Another Update

Another update, here we are, or rather here am I, sitting at a computer room of my small hotel, feeling a bit sweaty and warm, tanktop and boardshorts on, I think there’s a small mosquito trying to get acquainted with my feet…Ah Cambodia.

Well, after four nights in Battambang I have hopped a four dollar four hour bus to Siem Reap. For those of you that do not know, Siem Reap is home to the famous temples of ANGKOR WAT.

Wat is Angkor you ask?

Well, it is a magnificent spreadout of Cambodian temple across a few miles. It was built for a King some 800 years ago, and for as long as I can remember, I have had a desire to visit these temples.

Angkor Wat

I still recall as a young boy looking at geographical books and seeing pictures of the temples and the huge faces that were built in them. It looked quite exotic and still intact over the hundreds of years. While growing up and strengthening my travel curio, I always thought someday I will visit Angkor Wat and when my friends who had visited the temples said, “have you been there?” and “You need to see it,” I politely and calmly said, “yes someday I will get there.”

Well, my friends, the time has come!

My next post will likely be about the temples and experiences with my Tuk Tuk driver, Lee, who I got acquainted with today and who I hired in a couple days to be my driver, since these temples are spread around. Unless, you’re an avid guru hiker from say, the Northwest, I would suggest hiring a Tuktuk. Plus, I was recommended to do so by a trusted traveler friend of mine. Word of mouth travel advice from your travel friends is the best, let me tell ya.

I just wanted to let you know about some of the conversations I’ve been having while in Cambodia. Most of my purpose here is to see how people here live, how they make a living, what their dreams are, what stories of their life has already been written. People from all backgrounds.

One story I would like to share is of a girl named Tien Tien. My German roommate Hannis had returned from a day of touring and “shooting.” Yes, in Cambodia, for 40 bucks you can shoot a round of ammo in an AK-47. Wanna go bigger? Why not check out some of the machine guns, for about 100, still not big enough to satisfy your ego? Bazooka, $350.

Wow, this is the greatest thing I have ever done!

Anyways, yeah things like that can happen here. Personally, I don’t care to participate as I’m somewhat against the transportation of arms into these areas. But nonetheless, after you’ve had a nice day of shooting, you get a free pitcher of local beer at their pub which is located in the city. Since Hannis had no one to share in this ritual with him, he invited me and I hesitantly accepted.

When we walked in, we immediately noticed a few local girls outside and inside the pub and we wondered just what kind of pub was this, but we decided to drink our free pitcher and then split after that.

As I was sitting there, a girl came to sit next to me and so I started up conversation. I found out her name was Tien Tien and she was from Vietnam. Immediately my mind went to, “how did she get here?” “Was she trafficked?” “What’s the story?” She was nice enough, and I didn’t feel like she was a prostitute but more like a hired “hostess.” These are girls that are hired to chat to customers like me, and encourage them to buy more drinks.

I find out Tien Tien comes from a fairly rural area in Vietnam and works here in Cambodia to provide for her Mama and Papa back home. She is the eldest of three girls and so the responsibility to provide for the family falls on her. And when jobs are limiting to women in an area like South East Asia, you take what you can get.

As I ask questions about her family, her education, and her life, she realizes I’m not just some ignorant guy that comes to get drunk and shoot guns. She tells me she speaks from her heart, pointing to her chest and tells me her dreams to open a cafe in her area. She tells me she stopped going to school at 10 and that she used to transport large amounts of food in baskets on her head in Cambodia and Vietnam. The other Cambodian girls laugh a bit at this story and she shows me a small bald spot on her head because of the work.

I ask her what would it take to fund her cafe business and she says it would cost $4,000. I say, you’d like a nice cafe yes? She replies yes. I ask the Cambodian girl behind the bar, what is your dream? She says, to go to university, I say why not now? She tells me she need $400 to go for a year and she doesn’t have it. This is her second job, as with all the other girls.

