Sunday, February 28, 2016

My First Vlog in Korea

I haven't made a vlog in a couple of years--mostly because of time, also because as much as I like the process of video editing, I don't really think of myself as a very interesting person.  Haha.  However, when a group of my friends decided to create vlogs to update each other about "where we are now" I thought I would join in on the project.  I was in luck this past weekend because I was borrowing a camera to take pictures of one of our sporting events at the school and had time to record a video before returning it.

I struggled a bit with the lighting and had to re-record when, in my first round of editing, I found that everything was really bright and washed out.  I had more success the 2nd time and so here it is: a quick snapshot of my life on Jeju thus far broken into 3 main ideas.

If you liked this video and think I should try to do more vlog-type things, please let me know and I will make more of an effort! Huzzah!

Love and Hugs.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Foreigner Musings: Thoughts from China

While I have now been living in Korea for nearly 7 months, I have never really felt my "foreigner-ness" as much as when I was in Liu Zhou, China.  Here in Korea, my work environment is pretty much an English bubble and there are a lot supports when I go out and about on errands from bilingual friends, to signs, to the ever present wifi/data on my phone.  Even when I first arrived in Korea, I could at least sound out store names because the Korean alphabet is so straight forward.  The Chinese characters are currently beyond my ability and with everything closed up tight for the Spring Festival, I had no idea what anything was supposed to be.

My friends took me to this lovely park that was in the middle of the Liu Zhou.
Liu Zhou, while quite large at 3 million people, is not a tourist destination.  Other than my friends, I think we only saw one other westerner the whole week.  I also quickly learned some of the biggest pet peeves for my two western friends.  While one has only recently moved to China, the other has been there a number of years and relayed that these annoyances never go away.  In the short time that I was there, I quickly saw what they meant.  And while I was amused, I realized that after months and years, it could get more... annoying. Haha.
It was a beautiful day to walk around the park.  We went to the two pagodas seen in this picture.
If it was only the staring, I think they wouldn't have mentioned it.  I occasionally get stared at in Korea but I don't always realize.  Once I was out with one of my Korean students and she straight up asked me what it feels like to be stared at all the time after we had walked down one street.  I hadn't noticed at all.  And so, in China, too, they stare.  We three westerners are obvious.  As much as I try and blend in, but I just don't. Ha!  Like I said, if it was just staring, that would be okay, but...
#1 - You are Caucasian so you must speak English so I will speak to you in English right now even though I'm just walking past you and we've never met and I will never see you again and I can only say one word:
While we were walking around town or around some of the parks, people would, upon seeing us, yell "Hello/Hi" and then grin.  That's it.  Depending on the age, they might run away or giggle or smile shyly, too.  A couple times though, we were walking down the sidewalk and people on motorcycles would just yell it out as they rode by.  It's one thing to want to practice your English, but another thing to yell at random strangers.  And while I speak English, I didn't like how they assumed that because I'm white I speak English.  There are a lot of other languages I might speak instead.  My friends said that sometimes they replied in Mandarin, much to the surprise of the "offenders."
A lovely bridge and some paddle boats available for rent.
#2 - Because you are Caucasian I want to take your picture--I might ask if I can think of the English words but if I can't I'm just going to point my camera at you and take one anyway.
I don't really understand why people want pictures of random strangers, but then again I need to remember that I grew up in a multicultural environment.  My elementary school classes had people from all sorts of countries and I was accustomed to seeing Chinese, Korean, Caribbean, African, Middle Eastern and so on.  I don't fully understand the novelty of seeing someone who looks so different from you because I grew up with it. Still, having people sneakily--and then some not so sneakily--take your picture while you are walking around a park is a little weird.  I wonder what they will do with the photos and what they will say to their friends...
My friends.  The park entrance is hidden off to the right.
All in all though, it was a lot fun. While I definitely felt the cultural differences more because of the language barrier, I greatly enjoyed exploring the city and the surrounding nature.  I am forever humbled by how vast and amazing the world is--in natural scenery, societal structure, and language development.
In another park a couple days later, we found this statue of a young woman riding a carp to heaven.
Me, taken from the top of the small mountain featured in the above picture.
Until next time,
Love and Hugs.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Welcome to China.

Distant thunder awakens me from a heavy slumber. Did it start raining?  Better question: is it morning yet?  I hope not.  With great effort, I open eyelids sanded shut.  Darkness.  Blast.  I roll over and shut my eyes.  More sleep please.  I've had a long day of travelling from Seoul, through Shanghai to Guilin and then at last to Liu Zhou, and for now I wish to be dead to the world...

Again I am awakened by a loud noise.  Is that a train I hear? Cracking and clunking down the line?  I don't remember seeing tracks near here... but then again I arrived in the middle of the night.  I emerge from the covers and pry open an eye.  White light shines through the translucent windows and I surrender to wakefulness.  A smile tugs at my cracked lips as I rub the sleep from my eyes.  It's a new day and I have arrived in China.  A trip to see a friend; a trip to visit a country; an adventure waiting to begin.
View from the top of one of the mountains.  Taken a couple days after I arrived.
To say my expectations shattered upon my exploration of the city would be inaccurate.  Mostly because, like with most of my adventures, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect.  All my life, China has been the strange and very distant place.  Sure, everything is made in China, but the country itself seemed enshrouded in thick cloth like a lady covered by a veil.  Just what lies hidden beneath the fabric?
One of the main roads as seen from atop a small mountain.
A look down a smaller street.
I head out into the city streets, excited to see and learn something new.  The main roads are wide and often chaotic. Cars, motorbikes and people all seem to follow a complicated dance.  It's a wonder to me that no one gets injured, and yet it also seems to work.  The side streets, too, are their own poetry.  Some weaving like zigzags between houses, while others march straight around the apartment-like buildings.

As I walk to market, I pass patches of red... dust?  Flower petals?  I bend low and examine the strange clumps of paper.  Looking down one of the narrow streets, I can see large patches of red every few feet.

Shots fire from somewhere between the buildings and I jump back in alarm.  The sound echoes through the narrow valleys, the tall buildings acting as an amp both magnifying and distorting the sound waves until it sounds like waves crashing... or thunder rolling and even a train clunking...

Do these shots meaning gun fire?  No one else appears alarmed...

I take another step down the street beneath red lanterns when a whine breaks the silence followed by a couple more shots.  I turn the corner to see lights popping and sparking in the air.  A few feet away, children crouch and cover their ears, their faces alive with glee.

Piles of fire cracker remains was everywhere.
Ah.  Never gun fire.  Not even a train or thunder in the early morning.

Fire crackers and fireworks.  Anytime, anywhere.  All week long.

Welcome to the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year.

Love and Hugs.

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...