다영 & 주영 (Taken with instagram)
August 12, 2011
3:56P South Korean Time
So, many of you that follow me on facebook or twitter know that I have been harboring a big secret for a while now. About 3-4 weeks ago, I received the initial news; and about 1 week ago, everything was made official.
But it would be boring and predictable to just tell you what my big announcement is. So I’m going to give you three clues, and then you will have to guess what the announcement is.
Clue # 1: I will be paying the immigration office a visit soon. My passport is no longer valid.
Clue # 2: I recently purchased a book that has various Korean phrases. “Hungumal mateyo.”
Clue # 3: My most recent job has really paid off.
Ok. So do you know what it is? Any guesses?
Well, my passport is no longer valid because I will also need a D-2 Visa. And I recently purchased the book of Korean phrases because I want to improve my Korean Language skills. And I recognize that the 3rd clue may be a little difficult if you don’t really know me, or what my most recent job was. Especially considering the fact that I was working three jobs last school year (YES, I said three. Sometimes I can’t believe it either). So I’ll just tell you: I worked in a Public Health Lab.
Ok. Nowwwwww can you guess what my big announcement is? You may have some ideas, but can’t quite put your finger on it, right? Ok fine. You’ve suffered from anticipation long enough, I’ll just tell you.
I’m moving to Seoul, South Korea!!! (Clue #1). And I will be studying Korean language at the Korean Language Institute!! (Clue #2). KLI is a very famous and well-respected institution that teaches foreigners how to speak, read, and write in Korean (they also teach other languages). Oh, and by the way, “Hungumal mateyo” means “I don’t speak Korean well.” I know a few words and phrases here and there, but I want to be proficient in Korean. And finally, I have been afforded the opportunity to study Public Health at the Master’s level at Yonsei University! (Clue #3). And I maaaaayyyyyy have the opportunity to continue the work that I’ve been doing this summer! I’m just waiting for a few other things to finalize in regards to that. But everything else is a go!
I will return to the states August 13/14th as planned, however it will just be temporary. Mostly, I’m just going back to say goodbye to my church family, friends and loved ones, enjoy some good ol’ American food, and of course, PACK MY BAGS! I will be returning to South Korea in the middle of September to begin my program. So for those of you that will want to spend some quality time with me before I leave, schedule an “appointment” with me ASAP because some people have already booked entire weeks that they will spend with me. *Ahem Ahem; You know who you are!!* Lol
Well, I will have one last blog before Seoulful Dani says farewell to her readers. I will write it in the airport/on the plane and post it as soon as I have internet connection.
Seoulong, farewell, and hello again,
July 31, 2011
9:46P South Korean Time
On Thursday, some of the foreign staff was given the day off so we decided to leave the mountains for a day. Well, when we made these plans, we had no clue what type of journey we’d be signing up for. Long story short, we ended up hitch hiking a ride out of the mountains and into civilization. Shavonne and I rode in the front, and everybody else had to ride standing up on the back of the pick-up truck! But hey, desperate times call for desperate matters! Lol it actually reminded me of the 90’s (especially in California) when people used to do that all the time in the summer time. After finally reaching the city, we had prulgalgi and sam for lunch. Which is marinated beef and pork that is cooked in front of you over a grill. Typically, this is eaten wrapped in big pieces of lettuce and a spicy sauce; most refer to it as “beef and leaf.” After sitting “crisscross” for an hour and half, we walked the city to stretch our legs and finally made our way to the beach. When we got there, we went to go sit at a table with the big umbrellas; and before we knew it, a woman was telling us that we had to PAY TO SIT AT THE TABLE! This took a minute to register in our minds…. Pay? To sit at a table?? On the beach???
After enjoying our beach day, we ended up crashing a party that we found. And leave it up to the foreigners to turn the party up! All of us hopped on stage and took over the show; we were dancing on stage and the rest of the Koreans started screaming as if we were famous and they were at a concert! Lol It was pretty entertaining that they were so entertained by us! After this, we found a nice spot in the woods and all sat around in a circle playing games and telling stories. It was nothing but comedy and laughter!
The next day I went zip lining!!! Talk about nervous! And I love adventurous stuff that gives me an adrenaline rush. But holding onto a rope and flying over a mountain is a wholeeeeeee nother story! Lol But once I got up there and did it, I ended up loving it so much that I wanted to do it again!
