Monday, December 21, 2009

Spirituality in Kuala Lumpur

I came across this little dittie in the wonderful guest house we stayed at in Kuala Lumpur. I thought it fabulous and worth sharing.

Prayer for Tourists

Heavenly father, look down on us your humble tourist servants, who are doomed to travel this earth, taking photographs, mailing postcards, buying souvenirs and walking around in drip-dry underware.

Give us divine guidance in the selection of our hotels, that we may find our reservations honored, our rooms made up, and hot water running from the faucets.

We pray that the telephones work, and the operators speak our tongue.

Lead us, dear Lord, to good, inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters friendly and the wine included in the price.

Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand. Forgive us for undertipping out of ignorance and overtipping out of fear. Make the natives love us for what we are, and not for what we can contribute to their worldly goods.

Grant us the strength to visit the museums, the cathedrals, the palaces and castles listed as "musts" in our guidebooks.

And if perchance we skip a historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us, for our flesh is weak.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Korean Health Care Rocks!

Well, I don’t want to turn this into "Sarah’s Medical Blog", but I do have more medical news to share. And no, I’m not pregnant. (I’m getting very tired of answering that question. Is it my clothes or my big American belly?)

Back to the story...I had an extensive medical check-up this morning! And yes, I’m super excited about it. Hell, I’m an American - I don’t get check-ups unless my feet are in stirrups. And this was no ordinary check-up. It was a Korean style health care check-up. I know this is going to bore you even more, but I just need to tell you what I didn’t have to pay for this morning.

Bone Density/Mineral Content Test
Artery Check
Chest X-Ray (lung check)
Body Fat Ratio Test
Eye Exam (including eye pressure test)
Hearing Test
Ultrasound Check of: thyroid, carotid artery, kidney, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas
Endoscope (looked at my esophagus, stomach, intestines, and whatnot)
Blood Tests

I was happy to discover that there may be a cure for acid reflux. Hopefully, the medication will clear it up in 60 days. If so, I think I’m going to have to buy doughnuts (or healthy rice cakes) for the entire staff at the heath center. I’ve had horrible acid reflux since middle school and no doctor has ever given me anything for it…other than a recommendation for Tums with Calcium - which I have taken to heart. I even got to see the damage (minimal) the acid has done to my esophagus. It was a totally wild morning.

And while I'm sure that was more than interesting to everyone out there, I have a few more tidbits to share. One, that both Jason and I finally know how to read/write Korean. Yeah!!! We're taking classes from someone that we work with. Below is a little sample...

사라 (Sarah) 재선 (Jason)

(We're farther along than that example suggests - I just didn't know what else to write.)

Two, that Jason and I are leaving for winter vacation on Monday. We finished our finals and submitted the grades and we're ready to go. We're taking a month to travel around SE Asia a bit.

Our itinerary: flying into Singapore, then traveling overland through Malaysia and Thailand, flying out of Bangkok, and stopping by Hong Kong for a few days before returning to Seoul.

I'll try to post pics of our travels while I'm on the road. Check back for updates if you're interested.

The very helpful nurse in the white uniform guided me around the center to the different little rooms I needed to visit.

They gave us hospital clothes to wear for our check-ups. Jason rocked the turquoise one, and I had the obligatory pink one.

We were put under for the endoscope, and I woke up to Jason talking incoherantly in the little curtained area next to me.

This is Daniel Sohn (pronounced Daniel Son aka Karate Kid) and his son Heechan. We went to his first birthday party (Tol party) on Thanksgiving Day.

Esther and John enjoying their dessert at the party.

Jason dressed up in his professor costume. Isn't he good lookin'?

So good lookin' in fact that he's now a member of the Sexy Club.

I didn't know if I should include this because of it's naughty language...but then I thought, "What the hell?". They don't know what it says, but it's English - so it looks cool.

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, we went to Nathan and Kat's place for a belated Thanksgiving dinner. This pic was taken at the Home Plus across the street. I thought the Iowa people would appreciate this little ice cream shop in Korea.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

S & M

On a drive from Minnesota to Wyoming a few years ago, Jason and I hit a deer. I don’t know if the deer lived or not since it was dark and I was too afraid to go looking for it if it wasn’t. I know that may seem heartless but I couldn’t image having to kill it if it was close to death and suffering. We didn’t have a gun or any other type of weapon, so it wouldn’t have been a merciful thing to do. I’ll spare you the thoughts I had on how I might have to do it. Instead I’ll tell you this, it screwed up my back pretty good. I went to a chiropractor in Wyoming for a few weeks (and had many nice massages) to deal with the impact. (haha)

It had been pretty good since then – only occasional stiffness in the morning and the usual back pain from my waitressing days in college. Then a few days ago I did quite a number on it. I’m not sure if it’s due to the deer injury or not, but my back seized and I was in some serious pain. Since I don’t know any chiropractors in Korea I decided to try the local way to cure pain. Acupuncture.