As I continued conversation, I learned that it wasn’t that these girls wanted to be here, but it was a second job that paid all right. ($2.50 for the 8 hour shift) They work hard to move up. I couldn’t help but think, man couldn’t I get these girls a loan, could I even fund it myself for them with accountability?

It’s tougher when you don’t have male siblings to take the responsibility to provide for your parents when they get old. There’s no social security or pensions going on here. I got Tien Tiens contact info so I could forward her micro lending banks in the Vietnam area. Maybe they can help her with a loan.

Another quick story I have is of a man I met in Battambang named Tsauh. I asked him what he did on his free day on Sunday and he told me he cut down coconuts to make necklaces and earrings. I asked why? And he said that he is making the jewelry so he can make enough money to pay for his wedding, which is a requirement in order to take a woman as your bride. In a way it is a “brideprice,” but it is required that in order to take the woman as your wife, you need to provide for the wedding. You pay this to the brides family, they make the wedding arrangements.

So he needs to raise $2,500. Which isn’t exactly chump change here in Cambodia. He’s selling the jewelry for 2-3 dollars a piece. I said “look man, I can get that sold in the states for 20-30 dollars a piece, let me take pictures of your stuff with the story and you can marry your girl.” I’m all about LOVE! He was interested by my proposition, so I took photos today of his work and am looking to post it up on Etsy, Zazzle or some other art site. I may talk to my African homie who runs a shop in Seattle to sell his stuff too. Check the photos below, maybe you’re interested!

As I travel, I think there are all kinds of stories of people who have dreams but lack resources. I have seen a lot, met a lot of people and can make things happen. So, I do what I can as I travel. And I carry this mantra with me wherever I am at life. It feels good to help another, and in these parts, help is needed a lot more than at home.

It’s nice to have my own room with some privacy. Travel tip #2322, remember to get solo rest every so often. Considering I’ll be doing some heavy sightseeing in the next couple of days, it’s due.

Longer post, thanks for reading. Here are some photos~~~

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Welcome to Battambang

So after 4 nights in Phnom Penh, I hopped on a bus 5 hours north to Battambang,

So what’s so hip in Battambang?

Who wants some fruit?

Not much really, but it’s a semi-populated area that borders many villages and surrounding rural areas. A university I used to work for has a campus here with a youth development center and an AIDS orphanage, so I made arrangements to stay at their guesthouse for the weekend.

Local Deity welcomes you to Battambang

The drive up was pleasant enough. $6.00 gets you practically across the country. These prices have got me thinking Vietnam, Laos, Burma….hmmmm focus focus!

Actually, Indonesia is starting to form as a definite plan to me since my family used to live there prior to WWII. My Oma (Grandma) lived the first 40 years of her life there. She is still alive at 100 today. I know she would love for me to talk about the climate, the food and people I meet there. I actually grew up eating a lot of rice and Indonesian food and spice. Yum!

I don’t have much to report on as far as significant events from the past three days. I visited the World Vision field office here in Battambang, which employs 200 persons, mostly who are working in our projects doing agricultural development, health care, education etc. I visited the AIDS orphanage, but many of the kids were in school at the time. Some sweet little boys though. Their families can’t provide for them, especially if they are sick, so they pass them to the orphanage for some time.

I’m learning how people come to be in their lives here in Cambodia. It is most definitely a nation that operates on significantly less money than the US. Of course.

The typical Cambodian makes 500-800 dollars a year. Good salaries, are 1600-2000 a year. The best jobs in the country are actually working for International aid organizations. They pay about 150 a month, and are consistent. Though you could make that much as a government or police officer, you may not always see it. Corruption floats around everywhere. Here’s an example…Most of the guesthouses in Battambang are empty with guests, but there are a LOT. There’s no way they can stay afloat as a business. So how do they exist? Simple…You take all the money you corruptly received, write down you had a sold out guesthouse at X amount, and there you have it…”Dirty” money converted to “clean” money.

