I can’t stop the feeling)
    Gotta share it with somebody
    Break it down
    Gotta share it with somebody
    Can’t stop the feeling
    Gotta share it with somebody, come on

     

    readathon17-3

     

    » Watch last year’s Read-A-Thon video “Good Book Life” here!

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    Having Surgery In Korea

    Having a surgery is a scary thing. Having one abroad as an expat can be even more intimidating. If you’re considering a procedure in Korea, I hope my experience can help ease some fears. Some of the protocol felt overkill (extended stay in the hospital) and a bit backwards (no physical therapy after the procedure). But despite the differences, everything went smoothly and I was glad I had it done.

    I broke my first bone in January 2015 in Turkey and had a metal plate put in my arm. Due to some discomfort, I decided to have the hardware removed last month in Korea. I went to Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital at the recommendation of some friends.

     

    Having surgery as an expat in Korea

     

    Consultation and Pre-Op

    I called the international clinic to schedule an appointment. I was overwhelmed my first time at the hospital. St. Mary’s is large, one of the top hospitals in Seoul, and is consequently booked and busy.

    The ladies in the office spoke English and were so helpful. There were a slew of forms, but St. Mary’s accepted my insurance and filed all of my paperwork. After I checked in, they sent me off with a map to get x-rays and meet with the surgeon. My meeting lasted just a few minutes, and by the end, I had booked the surgery. I was at the hospital for two hours.

    A month before the surgery, I took a series of tests: chest x-ray, breathing, blood (vein and artery), urine, and EKG.

    I met with the anesthesiologist two weeks before the surgery. A translator sat in and this meeting took only a few minutes. For some reason, I was never asked about allergies before that point, so I was sure they added that information to my file.

     

    Surgery Stay

    I went into the hospital the day before (about 24 hours before) the procedure. They said they’d take me back between 12–2 the next day, but they couldn’t fit me in until 4:30.

    The Room: My insurance covered a double room, but they were all occupied. Instead, I got a private room. We felt so spoiled. It was on the twelfth floor and had an great view of Gangnam. The room included a desk with computer (which we didn’t use), a TV, a storage closet with a keypad locking system, a small fridge, a private bathroom with shower, and a small couch.

     

    Gangnam hospital room view

     

    David sleeping

     

    The Food: I received an evening meal. I chose the Western menu over the Korean (just in case to avoid anything upsetting my stomach). The food was good, but a little bland. They served a cream soup, spaghetti, salad, bread, drink, and a pastry dessert. I was given a form to select my future meals.

    They started fluids that night. I heard somewhere that Koreans have small veins, so they typically put IVs in your hand. It felt kind of offensive. It pinched and hurt so I couldn’t really use my right hand. And I was about to have surgery on my left hand. (After surgery, there was a problem with the IV and I had them move it to my arm, which felt much better.)

     

    IV in hand

     

    We met with a doctor (not the surgeon but someone in their residency) later in the evening. He spoke English and was very kind. He answered our questions and kept asking until we had exhausted everything we hadn’t covered in the initial consultation.

    Nurses came to take my vitals throughout the night and next day. The waiting was the hardest part. By the time they wheeled me back, some of the nerves had worn off and I was ready for it to happen. David walked with me up to the operating room doors.

    My previous scar had keloiding:

     

    Keloid scarring

     

    Post Surgery

    I was glad the surgery was in the evening. After I woke up from the anesthesia, they wheeled me to an x-ray room on the second floor. This area is usually packed, but because it was around 7:00pm, there weren’t people staring at me on my bed.

    Back in the room, I had to stay awake until 11:00pm. I was able to drink water around 2:00am. They had no food for me, and I didn’t eat until the next morning. They brought a full breakfast (eggs, fruit, cereal, pastry, juice), though the nurse told me to only have soup until lunch. They didn’t provide soup and I didn’t think convenience store ramen would be good for my stomach. Instead, I had some crackers and yogurt David had bought. That sat fine, so I ate the breakfast a little later.

    Another thing we felt spoiled by: they let me go home early. I was supposed to stay another night (for a total of 3 nights), but they let me go home around 4:00pm the day after surgery.

     

    Standing in Seoul St. Mary's hospital room

     

    They also let me keep the hardware! The bracket is about 4″ long. After I saw the metal, I felt good about having it removed. It had done its job and there was no need to keep the foreign material in my body.