My co-worker Heather took me to a place very close to where we live. After an initial consultation, I was put on a table with a heating pad on my back. So far – so good. Then they placed a dozen clear plastic cup thingy’s on my back which were attached to a machine. When the machine was turned on my flesh was sucked up inside them. I probably don’t have to tell you that this hurt…but I do probably have to tell you it looked like I had udders on the wrong side.

After that fun, the doctor then inserted a seemingly unending supply of needles into the strained muscles in my back. It hurt must less than the nipple creator did. After about 10 minutes, the needles were removed. Then I was hooked up to a machine that massaged my back via electric shocks delivered through small circular disks attached to my skin. It wasn't quite the relaxing meditative Asian experience I'd anticipated - no trickling water fountains, paper screens, or strange twangy music.

Even so, I went back the next day. The nipple things were bypassed this time - probably due to the horrific bruises that hung around for over a week. Instead electrodes were attached to the needles that were again put in my back. The needles allowed the electric shocks to penetrate deep into my muscles. Every time a shock was delivered it made my whole body tense up and I made a strange gasping sound. When the nurse told me that I would have to deal with this for ten minutes I cursed aloud, albeit softly. And yes, after this I still went back one more time.

Surprisingly all that pain has paid off – either that or it distracted me enough to forget my earlier whining. Luckily it costs much less than it does in the states. I only paid about ten dollars (spread over three visits) for this new experience. I’m quite the bargain hunter these days.

(Photos curtesy of Heather)

Ahhh...the heating pad was very nice. Thankfully they put one on me before AND afer the treatments.

Told ya...udders.

How on earth does this help a sore back? Anyone?

The least painful treatment of the whole experience.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Halloween Lessons

Halloween came and went this year with no real celebrations at the Schmidt-Behuniak residence. We were invited to a costume party at a friend of a friends’ place but turned the invitation down – it was raining like crazy. Plus, we’re trying to save as much money as possible before the end of the semester. We want a vacation – hopefully a nice long one to somewhere warm and tropical.

We’ve been pretty good at saving – as it helps when you send most of your paycheck overseas. It’s kind of like when I put Kitty on a diet. She has no opposable thumbs - or any fingers for that matter – to make herself food, so she has no choice but to lose weight.

I do miss celebrating Halloween though. Before this current drought, I had been in costume for the last 25 years or so – and not only on Halloween. I’m sure I skipped a few years in high school because my only memory is when I dressed up as Betty Rubble. My girlfriends were Wilma and Pebbles. Surprisingly, none of our boyfriends at the time were into dressing up as Fred, Barney, or Bam Bam. My mom sewed me a cute costume and I dyed my hair black. The only problem that year was that I used semi-permanent dye so my hair slowly morphed from black to violet, to a yucky gray, and finally back to blonde. I never made that mistake again.

And actually, that’s what most of my costumes end up being – lessons on “what to never do again”. For example, I now know its best not to improvise with other people’s extras at the last minute. Quite a few years ago I decided not to freeze my buns off for Halloween. A friend was having a party and I knew I’d end up standing around a bonfire most of the evening. I shredded white sheets into strips and wound them around my long johns (both top and bottom) and pinned them discretely. I finished off my look by putting my hair up in a ponytail and using a long piece of the shredded sheet as a bow. After adding a little fifties style make-up, I was ready to go. I was going to be a cute, fifties inspired mummy. I was feeling very warm and very proud of my costume.

Since my place was centrally located, it was usually the meeting spot where my group of friends gathered before parties or bar outings. My friend Jonas had come over and was dressed as a vampire. Did I want some of his leftover fake blood, he asked. Of course I did. I have a problem with saying enuffs enough – which my fat tire attests to as well. So, blood was squirted onto my cute mummy costume and I suddenly morphed from being a cute fifties inspired mummy to a dirty tampon – complete with the string (aka my ponytail).

I was horrified but my friends quickly told me it was no big deal. They were probably just ready to leave and knew I’d take another hour replacing the dirtied strips. No one else will think that, they said. But ho! They were wrong. For weeks after the party I had people come up to me and say, “Hey, aren’t you the one who dressed up as a dirty tampon for Halloween?” I’ve never been good at lying so it didn’t occur to me to deny it. I’m sure that there are people out there that remember me that way. (Cringe!) The other lesson I learned is that your friends lie to you when it’s in their best interest. :)

Jason and I both have Thursdays off this semester, so we try to get out and do something different each week.