It feels good to travel, and to meet new friends and see the Cambodian world. I plan to go to Angkor Wat after this and make my way back to the southern part of the country to rendezvous with friends. I finally had my first stomach upset, and I know what did it…Stupid street sausage, what was I thinking!? Anyways, I am experienced in handling these things, so I drank a lot of water and stuck to rice, bananas, and some vegetables. Two days later, it’s all good. I did arrange to have amoxicillin before I left the US, just in serious case scenarios.

It’s so easy to travel. Talk to you later, I’m off to go the restaurant Angelina ate at when she came here and adopted one of her international kids. Good times~

World Vision Cambodia

This post will be related to my work, non governmental organizations, and serving those in need. If you want to keep reading, please come sit and have some tea. :)

At the computer~

So I’ve been working for World Vision for the past couple of years and it has been an amazing journey. Working for one the largest relief and development organizations in the world has been extremely educational and taken my abilities to the next level. Throughout my career here, I have met some fascinating individuals and have embraced fully how World Vision approaches helping those in need.

In my experiences working in international development, I have learned that things can become very complicated. You have your massive corporations whose annual revenue surpasses more than most countries annual GDP’s. There’s a LOT of power and influence that comes to serve economic interests and growth. And at most times, this comes at the cost to those in the most need, the “poor.” Then there’s large NGO’s like Oxfam, Red Cross, World Vision, Mercy Corps, Save the Children. The mid level organizations and the “Mom and Pop” non profits, usually serving a small community. Let’s not forget the other organizations utilizing volunteers, missionaries, there are churches and there are governments too. Lots of players in the game so to speak.

Sometimes, the “people” who need to be assisted, get overwhelmed by the saturation of agencies and “help” that is brought in. Most NGO’s wants the same result. We want to see people in need get the assistance they require so that we can reduce child mortality, help people get better nutrition, proper medical care and availability and provide opportunities for growth through education, skills building and micro loans. It’s all good, but with all the various interests in the soup, are people really being helped?

What am I saying? I’m saying that, yes, there is a TON of need out there and people whose lives are meager. That’s not to say that people aren’t eating, (at least not in Cambodia), but no one is moving up. I’m saying that, “development” is complicated and isn’t the easiest process. As an anthropologist, traveler and NGO employee, I fully understand this and I know about the failures in the past, and this is what has partially inspired my journey to Asia, because, I HAVE to know that my organization, World Vision, is providing for the needs of the people. I know WV is helping immensely and has for many years. It’s my job to know about our many projects, initiatives and history. I have heard the testimonies of people who visited our work. And trust me, there are a good many success stories. But I need to know firsthand from the locals how World Vision has helped. I know in my heart people are being helped, but call me Thomas, I need to see it, I need to hear it from my brothers and sisters. My brothers and sisters in Cambodia. :) For me, it would double my passion in my work for World Vision.

So I excitedly went to World Vision Cambodia today. One of our largest offices in the Southeast Asian region, our organization has been here since 1970. We assisted during the Khmer Rouge, the wars, helped in agriculture, malnutrition and primary health care and currently have 1,500 employees in the country. It was a good place to choose to explore because of our history here.

World Vision Cambodia National Office

As I entered the premises, I saw the many World Vision vehicles parked outside. 4×4’s and trucks, it was quickly realized, this isn’t a support office. :)

Care for a ride?

I was warmly welcomed to my appointment (more like a cool welcome since it’s already pretty warm outside ) :) and was introduced to the offices visitor representative. We had a good conversation, dropping names to each other about who we both knew in the US office, talked about the work here in the nation and what my particular objectives were while in country. Then I was able to meet the National Director of World Vision Cambodia and had a very good chat with her. After my visit, I was given the opportunities to visit our projects in the “field.”

World Vision Cambodia has 38 field projects and also projects in the cities assisting those who are victims of trafficking or street children. After my visit to the office, I walked into the adjoining office of Vision Fund Cambodia, a micro finance institution birthed from World Vision. Vision fund Global currently serves over 650,000 individuals with small loans and the portfolio extends over $350,000,000. You ask what the interest rate is? Well, in Cambodia it’s 1.7-2.5 % depending on the loan. Not bad. Not bad at all.