     

    Hardware from radius bone surgery

     

    Now I have holes where the screws were:

     

    X-ray of radius bone showing holes

     

    I was amazed at my recovery time. I gained strength and mobility much faster than I had anticipated. The surgeon did a fantastic job. He cut out some of the scar tissue and the keloid. They didn’t use stitches, but glued me together. Someone told me if you’re going to have surgery and are concerned about scarring, Korea is the place to get it done. They are very conscious about how they look. I have a silicone scar reduction gel and cream, and I hope to avoid keloiding this time.

    I returned to the hospital every three days to have the bandaging replaced. Here is my scar two weeks after surgery:

     

    Arm scar two weeks post surgery

     

    Suggestions of Things to Bring:

    • Refillable water bottle (there are refilling stations for hot and cold water)
    • Snacks (because I got back from the surgery past dinner time, there was no food service)
    • Towels
    • Toiletries (body soap, shampoo, toothpaste)
    • Shower shoes (open shower room) and/or slippers
    • Electronic chargers

    Other Notes:

    • Upon arrival, a translator took me to the room and explained the basics of what to expect.
    • Shave the area where you’re going to have surgery or bring a razor to do it there. David had to buy some from a convenience store. The nurse offered a hair removing cream, but I have sensitive skin and didn’t know if I’d react to it or not.
    • Take off all nail polish if you’ll be under anesthesia.
    • Physical therapy is not emphasized in Korea. My doctor said they didn’t have hand specialists at St. Mary’s, but I got him to write a referral letter. There is a physical therapist at my chiropractic clinic in Itaewon.
    • Visiting hours were from 2:00pm – 8:00pm.
    • The international clinic closes at 5:00pm on weekdays and noon on Saturdays. The nurses I interacted with knew enough English to help. Google Translate is always helpful, too.

    I am thankful for a successful surgery and for the friends that came around us!

     

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    Lunar New Year in Gyeongju

    Working at an international school is fun for many reasons, one of them including regional holidays off of work. Lunar New Year was the second week in February, and we traveled southeast with some friends to Gyeongju (경주). Lunar New Year is one of the biggest holidays in Korea. Often, people travel from Seoul to their hometowns to spend time with extended family. Thanks to a friend, we were able to get standing room tickets on the KTX speed train. We left Saturday morning and two hours later arrived in Gyeongju!

    Gyeongju is an important historical city. It was the capital of the Silla kingdom which ruled about two-thirds of the peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Today, it’s no longer the capital, but a smaller city. There are many historical sites, which is a draw for tourists.

    Where We Stayed
    We rented an AirBnB cabin with two other couples. The owner, Minmook, was a wonderful host. He went above and beyond! He made multiple trips to pick us up and drop us off at the house, take us to a grocery store, and get us to the bus stop. He brought by fresh fruit on multiple nights. The guys got to chat with him and hear his interesting story. Minmook lived all over Korea, built the three houses on his property, and recently started a blueberry crop. Though the house is a little out of the way, we highly recommend it! (It’s an easy ₩5,000 taxi ride to the main bus stop and attractions.)

     

    Gyeongju sunset

     

    Gyeongju sunset with hanok roofs

     

    Boys grilling meat

     

    We tried Hwangnam bread, which is original to the region. The pastry is filled with a dense, sweet red-bean paste. It was first baked in 1939 and is now sold throughout Korea.

     

    Traditional Gyeongju bread - Hwangnam bread

     

    Korean fish and bowls

     

    This was the commons area where we cooked, ate, hung out, and enjoyed the firewood stove:

     

    Cabin stove and room

     

    The house had two bedrooms. One had a Western style bed, and the other room used the traditional Korean mattress pads called a yo. David and I stayed in the mini-living room and also used a yo. The bedroom areas had ondol heated floors, which made for some cozy sleeping:

     

    Sleeping floor mats

     

    One day, we visited Bulguksa Temple (불국사), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Admission cost ₩5,000 for adults.

     

    Travel friends

     

    Bulguksa walkway

     

    Iron dragon door knockers

     

    Bulguksa Hanok roof

     

    Bulguksa Seokgatap tower

     

    Prayer rocks:

     

    Balanced prayer rock stacks

     

    I found a cross!

     

    Bulguksa cross detail

     

    Bulguksa architecture and roofs

     

    Bulguksa Hanok roof

     

    Child with a bird water pipe

     

    The next day, we decided to hike to the Seokguram Bell Pavilion, which we could see in the distance from our house. We went way off the beaten path and walked up and down some major hills. My phone said we climbed 155 flights! We also took a wrong turn so our hike ended up being over five miles. But we enjoyed the company, sunshine, and fresh air. When we got to the bell, we only stayed five minutes because we saw the bus and didn’t want to wait another hour to get back into town.