On this particular Thursday we walked around Pyeongcheon Park and looked at the strange sculptures they have there.

It's empty case you're curious.

The leaves are starting to turn here - this is a gingko tree.

We met up with Nathan, Kat, Fritz, and some other random people for the Seoul International Jazz Festival a few weeks ago.
It was cool jazz...of which I'm not a fan. We entertained
ourselves by throwing popcorn at Jason instead.

After the festival we decided to grab some galbi for dinner. (Kat demonstrating the proper way to wear an orange apron and cut meat with scissors.)


(This is for Theresa) Look! It's here too.

And here I always thought it stood for International Grocers of America.

We went on a work outing this weekend guessed it...ChangGyeongGung Palace.
There's an interesting (and morbid) story about one of the princes who lived in the palace in the 18th century...give it a read if you're interested.

It was nice having an English tour guide, even though she pointed to an open field and said, "That's where they kept the Jew." Koreans say Jew instead of Zoo. After a shocked moment of confusion we all cracked up.

That's right! No fires allowed.

Marnie & Jake

It's best to wear slip on shoes most everywhere in Korea - and good socks!

Jason & I

Thomas & Eunha

Luckily I sit near Heather in our office. She is one of the funniest people I've ever met.

Seoul Tower in the background.

Tamara and Isabella faint from exhaustion. I don't remember the inspiration for this picture...imagine what you will.

Eunha is an artist. She does watercolor paintings, and has quite a few shows a year in Seoul. She made a five minute sketch of me while waiting for our lunch to arrive.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cat Fights

This cracks me up. It's kind of gross but if you own cats you know it comes with the territory.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Our Acting Debut

Stephanie isn't the only actor in the family anymore. She has competition. Jason and I (and our co-worker Nate) will be starring in a government sponsored ad for the Jolla provinces in Korea. What were our qualifications you ask...being non-Korean. Yup - that's all I seem to need these days. ;)

On an early Friday morning we were whisked off to the Chungju Dam to create a commercial. The purpose of said commercial is to bring business to the sparsley populated provinces of Jeollabuk-do and Jeollnam-do. The scenario was that Nate and I were business people - I think. Jason was a construction worker. When we asked the producer why he didn't get people from the area to do the commercial he asked, "Do you know any foreigners in Jolla?" Well neither did he. I guess that makes us lucky. We were paid hansomely for a half an hour of standing in the sun and saying a few words.

We weren't the only actors on hand that day. A little girl and boy about 10 years old were also there. I had to walk with Nate toward the kids who were standing on the edge of the lake throwing rocks. My monologue consisted of "Hey girl" as I walked toward the children. When the girl turned toward me, I handed her a bouquet of flowers. Then I gave her a present. After a few dozen takes I guess I got it right...'cause Jason was up next.

He worked alone...with only a backhoe as a prop. He had to step out of the backhoe, give a thumbs up sign, and say "Wonderful." It was pretty serious work and we gave it all we had.

After lunch with the "crew", our friends Thomas and Uhna picked us up and we headed to the southern islands for a weekend trip. We didn't do any swimming as the waters were teaming with jelly fish but it was still a great time.

The directors doing what directors do...standing around and smoking. I think...

The camera men in their official hats.

It looks glamous, doesn't it?

I have no idea why I give the girl flowers or a present. It must be metaphorical.

Working hard...

Jason gave an Academy Award winning performance - just look at the enthusiasm of his thumb.

We stayed near the harbor the first night of our weekend trip.

The next morning we watched the fisherman load their catch into cargo crates. If you look closely you can see the steam rising from the fish - apparently due to them being frozen in the hold of the ship to stay fresh throughout the entire fishing trip.


I'm always thankful when things are translated into English - even though they usually turn out like this.

No chairs on the ferry either...

I saw at least two different types of jellyfish on our trip. These were the most spectacular. I'd estimate they were 2.5 feet long and at least a foot wide.

Pulling into Yokjido Harbor.

Thomas and Uhna against a beautiful backdrop.

We drove around the island looking at the beautiful views while searching for a pension.

Different view of the harbor.

The view from our pension.

The road along the shore was lined with raw fish stalls. I do like sushi but after a bad experience with the Korean version we decided to forgo this treat.

Sesame and chilis drying in the sun.

We barely made it on the last ferry pulling out of town on Sunday afternoon. Thomas' truck is the silver and blue one up against the gate. I wouldn't have minded another day there...