At the Vision Fund Office. Maybe I'll get a loan for that mango farm I've been dreaming of starting...

I had a fruitful and informational talk with the banking manager and really learned that Vision Fund Cambodia is one huge success story. The mission of VF is to “provide financial services to help the poor liberate themselves from poverty.” Boy, do they do that. Some statistics to show you:

*The loan portfolio has grown from $3,445,767 in 2005 to $30,017,044 in 2010.

*The clients have grown from 25,347 in 2005 to 108,047 in 2010.

*88% are women borrowers

*Average loan size: $324

*Payback rate: %99.5

It’s working people.

I asked the banker, who’s in charge of the money in the family. He said, “the woman is.” Oh really? “Yes, if husband gets paycheck, he gives straight to wife.” The girls in the bank started to smile, I said “So is this really a good idea?” The room burst into laughter. Haha, good times.

But really, having the woman of the household is smart because, let’s face it guys, they can be just a bit more responsible at times. If a guy, who is a member of a patriarchal community, cannot provide for his family as much as he wants and has no chance to move up, because he has tried tirelessly and so did his Father, he may just resort to drinking some hard stuff and smoking tobacco. When really, the little money the family has should be saved and used for better purposes. I can’t blame the man, he’s poor, and wants an escape outside of his life. My point is, give the money to the woman, she’s more likely to utilize it better, so that her children are fed, possibly given an education (which is moving up) and combining this cash with her micro loan to make more money to provide for the family. In Cambodia, this is working VERY well.

So, after having yet another encouraging conversation, I hopped on the back of a motorcycle, which are the common form of taxi here to get back to my guesthouse. Picture me reading reports on the back while the moto is zig zagging in between cars and other bikes. No big deal, this is CAMBODIA mate!

World Vision Scooter anyone?

As I came back to my guesthouse, I was welcomed by some of the Tuk Tuk and moto drivers, who I’ve befriended the past few days. One of the drivers took me to World Vision just a few hours before. “So, did you have good time in World Vision?” Yes, yes it was good I told him. “World Vision VERY GOOD, Very Good!” As he was giving me a moving thumbs up and looking me in the eye, both serious and thankful in glance. “Yes, thank you” I said. “No, World Vision Very GOOD! They help Cambodian! I know! I have been here, World Vision Very GOOD!”

That was all I needed to hear.

Tuk Tuk driver friend and I

New Country, new scene, here we go..

The # 40 country logged in…….ladies and gentlemen…

C A M B O D I A

Welcome to Cambodia

Here I am. Mmmmmm…Smell the hot humid air…Feel the tropical scents….incense comes in spurts somewhere…..a bug brushes past your skin… You’re getting escorted in an open air Tuk Tuk taxi at three in the morning. All is quiet, some groups of people are socializing outside on small plastic colorful chairs around some street food carts….some are sleeping…on an canvas bed, a motorcycle….couple thin alley cats….wow it’s warm for three in the morning…looking forward to the daytime…and sleeping. :)

Cambodia is in South East Asia

I recognize it immediately. I am in another country. A non-industrial nation that has all kinds of living expression going on. There are many types of ways to be transported, such as motorcycles, bamboo juice motor carts, mopeds, autos, bike rickshaws. The buildings don’t really go over 50 meters high. Many stay around the 4-5 story height, another sign of not being in an industrial city. Little Buddhist shrines sprinkle the myriad of businesses as we drive past…This is Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city in the country.

I haven’t even been here 24 hours, but I am excited to be here. As I was entering the city from the Tuk Tuk, I realized it had been some time since I was in a nation such as Cambodia. The closest similarity was India and that was 2004. Asian, hot, somewhat chaotic as compared to the states and Europe. Life bubbling…Being in a hotter climate changes lifestyle. More relaxed, fairly friendly, business as usual.

Cambodian "Tuk Tuk."