     

    Hiking buddies - selfie in mirror

     

    Seongdeok stucture

     

    Ringing the Seongdeok bell

     

    Though there was a lot more we could have seen in and around town, our weekend was perfect. It was a relaxing retreat to be outside the city.
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    First Taste of Beondegi

    So… I ate a bug in Korea. Beondegi to be specific.

    We’ve been in Korea for about six months and we’ve really enjoyed the local food. Eating is one of our favorite pastimes, and we like trying new things. Even when we’re a little skeptical.

    We traveled southeast to Gyeongju the first weekend of February with some friends for Lunar New Year. (More on that soon!) While we were out one day, we walked by street food vendors. One lady was selling beondegi (번데기). I had no intentions of ever eating this food, but… when everyone was trying it, might as well?

     

    Boiled silkworm larvae

     

    What is beondegi?
    Beondegi is boiled and seasoned silkworm pupae. (Pupae is the stage between the larva and adult form when the bug is in the chrysalis stage.) Korean people eat beondegi as a snack, though I wouldn’t call it the most loved or popular food of choice. We often see food vendors with a long line of customers, but I never see a line at beondegi pots. According to earthexcursion.com: “Beondegi came to rise as a much needed source of protein during the Korean War because protein was scare, as well as many other macro nutrients.” I think we paid ₩2000 for a small paper cup (about $1.65 USD). It was MORE than enough.

    How did it taste?
    …Not as bad as I thought it would. It was a little bit fishy and nutty to me. Some of our friends thought they tasted similar to boiled peanuts. It was a little crunchy and a little chewy. Thinking about what I was chewing was the worst part.

     

    Beondegi seller

     

    Cup of beondegi

     

    Here’s a video of our first beondegi experience:

     

     

    And if I’m ever hankering for more (yeah right), I can always find a can of it at the grocery store:

     

    Beondegi can

     

     

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    Birthday In My Birth City

    I turned 28 on the last day of January. This was the first year I celebrated my birthday in my birth city. I now live just seven miles from the place I was born.

    A couple of weeks ago David and I tried to find it. The address I had from my adoption paperwork didn’t quite work with today’s streets (in 봉천동 관악구). We thought we may have found it but couldn’t be sure. We didn’t know enough Korean to find out how long the hospital had been in business.

    I was born at 33 weeks and weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces. My 20-year-old unwed birth mother could not pay the incubator fees, hadn’t heard from the father in a while, and chose to put me up for adoption. As we were walking around the neighborhood, I thought how scared she must have been to be alone and in labor so early. I’m thankful for her bravery to choose life.

     

    Leah holding baby photo in front of hospital

     

    Even more, I’m thankful for my family who chose me, love me, and call me theirs… And for a Heavenly Father who orchestrated it all.

    I never intended for Korea to be a place of pilgrimage. And I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me I’d be living here one day. Finding more information about my roots is not a void I am trying to fill. However, while I’m here – why not? I filled out some inquiry paperwork for the Korean side of the adoption, and we’ll see what (if anything) comes back.

    I’m still figuring out my place and purpose here, but I am grateful for the adventure!

     

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    Suncheon Bay and Yeosu

    David’s school has a working relationship the Korea Foreign Schools Foundation. This group is so very generous and offers cultural trips to teachers twice a year! We were so excited when we found out we made it on the list for the trip over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a quick trip; we left Friday morning and returned Saturday evening. The foundation organized everything – transportation, lodging, and food. It was nice to just be along for the ride!

    We left Seoul on the KTX speed train. Some of our friends clocked the train at the top speed of 184 mph! Even though the snow didn’t stick in Seoul on Thanksgiving, we passed fields and mountains loaded with snow. Just 2.5 hours later, we arrived in Suncheon Bay (순천만).

     

    Snowy trees

     

    After a delicious Korean BBQ lunch, we spent a short 30 minutes at the Suncheon Open Film Set, the largest film site in Korea.  The place consisted of three villages representing the 1950s to the 1970s. I haven’t seen any Korean dramas or movies yet, so I didn’t recognize any of the sets.

     

    Film village

     

    Next, we took the tour bus to Suncheon Bay Ecological Park (순천만자연생태공원). This wetland preserve had the largest reedbed in Korea, mudflats, and plenty of wildlife, including the rare hooded crane. We took a ferry boat ride and hiked around the grounds.

