On Top Of The World (Mountain)

Me at the top of the mountain. The marker that shows the
height of the peak, 423 meters.

A few years ago, I went on a hiking trip with some random people I met to Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was the first time I had been hiking since I hiked Diamond Head in Hawaii with my sister, and I was excited. It was an easy hike and I was having a great time with my friends, UNTIL…

Someone had the bright idea to get off the marked trail to take a picture.
We climbed down, off the trail (all 20 something of us) to get a picture of all of us with the lake in the background. As we were climbing back up, I followed the rest of the group along the same path they had just taken. As I stepped, the ground gave out, resulting in me falling, rolling down the hill a few times and hitting my head on a rock that ended up keeping me from falling further into the lake at the bottom.
The fall only produces a few marks and bruises but I would later learn that the mental scars were far worse than the physical ones. 
In March, I decided to try hiking again. Korea is surrounded by beautiful mountains and I was anxious to get back out there and hike some of them. With my backpack and camel pack ready to go, I braved the mountain on a beautiful Saturday morning. I was doing well until we got to a point where we reached a steep uphill climb and all I could see were rocks. Anxiety and fear crippled me and I lost it. I couldn’t do it. I had come so far but I just couldn’t bring myself to go any further. 
I was so disappointed, I desperately wanted to get to the top of the mountain but despite my attempts to calm myself and push forward. The spirit of fear won and I went back down the direction I had just come. I attempted a second hike when I was in Jeonju and yet again found myself giving control to the spirit of fear. 
Frustration and disappointment mounted as I so desperately wanted to be able to hike again without having flashbacks of the accident and fear that I would fall again. 
Well friends. Today was that day!! I set out to hike yet again, determined to succeed and reach the top of the mountain. With Romans 8:38-39 and 2 Timothy 1:7 tucked away in my brain this time, I stepped foot after foot, sweat pouring down and quoted the scripture every time I felt fearful. I hiked all the way up to the top of Mount Gyejoksan, all 423 meters (1388 feet) of it. It was a wonderful adventure and a great reminder that my God is far bigger than any evil trick Satan has up his sleeve.
Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Red Clay Soil trail. In Korea people come and walk
this trail barefoot allowing the clay to wrap around their
feet and provide some sort of healing treatment.
Burial tomb. It’s very common in Korea to see burial tombs
in many of the mountains.
Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day but here is my view
of the city from the peak of the mountain.
On the way back down I found this gem. If you look closely,
you can see the mountain I hiked in the far left corner.

Buh Ran Dee goes to the doctor

Two days after arriving in Korea I was sent to go get my health exam. Before getting the exam, I had to get my photo taken to go with the paperwork. The head teacher of my school sent me to a professional photo taking shop to get a single head shot for the paperwork. Only, it wasn’t a single shot. The photographer took shot after shot of my face then meticulously took his time to airbrush every single freckle off my face before printing my package of pictures. 

You see, in Korea, having perfectly white pasty skin is considered beautiful. Being tan is considered sexy and takes away your innocence. Freckles are considered ugly and heaven forbid you have a mole! 
I didn’t listen to my mom when she was yelling as us to put on sunblock before we went outside. Instead, I spent hours at the lake, swimming pool, or on the tennis court soaking in the sun and the sun burns. And as I’ve gotten older, my skins is revealing to the world that I didn’t listen to my mama. 
Today I went to the doctor to have a skin lesion checked. If you’ve ever watched FRIENDS, you may recall the episode titled “The One With Ross’ Thing.” Ross has an unknown skin lesion examined. The lead doctor calls in every other doctor, medical student, and staff at the hospital to look at Ross’ “thing.” This is exactly what I felt like today. The Korean’s “ooo’d” and “aaaaa’d” in awe of the fact that my skin looked different then theirs. It was extremely uncomfortable but I can’t help but laugh at all the differences between our cultures. 
It was a very weird experience but the day did provide a couple of laughs. While speaking to the resident before seeing the doctor. He noticed a scar on my arm. Knowing why I was there, he still felt it necessary to put his two cents in and tell me “Ohhhhh, scar very ugly, I take off, you beautiful again.” I politely declined his offer, never wanting to forget the reason I have that scar, only for him to try two more times to allow him to operate on me so I could become beautiful. 
My visit concluded with hearing one of the nurses calling out the names of all the patients seen that day as the other nurse was cutting into my skin. It was a nice distraction for the anxiety that was plaguing me…
1. Jun Suh Park 
2. Seo Yun Kim
3. Kim Jun Un
4. Woo Jin Choi
5. Yeon Jun Lee 
6. Buh Ran Dee <———– That’s me 🙂 