I’m paying $7 a night for a room with a pool, restaurant and lounge, laundry, security, and personal TukTuk driver at my pleasure. Renting a bike, $3, renting a motorcycle, $7. “I’ll take the motorcycle please…” Soon, but for now, I’m not here for tourist reasons as much as I am here to learn and connect to the unjust things that happen here in country. Trafficking and child prostitution happen here in Phnom Penh, and people tell me PP is the new Bangkok, as Bangkok is currently getting more political pressure to enforce the laws against it. I will assess the situation here and what efforts are being made currently to limit it. Meeting with people engaged in the issue is in the works. Tomorrow I will go to World Vision Cambodia to see our fieldwork and connect with my colleagues here. We have quite a big presence here in the area and are respected. Already my Tuk Tuk driver spoke highly of our NGO (non-governmental organization).

World Vision Cambodia

I just had a nice fish and rice lunch, with a soup and an iced sweet coffee. Grand total: $1.75. Ahhh, it’s good to be in Cambodia.

In the hotel I’m at, there are reminders of the types of travelers one can encounter in a country like this. My roommates are 3 Latino long-haired tied bun in the back yoga hippies, a sort of typical type one may find in the sub-tropical areas of SE Asia and India, then we have our expats who came here and never left, and they look thin, toned, and like they have seen a thing or two since being here and maybe smoked opium at one point. Then there’s the British students on their gap years, have fun kids. And then there’s the people who come here to escape some predicaments they may have had in their own country. It’s not hard to come here as a foreigner and live an escaped sweet life.

Just to give you an example…I’ve met a guy who lives in a three-story four bedroom house alone, has his own security guard, his personal Tuk Tuk driver and runs a movie house in the city that shows western movies every night. Totally freelance, 34 years old, writer on the side, part-time actor on the side…He’s not spending a lot of money..He’s making money, and having a blast while living. Hey as long as you don’t mind the environment, it’s all good. And the environment is so far, so good, in my eyes. Off to continue resting today, then onto work for the week~~

Ciao for now, Thanks for reading and responding. Good to have friends~

Get your yoga on

-Shawn

“Shawn, are you alive??”

Hello?

Yes, yes, Everything is good and fine, wow it’s been 10 days since I posted, a lot has been happening in Korea.

So I spent the first 7 days of Korea in Seoul, the largest city in the country, then 4 days in Busan, the second largest city and Gyeongju, a historical and cultural rural area in the central areas. Some highlights included:

The FOOD

Samgyeopsal, well known Korean dish

The food here in Korea has been a great experience. We all eat, but in Korea, eating is an integral part of the culture and eating together at restaurants sitting around sharing is the norm. Actually, now that I think about it…I don’t think I have ordered in a restaurant that had single items for each person. It’s always been sharing together.

The table comes with a myriad of small dishes comprising of kimchi, sprouts, garlic, lettuce leaves and other types of vegetables. This almost comes as a standard to any restaurant, sort of like your basket of bread and butter equivalent in the states.

Wow. I have eaten well my friends. In fact, a way to say “how are you” in Korea is to say “have you eaten?” This isn’t to imply, “have you eaten, are you hungry” but rather, “Have you been eating well recently.” So, to answer your question, YES. I have been eating well.

I’ve been eating all kinds of meats to grill, pork, beef, bacon, chicken. Kimchi (pickled cabbage, radish and spices) tofu, fishes, all kinds of vegetable dishes, soups, rices. It’s all been good.

Eating Kimchi Jiggae with my Cousin!

Music and nightlife

So with every international city, there is a different form of how people interact when the sun goes down. In Korea, many places stay open late at night and it can easily be written off as a city that never sleeps. Restaurants, cafes, lounges, pubs are all open. I was able to see one the most world famous DJ’s here in Seoul. His name is Deadmau5, and it was a very cool evening~

Good times

Historical Sites

I’ve been to my fair share of historical sites during this trip. So far I’ve been to a palace, a couple Buddhist temples, the Kings tombs, a 7th Century observatory, The original clan dwellings of the Kim and Choi families (VERY common Korean last names) amongst other sites. All have been a pleasure to learn about and see how a country that is 5,000 years old has survived and developed.