     

    Suncheon ferry ride view

     

    We spotted a couple of otters! You can see the back of one in the middle of this photo:

     

    Otter and birds

     

    The tour guide said reeds like this are used to make a special type of broom that lasts 30 years. Suncheon Bay is a government protected area, so I don’t know if these particular reeds are used or not:

     

    Suncheon Bay reed fields

     

    Boardwalk among reeds

     

    David and Leah in Suncheon

     

    Suncheon Ecological Park view

     

    David in Suncheon Park

     

    The foundation put us up in an incredible hotel in Yeosu (여수) called The MVL (which stands for Most Valuable Life). The rooms had gorgeous views of the bay. We thought one feature was funny… the bathroom had a curtain that opened like a window to the room. The purpose was so you could watch the sun rise and set as you bathe.

     

    MVL hotel

     

    MVL room view

     

    MVL bathroom window

     

    We had dinner and breakfast at the hotel. The buffets were to die for. Soups, Korean food, sushi, seafood, pastries, fruit… We ate so. much. food. Here was the first (of probably three) of my breakfast plates:

     

    MVL breakfast

     

    After checking out of the hotel, we loaded our bags on the bus and then walked to the Yeosu Maritime Cable Cars (여수 해상케이블카). This attraction opened in December 2014. We rode in the special “crystal” cars that had glass bottoms. The views were beautiful as we traveled over the Dadohae Marine National Park and Dolsandaegyo Bridge.

     

    Yeosu Cable Car

     

    Cable car clear floor

     

    Cable car ride

     

    After our cable car rides, we walked to Odongdo Island (오동도). We had less than an hour there. The weather was much warmer in Yeosu and the greenery was beautiful.

     

    Odongdo island

     

    Dragon cave:

     

    Odongdo Island dragon cave

     

    This is called a turtle ship, a Korean warship. The ship was loaded with spikes and cannons. Both cannons and flames were fired from the dragon’s mouth:

     

    Odongdo Island turtle ship

     

    After another huge lunch, we headed to the train station to return to Seoul. We had a wonderful time with our 23 friends! Thank you, KFS Foundation!!!

     

    Travel group

     

    • For more information on the Suncheon area, visit www.suncheon.go.kr.
    • For more information on the Yeosu area, visit www.ystour.kr/en/main.jsp.

     

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    Seoul Lantern Festival

    There are special events ALL the time in Seoul. We’ve had a couple busy weeks and the weather has been rainy off and on, but there was a clear night last night so we went to check out the Seoul Lantern Festival!

    The festival started November 5 and is on display until November 22 this year. The lanterns begin at Cheonggyecheon Plaza (청계광장) and go a little over a kilometer down to Supyogyo Bridge. You can see them illuminated from 5 to 11 pm. This is the seventh year Seoul has hosted the lantern festival and the theme is “Illuminated Seoul Tour.”

    These are so much more than paper lanterns! (They’re not paper… or there’s some sort of coating, anyways.) See for yourself:

     

    Rainbow Bridge

     

    Building lanterns

     

    Seoul lantern palace

     

    Child looking at lantern

     

    Can you believe the detail and dimensions of this one?

     

    Lantern detail

     

    Bukchon Hanok Village Sign

     

    Lanterns of Korean children

     

    Fish lanterns

     

    Some people paid to customize floating lanterns. I guess you make a wish and send it down the stream:

     

    Floating lanterns

     

    Floating lanterns pink and orange

     

    David at Seoul Lantern Festival

     

    Hanging lanterns under bridge

     

    Bridge, lanterns, and reflections

     

    Cheonggyecheon stream and lanterns

     

    There were several exit points along the way. We indulged in some street food:

     

    Street food vendor

     

    One of the treats we got was a pancake folded in this paper cup. I got a kick out of the writing on it. “Espresso of Street. When I walk on the street with my coffee, I feel so good and happy. Magical thing! It’s a cup of coffee.” Ha!

     

    Food vendor cup funny saying

     

    Leah under bridge

     

    Lantern man

     

    Animal lanterns

     

    And what lantern festival would be complete without… Mount Rushmore?

     

    Mount Rushmore lantern

     

    These photos weren’t even half of the displays! There were several Korean cartoon characters, a giant make-up display, illuminated bridges, and more. It’s definitely worth checking out! (Plus, it’s free!)

    For more information, check out these websites:
    visitkorea.or.kr
    visitseoul.net

    Which one was your favorite?

     

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