After this, we made our way to the river to hang out and relax. This was great because I was able to just THINK. About my life. About my future. About my experiences in Korea. About everything. That’s the thing about water, it always seems to elicit some sort of deep thought in me. It just brings so much peace.
And despite the ice cold showers everyday, I found myself in much peace during my Sokcho trip. But this peace was very different from the kind of peace that Gyeongju brought. Its hard to explain, but just know that it was different. :) All in all, it was a great trip and I’m grateful to have met so many people from so many different backgrounds. In fact, I plan to keep in touch with many of them!
Back to the city,
Sokcho Seoulful Dani.
July 27, 2011
3:07A South Korean Time
Today was most definitely an interesting day. Around 2:30A, we were all woken up in the middle of the night because there was a terrible storm that flooded the tents. In fact, you may have heard about the horrible mudslide that happened in Seoul because of a monsoon/typhoon. Well, the monsoon also hit Sokcho; and as a result everyone had to be evacuated from their tents. Once the sun rose, a few of us were asked to help come up with a plan for the camp. We needed to come up with an alternative program for 6,000 girls, 1,500 of whom were displaced in a nearby middle-school gym. Can you imagine a meeting full of about 6 or 7 different cultures and backgrounds trying to find a common resolution in less than an hour?! It was definitely … Interesting; to say the least. But finally we decided to split up and assess the various options, then report back to each other. Finally, we came to a conclusion and the program began later that afternoon.
Some of us ventured off into the mountain and found a trail that was unaffected by the storm. I know, it’s probably not the best idea to go hiking immediately following a storm, but we did. No worries though, everything turned out fine. In fact, we had a great time going through the different obstacles!!
After this, we ate dinner and headed to the guys’ room to play cards and relax.
My favorite part of the evening was the “Language Exchange” that I had with a Columbian and a Korean. We all sat in a circle/triangle and talked about everything from life in our various countries to relationships. The Korean man would speak to Jhon, the Columbian, in Korean; Jhon would then translate for me in Spanish; and I would respond to the Korean man in English. When my response was too extensive, I would speak to Jhon in Spanish, and he would tell, Chang in Korean. So essentially, we each spoke two different languages all night. 1) our mother language and 2) a second language that we have been studying/learning. (Jhon: Spanish and Korean, Chang: Korean and English, Me: English and Spanish) It was like an ongoing cycle of language; which was great because it gave all of us the opportunity to practice our non-native language!
Later we kept hearing screaming and clanking noises down the way, so me and an English guy decided to check it out… And we were definitely surprised at what we saw! When we looked through the window, we found the staff sitting on the floor, clanking their glasses together & making toasts, eating gourmet Korean food, and singing Korean songs! We both looked at each other and decided to crash their little party! And to say the least, we had a blast! We even got to meet a famous Korean Yodeler named, Yuri. Yea, I was thinking the same thing. A Korean that yodels? Yea, its very rare! But Yuri sung songs for us and we chanted and sang along! He even taught us how to yodel and gave us his autograph. Another Korean named “Dragon” (this clearly wasn’t his name, but he wouldn’t tell us his birth name. Lol), gave us a whole bunch of handmade keepsakes that he made himself. By the end of the night, we walked out with free food & drinks, handmade souvenirs, and yodeling lessons! Lol Tonight was a night to remember; to say the least.
July 25, 2011
1:30A South Korean Time
Today was an awesome day. For starters, I’m living in a room with 7 roommates; and we’re all from different places and backgrounds! Of course, there are two Americans (who also represent the African-American subculture), Kenyans, A white South African, a Chinese girl, and a woman from Bangladesh. Can you imagine the type of cultural experience that I’m having!? I like to just sit and watch each of their different rituals and behaviors. For example, the woman from Bangladesh prays multiple times a day. When she does, she pulls out a mat and makes sure that her hair is covered before she prays (although her hair must be covered at all times when outdoors, she can remove her hijab when in a room with women). She first prays standing up, then prays again kneeling and sitting on the mat. It is a very interesting ritual to observe. On top of my multi-accented roommates, I have made a number of other international friends; people from Tanzania, Gabon, East Timor, England, Australia, Bolivia, Columbia, the Philippines, Singapore, and more! I love just talking with them to learn about their country, and tell them about mine. It’s a great exchange of culture, beliefs, religions and ideas; and it gets me so excited for the international travel that I will be doing for the rest of my life. It reminds me that my travels all over the states, to Alaska (I included this b/c the trip was very meaningful for me), Jamaica, the Bahamas, St. Marten, St. Thomas, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Puerto Vallarta, and more, are only minimal (yet, tremendously exciting and memorable) in comparison to the extensive traveling that God has planned for my life. Backpacking through Europe, Dinner on the Nile River, riding camels through the Himalayas, swimming in the Dead Sea, spiritual journeys throughout The Promise Land, tracing my roots through Africa, negotiating clothing and keepsakes in East Asia, and more. This is just the beginning, and everyday that I am here is a reminder of it.
