Sunday, December 25, 2011

a Christmas Eve balloon launch...

So Christmas Eve I awoke  at 7am, and was up in Itaewon by 9am to board a bus head off to the DMZ, which is as close as civilians can go towards North Korea.  I went with some friends who told of this opportunity with North Korea Peace Organization, a non-political, non-religious organization that launches balloons with socks into N Korea every month.  While the organization is young, Mr. Lee, a North Korea defector, has been launching balloons into N Korea every month for the last 5 years, since was able to escape N Korea, at great risk to himself (he carried poison with him in case he was caught by N Korea or China).  Anyways, we went to launch socks into N Korea, as we could seen about 100 socks on each balloon, and N Koreans can use these socks on their black market to buy up to 1 months worth of food for a family.  Also, Mr. Lee told us about how many people are missing toes, feet, and legs due to frost bite from a lack of socks in the winter.  Even the well kept military has people missing socks.  Instead of messages of propaganda, the organization just had a simple message, that  said we the world community has not forgotten about North Koreans, and that the world loves them.  Live long until unification (with the South).  The wanted a simple message because the organization would like to one day be allowed to directly hand out food in North Korea, and sending over any kind of anti-N Korea leaflets would immediately make it impossible for them to ever reach this goal.

Although it was freezing, we were able to launch 4 balloons.  There was a lot of media there, and the organization was excited to be getting the message out.  AP, Reuters, and press from 6 other countries were there.  I was just really happy to be doing something very unique yet very helpful during Christmas time.  While it wasn't too dangerous, we did have to do it behind a hill from the DMZ line, as N Korea has publicly said they will fire artillery onto anyone they see launching balloons.. but anyways, here's a video!  Mind you, I'm freezing cold and tired, so keep in mind with my comments...

video


I'll add more photos later, but I have to get to work. Enjoy the video, and Merry Christmas to all!
Please check out the website www.northkoreapeace.org to donate and see pictures, also Like them on Facebook!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in Korea

Merry Christmas...almost!  I cannot believe it's already Christmas time, but sure enough it is here.  The Christmas atmosphere is definitely felt here in Korea, though Christians are the minority for sure.  Nonetheless, the departments stores and all the coffee shops and everywhere else practically enjoys dressing up for the season, and there's a lot of Christmas music being played everywhere.  Koreans celebrate Christmas as almost a Valentines like day, I've heard everyone goes out on dates / wants to have a date for Christmas.  They exchange gifts, too, and there's even Santa's in the mall....but no beard and very skinny!  Anyways, I'm very excited to have a 5 day weekend, As this will be the first time off I've had since September!  I'm going to check out some temples here in Seoul and keep it low key, but I'm ready for the time to relax.

My apartment bldg's Christmas tree!


A couple of weeks ago I went to Saodaemun Prison Museum.  It was built by the Japanese when they first colonized Korea, and was used all the way until 1987. The prisoners were those who protested against Japan and after WWII, those who protested the military dictatorships.. It was really interesting, and had a good amount of information in English as well.  The Japanese killed and tortured many Koreans there, and you saw the building/ room where the hanged people...very creepy.  It reminded me a lot of going through the Holocaust Museum in DC...pretty depressing stuff.  By far the weirdest part of it was in the basement where prisoners were tortured.  Pretty graphic, they even had a display that took a 3-d picture of your head, and then placed it on the a body that was then shown on a large TV..first you were protesting, then arrested, then put into your jail cell, then it showed you getting tortured in various ways!  We were all a little taken aback, and agreed that something like that would never be put into a Museum back home!

A few weeks before that I checked out a random temple in the northern part of Seoul.  The name has escaped me since, but it was a newer temple up in the hills. and had some beautiful scenery for still being in the middle of the city.  Here's some pictures!



















A few weeks previously I had also gone out to Insadong, which is a big shopping area and kind of a touristy area for the tourists looking for souvenirs.  I liked the area because finally, there was some decent architecture!  This is something that is definitely lacking in Korea, but there are more and more buildings going up with a modern look to them.. here's some pictures of Insadong...









Here's my street when the leaves were nice colors a couple months back....



I thought this was pretty funny of myself....the girl copied a friends summary (or the friend copied hers), either way, I crossed out my Great comment and I wrote Do Not Copy, which you can see she then scribbled off and I Don't not copy.  I'm guessing she didn't quite understand or appreciate the humor in my response to her comment...


 So based off of the Thai food alone that I've been having at this restaurant in Itaewon, I can seriously see myself teaching in Thailand sometime after I'm done here in Korea...the food is just that damn good. Here's a pic of one of my recent dishes....



And finally here are some pictures of my new kids in my M21 class.  I had them in teams coming up with questions to ask the other team about the book we were reading in class.  All you have to say is boys vs girls and everyone instantly does what you ask them to do.  Quite the competitors....


Chris is the boy in green, he honestly is an old man trapped in the body of a kid.  He's so funny.


I started teaching kindergarten classes (just a science class 3 days a week) this semester as well, so I'll have to get you some pictures of those kids, cuz they are cute and it is pretty fun to teach them.  They're at the age where they love there teachers, unlike the kids in my school, who would never say "teacher, I love you!" haha.  But anyways hope everyone at home has a wonderful Christmas time! I miss all of you!