Crazy Things Korean Kids Say

It all started about 6 years ago. At the time, I was working at the county hospital in the Psychiatric Emergency Room. Working with psych patients you are bound to see crazy things and you will definitely hear crazy things. One day, I decided it wasn’t fair to keep the funny stories to myself so I started sharing the “Quote of the day” with my friends and family on FB. 
With the many crazy things I heard from my patients both medicated, and high on the latest street drug, it was easy to get a quote of the day. It was not so easy however, to choose which statement would qualify as the one thing I would share. The quote of the day was a hit and soon it became a trend many of my friends adopted.  
Working at the jail I got my fair share of marriage proposals and crazy quotes and although my friends and family were happy to see me move to Korea and embark upon this next chapter of life, I know deep down they miss the quote of the day. I have tried my best to post the silly things the kids have said but in case you have missed any of them, here is my top 10 for the first 6 months in Korea. 
Number 10… 
While pointing to the freckles on my face, “Teacher chocolate? Here teacher, tissue. No on face.”
Number 9…
Having no idea what my student was trying to say, these are the words that came from his mouth; 
“Teacher, bang bang bang, tick tick tick, woooooooooo, boom!”
After about 5 more minutes of Onomonopia, I finally realized he was trying to say earthquake. 
Number 8…
When asked what they know about America, 
“America gives guns to children.” 
“People boom boom and die.”
“People gun to building and people die and Obama angry.”
“Many, many terror.” 
Number 7…
While teaching “ing” endings, I acted out various verbs. The kids had to say she is running, jumping, singing, dancing, ect. I pretended to cry to elicit the word “crying” and the student responded saying “Teacher is sadding.”
Number 6…
While trying to get my students to identify the word “Firework” or “Firecracker,” instead I got firelight, light fire, play fire.
Number 5…
Trying to teach the letter “S” I asked my kindergartners to shout out words that started with the letter “S.” Searching the room to read anything they could recall, I heard “Snake, snail, Saturday, Shoe, Strawberry…” Then one of my five year olds yelled out “Teacher, teacher… Sexy lady.” I blame Psy for that one! 
Number 4…
Trying to elicit the word alien, I asked my kids “Who lives on mars?”

With the most eager excitement I have seen, one of my students raises her hand and screams “Teacher, teacher, the UFO monster!” 🙂

Number 3…
One of my students pointed to an old man’s arm hair in the picture and referred to it as “fur.” I explained it was hair on his arm so it was called arm hair. Curiosity got the best of me so I pointed to his mustache and asked what it was called. This is what I got; 
~ mouth hair
~ mouth up hair
~ nose under hair
~ middle mouth and nose hair
Number 2…
In one of my classes we are learning the months of the year. Today, I tested the students memory of the months. Here’s how it went…
Me: “Okay, who can tell me the first six months? Lily, how about you?”
Lily: “January, February, Monuary…”
Me: “Not quite, let’s try again, how about the middle months?”
Lily: “May, June, Juvember…”
Me: “Hmm, maybe we should focus on the last 6 months we learned, let’s try again.”
Lily: “Um… July, August, Sebuary.”
Gotta give her credit for trying so hard, and extra credit for making me smile so much!
Number 1…
Me: “Where are Yeon Jun and Dean?”

Student: “Yeon Jun is buying fried chicken and Dean is fighting.”
Me: “Fighting? Oh no! Did you tell Elle teacher.”
Student: “No, it’s okay teacher.”
Me: “No it’s not okay we need to tell someone.” 
Student: “No teacher, Dean no hand fighting, he is mouth fighting.”

Mouth fighting… Haven’t heard that one before!