Well, I guess I should explain exactly where “here” is. I am still in Sokcho, but I am camping out in Sorak Mountain. I’m here for the 13th bi-annual Girl Scout International Camp, where there are over 12,000 Girl Scouts alone! This doesn’t include the troop leaders, volunteers, teachers, exhibitors, or staff! I’m here as an English teacher, so I arrived at the camp 3 days before it began to prepare. Shavonne and I were also given two Korean supporters/translators to assist us during our teaching sessions. We teach four different sessions to different students everyday; our days begin around 6 or 7 A.M. and end around 5 P.M., where we are dismissed for dinner. After this, there are various bonding exercises planned for us.
Today there wasn’t a bonding exercise planned because of the opening ceremony. As a part of the opening ceremony, each of the countries are represented by their nation’s flag. There is a set choreography that each of the representatives must follow, and because of this the rehearsal for the ceremony was extensive. And I mean, really extensive. Naturally, both Shavonne and I wanted to represent our country, but only one rep is allowed. So we decided to flip a coin. Now, my initial thought was “heads always wins”, but I let Shavonne call it first. She must’ve been thinking the same thing, because she called heads; and heads won. :( But my friend Tuli was kind enough to allow me to carry his nation’s flag so I could be in the ceremony. So Shavonne represented America and I represented Tanzania. I really enjoyed participating in the ceremony, and I felt a real sense of pride. A pride for two reasons; first, because I was able to represent an Afrikan country. Although my most immediate blood line doesn’t directly link me back to Afrika, I AM STILL AFRIKAN. And even though I don’t know what country or tribe my ancestors belonged to, I felt an unspeakable amount of pride for my people. And when I say my people, I’m speaking of everyone: Afrikans as a whole, MY Afrikan ancestors, my direct kin, and my “African-American” community (I placed this in quotes because of my personal political- and historical-based opinions on the term). I also felt a since of pride to represent my birth-country, America (even though I didn’t get to directly hold the flag). In fact, I felt extremely proud. Living extensively in another country has truly given me a deeper love for my country. In more aspects than I have space, or time, to type. Despite the MANY improvements and advances that our country still needs to meet, I am a proud American. Travel to other countries, and you will see for yourself.
And I definitely open up the floor for more in-depth conversation regarding my fact-based opinions. Just email me. :) And I intentionally included the term “fact-based” because there is a difference between just a random opinion and an opinion formed based off of research/education and reading.
Black, American, and Proud,
July 23, 2011
3:15A South Korean Time
First off, I want to apologize to my readers for the “vacation” that I took from blogging. So much has been happening so quickly, and I just haven’t had the time to blog as often as I would’ve liked. Forgive me!
This week Shavonne and I traveled 2.5 hours by bus to go to Sokcho, South Korea. Here, we stayed in a time share-resort with a balcony that overlooked the beach. The view was beautiful, and the nights were even more peaceful. I slept with the balcony door open so I could hear the sound of the ocean rushing against the shore while I slept. BLISS.
Our days were spent exploring Sokcho. One day we took a tour of the city on a double-decker bus. I fell asleep though. Lol. It wasn’t necessarily boring, I was just tired!!! What can I say, I need my beauty rest. But we also visited number of different Public Health Clinics; most of our time was spent at the Goseong-gun Health Center. After our tour, we observed a program activity for individuals living with a mental disorder. Most of the patients suffered from depression and/or controlled schizophrenia. Of course this was right up my alley, considering my background in Psychology. They were participating in a planting activity that was designed to help keep them calm and feeling in control. The director mentioned that she has the patients sign themselves in and clean up after themselves. This is to give them a sense of autonomy because they don’t get experience it in their homes. They then invited us to participate in the activity and everything was kosher until Shavonne accidentally sat in one of the patient’s seat. Needless to say, the patient was not a happy camper after that. After the activity the director treated us to lunch at an upscale “American” buffet. Shavonne and I thought it was funny because most of the food at the buffet was Korean; which is why I put American in quotations. But the food was good nonetheless.