Some pictures of Historical places:

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So, it’s been two weeks now since I’ve been in Korea. I have connected with 7 of my friends here in the country. 4 that are Korean and three that are American. I’ve also connected with my cousin, who lives in Thailand most of the year and was on a layover! Great to be with friends and family. I also was able to visit my organizations office in Korea, meeting with many of my fellow colleagues who are bringing help to children.

Welcome to World Vision Korea

Thanks for reading, I fly out tomorrow~ Next stop…..

The most amazing bathhouse in the world

One word.

찜질방

Oh, I forgot, in english it’s Jjimjilbang

What a trip. What an experience. Rejuvenating, invigorating and healing.

Water. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

So, my friend and JD were told about these Jjimjilbangs or Korean bathhouses and to go visit one. Now, I’ve been to a couple of bathhouses in my day, some in the states, which are mostly spas at nice hotels, then there’s the mineral spas I’ve been to in Switzerland, the hot springs in the natural forests of Oregon and the Pacific coast, and I’ve been to a couple in China as well.

This isn’t your ordinary bathhouse, and you’re not here to just “soak.”

Bathing here in the Jjimjilbangs is communal and they have bathes for the men and for the women. So you’re gonna get naked with your fellow gender and after you’ve finished soaking, you put on the complimentary jjimjilbang shorts and t-shirt and proceed to a myriad of different options for everyone, of which I will shortly explain here.

First off, Let me say that Korea is a collectivist culture, and that sharing life in community is extremely important. All of us humans look at the world different, you know? And perspectives in the east are quite different from perspectives in the west. So, for instance, if I was to ask a Korean and an American to look at a fishtank with a fish swimming in it, the Korean may describe all the backgrounds about the tank and rocks and filters, while the American may describe the fish in detail and not mention one thing about the tank. My point is, people look at things differently and it’s all beautiful. So, this bathhouse, the Jjimjilbang, really makes Korea unique and wonderful in its own way because of what it is and how it’s experienced.

So JD and I go to a Jjimjilbang that comes recommended by a couple of locals. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of these bathhouses around the country and city. We proceeded to go to the Spa at Garden 5, and paid $10 a piece, to which we were given bracelets with an electronic key and clothes.

We get showered and get soaking in the warm tub, then the hot tub (109 F , 44 C) to the cold tub (70f) to the steam, to the sauna, to the cold shower, to the warm tub, to the sitdown shower, to the sauna, to the laydown tub with jets, to the warm tub, to the cold tub, to the sitdown shower, hmmmmmm, I think I want a massage…Charge my electronic key, 30 minutes later I feel I’ve had all my sins forgiven.

I was feeling great, and so was JD. We enjoyed conversation and all these Korean men were enjoying talking and sharing life with each other. There were also a few little boys, running around having a blast. I would have loved this as a kid! As I watched the kids jump from the cold tub to the warm tubs to be with their Dads, the thought dawned on me that probably most of these older men in this Jjimjilbangs had been doing the same thing with their Dads back when they were little ones as well.

We put on our provided beige shorts and shirt and proceeded to walk to the communal area of the bathhouse. This wasn’t a wet, tiled area, but an area that had more saunas, “resting huts,” movie rooms, restaurant, cafe, communal family floor areas, ice rooms, and yeah, there was salt rooms, yellow charcoal rooms, and the theme overall was Relaxxxxxxx. Relax, relax, and enjoy family and community.

We went to the movie room, watched some of a movie on nice Lazy-boy chairs, went up to look at these odd clay ovens that people were walking in and out of. It literally looked like an OVEN. There was no way I was not gonna go in there and experience it. I grabbed a mat and walked in…..