Hooker Hill, Dark Alleys And Dancing

This week the itch to go two stepping was so strong. I’ve missed it since moving to Korea and so far I’ve been able to manage, but the need to put my boots on and take a spin around the dance floor has been growing. Trying to find info on local country bars, I stumbled across a place in Seoul, a place called the Grand Ole Opry. My friend Leslie had mentioned going to Seoul for the lantern festival so I messaged her to see if I could con her into getting her two step swag on while we were up there. I used the word swag to persuade her because I’m pretty sure Leslie has never been to a country bar in her life. 

I put my boots in my backpack and headed to the train station to make my way to Seoul. I booked a hostel online, the only 1 of two left in Itaewon that had rooms on such short notice.
With a 92% rating, I didn’t think twice about whether or not the hostel was good but that changed very fast when Leslie and I had trouble finding it.
A staff member meet us outside of McDonald’s to escort us to the hostel. We walked down the street, turned down a dark alley, then a second dark alley. With no businesses or humans in sight, I started to get a little nervous when we turned down a 3rd dark alley, not even wide enough for two people to stand side by side and walk through.
After the third dark alley we walked up a very narrow flight of stairs to be escorted to our rooms. Thank goodness Korea is such a safe place. I can’t imagine what we could have encountered if that was the case in any other country. 
After grabbing a bite to eat and listening to some Jazz music, Leslie and I roamed around Itaewon trying to find the Grand Ole Opry. I couldn’t find the Opry on my GPS and the only directions listed on the internet were “It’s at the top of Hooker Hill.”
I found a foreigner and asked if they knew where it was to get a quick “Nope, sorry.” So I resorted to asking the next two gentleman I saw if they knew where hooker hill was. It was quite entertaining to watch people’s reactions to that question. We had an extremely difficult time trying to find it so I had to ask several people. Two men got very excited we were going to hooker hill and told us to have a great time. Another man, I can only assume purposefully directed us away from hooker hill maybe due to embarrassment as we were standing so close to it when I asked him where it was. And the final gentleman we asked (who was the one that helped us find it) paired his response with “Don’t ask me how I know.”  
We managed to find the country bar only for me to be completely disappointed as there were only about 6 people in the entire place and the dance floor was only the size of a queen size bed. Needless to say we left very soon after arriving. 

Life Through The Lens Of A Camera

As I was prepping my students for their test today, we reviewed the vocabulary words we recently learned. I told the kids they had to give me a new sentence; one they hadn’t used before. I asked one of my students to give me a sentence for the word America and this is what he said… “America gives guns to children.” I asked the student where he heard that and he said “On the internet.” It sparked my curiosity so I went around the room and asked the kids to tell me something they know about America and where they learned it. Here are their responses, 

“American people have many guns.”
“People boom boom and die.”
“People gun to building and people die and Obama angry.”
“Many, many terror.” 
Each response was followed by an explanation they had seen or read something on the TV or Internet that gave them this impression. Their words reminded me of the array of questions I’ve gotten every time someone hears I am from Texas. Such as; “Do they really ride down the streets on horses? Is it true everyone has a gun? Is Texas Chainsaw massacre real?” Each question spurred by something the asker of the question had seen on TV or in a movie. 
Just as my kids and the other foreigners and Korean’s I’ve met make assumptions based on things they’ve seen through TV and Movies, the same can be happening in regards to my time in Korea. 
Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard the following phrase over and over again, “Looks like you’re doing great over there.” I used to get really annoyed when I heard those words, thinking to myself “Stop making an assumption based on what you are seeing in my pictures and FB status’ and ask me how I’m doing.” It’s really easy to smile for the camera, but the smile doesn’t tell you the story in the picture. But the truth is, I am the one responsible for what people are thinking about my life. I am the one posting pictures, FB status’, and blogs. 
It hasn’t been easy figuring out how to keep my friends and family updated while trying not to allow Facebook and social media to become an idol in my life. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge. There have been times when I’ve waited to post pictures and such (due to the time difference) aware of when you might actually see it.
When the internet is the only way you communicate with most of the people in your life sometimes it’s the first thing you turn to in the morning. It’s been an area I have had to guard my heart in. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been close, convicting and speaking to me when I need to check myself, my pride and my attitude but living life through the lens of the camera isn’t an easy thing to do.