Welcome to the Oven

As I sat in this Pine tree sauna, sitting in a circle with 4-5 other participants, my body began to sweat almost immediately, and as I sweated I noticed my body had never sweat like I had seen before. Instead of the normal sweat that one would receive from working out, or laying on the beach for a long time, my skin started to sparkle and each little pore in my body let out the smallest mass of water. I was staring, fascinated, while smelling and feeling the heated pine, which was coming from these clusters of pine wood leaning against the circular sauna.

It didn’t take long to feel hot and good, so after 7-8 minutes, I split and proceeded to go to the “Ice Room.”

Picture a massive refrigerator, and move into the next room, you’re in the freezer. :)

Again, refreshing. My body is thanking me. Patting me on the back, saying, “You’re a good man, Shawn Saleme.”

I lay on some rock salt, understanding the healing properties of salt in general. I lay down on a floor, I drink some water. I watch as the families are enjoying fellowship together, couples laying holding each other, kids laughing and playing. It’s beautiful, it’s absolutely beautiful and I am thankful.

It’s really experiences like these, that make me want to continue to travel and live life beyond. It reminded me why I love to travel, to experience life of others in other countries. The cultures, the histories. We are a community of 7 billion on this planet and we have lots to learn from each other and lots to share with each other. Thank you Korea for sharing the Jjimjilbang with me. It truly was, one memory that will stay with me for quite some time.

Let’s add a song to this post:

Onto to Korea, with some photos of the past weeks~

KOREA.

I am here. Another new country and land I have never been to. The giddiness, though it is small, is there and my eyes are awake with new things to see, different cultures to experience, foods to taste and people to make friends with.

Already I have been here two nights, staying with one of my best friends on this planet, JD O’Brien. JD and I met while studying in Switzerland, traveled in India together for three months, and have visited each other whatever chance we get when one is in the vicinity of the other. Just to give you an example, JD drove 8 hours from Minneapolis to Chicago just to spend an evening with me grabbing dinner and catching up on life. Another time he did this last summer when I was in North Dakota. He didn’t ask for gas money or anything, he just wanted to chill. Another thing about JD is that he ALWAYS answers the phone whenever I call him to just banter or talk sports. Even if it’s “Hey dude, I’m at dinner, or church or wherever, this brother always picks up for me.” I tell you what, that’s FRIENDSHIP. JD is an amazing soul and I’m privileged to have him as a friend. He’s single ladies, so check him out on facebook, Ha.

Anyways, the universe has had our paths cross once again because JD just started teaching english here in Korea a few weeks ago. So, when I flew to China, I had no idea I would potentially be going to Korea. But here I am, and it is great to be here.

South Korea is already very very different from the day-to-day life in China. While Korea (North and South) is significantly smaller than China (think the size of Minnesota), it is a rich nation, very civilized and in general a more liberated spirit. China is BIG, lots of people, busy, horns honking, streets cooking, people moving. Draining, really after a while. Korea to me now is a breath of fresh air. Thoughts like Wow I have a seat on the subway or I don’t hear any car horns or People are smiling and joking with me have been floating around and I’m enjoying the change.

Over the years I have made many Korean friends. Some are from Korea, and some are Korean American. Through the friendships and interactions, my Korean friends have been very hospitable, faithful and encouraging. I remember when I had a Korean roommate, he asked me to join him for dinner and he cooked me these amazing Korean noodles. Another Korean friend prepared me a wonderful dinner full-out with 20 small dishes and decor. Another Korean friend prepared a FOOTBATH for me when at their home. Some Korean friends of mine have committed to pray for me everyday and some have written me very nice cards and notes of encouragement.

Needless to say, I have been intrigued about this land and have always thought for the better part of 5 years that I would visit Korea. Well folks, here I am, and who knows, maybe I will stay for a bit. So far, the people are nice, the Korean BBQ I had yesterday was phenomenal, and I have a best friend to share some life with. Hmmmm….We’ll see.

I have some pictures to post, since people have been asking. So here are some from the past couple weeks in Beijing and Xi’An.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope the Spring season is blessing you all~

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