In addition to visiting various Public Health Clinics, we spent one of the days hiking. We went to Sorak Mountain, which means Rocky Mountain; and rocky it was. The funniest part were the random people along the way that would come and give us “Mountain Berry Wine.” We would say “año”, which means “no thank you”, but they kept insisting. I finally gave in, and it left an after taste that reminded me of grape medicine. We stopped a number of times along the way to catch our breath and rest, and after over an hour and half, we finally reached the top; where we found a rushing waterfall! The waterfall is said to represent a dragon that goes to heaven and back. Here we met a Korean family that wanted to have a competition with us; the loser buys everyone ice cream. Well, I LOVE a good, friendly competition so I was in. We had to put our legs and feet in the water, and the first person to take their feet or legs out was the loser. This sounds simple, but the water was FREEZING and my ankles went numb! But long story short, Shavonne and I didn’t lose. :)
Sokcho is in the North Eastern part of Korea, which puts us pretty close to the 38th parallel line of Korea. The 38th parallel line is the dividing line between North and South Korea that was established when Korea regained independence from Japan in 1948. In 1950, North Korea crossed this line, thus initiating the Korean War. Even after the war ended in 1953, the 38th parallel continued to divide Communist North Korea and Democratic South Korea. To this day, the border is unable to be crossed and North and South Korea remain un-unified.
During our stay in Sokcho, we visited the Unification Observatory. We were so close to the border that we were actually able to look through a telescope and see into North Korea. There was a museum that captured many of the everyday items that are still being used by North Koreans today.
Now, these items look pretty basic to you. But if you look closely, you will notice that many of these items are outdated. South Koreans were using these items in the 1960’s, yet North Koreans are using them 50 years later. In communist countries, every little bit of information that enters and leaves the countries is monitored; so the people don’t even recognize that there are more advanced forms of technology and amenities existing. This is but one form of oppression used by the NK government. Another form is dependence. All NKs are provided with housing and food; which ay initially sound appealing. But this causes all of the people to fully depend on the government and comply to all of their rules and regulations in order to survive. But many still don’t survive. The amount of food that is rationed off to the people is not nearly enough to live off of. And regardless of how hard or long they work, everyone still receives the same amount of food; causing a number of deaths due to starvation.
Because of these extreme conditions, there are many programs that help NKs defect to South Korea. But Lee Man Hee and his colleagues propose that rather than accepting the current conditions or spending thousands and millions of dollars trying to help NKs escape, there is a simpler solution. Unite. They propose that North and South Korea must unite.
More blogs to come,
June 28, 2011
7:11P South Korean Time
The last three days of my trip were spent with the Ham Family, a part of the Dory Village. We lived with them on their farm in the mountains. Yong Jae was our main contact point, and served as our translator and tour guide. His mother is a housewife and a daycare provider for 12 children and adolescents (they live with them 5 days out of the week). His father is a farmer. Two of their cousins also live with them. As soon as I walked into their house, I could feel that it was a HOME. They value family very much and spent a lot of quality time together. I appreciated this because they automatically made me feel a part of their family. In fact, I loved this. We ate all three meals together everyday and every meal had fresh, natural ingredients straight from the farm. After our meals, we usually sat and talked about our life, cultures, etcetera.
We even learned about another natural healing technique! It’s called “Urine Therapy.” It is known to cure just about any disease, virus, bacteria, sickness, or illness. “All” you have to do is drink 100mL of your own, fresh urine everyday. Once in the morning, and once in the evening. I put “all” in quotations, because I recognize the stigma that comes along with drinking one’s own urine. Yong Jae’s mother had high-blood pressure and when she started the therapy, she noticed a tremendous difference in her health. She was also overweight and began losing weight. One of the kids in the daycare was pretty much blind in one of his eyes, and after two years of the therapy, he can now read up-close. I can’t necessarily say that I would do it, but it’s definitely interesting and something to look into.
Yong Jae took us to the National Museum of Korea so that we could learn about Traditional Korean History. In college, he studied Korean History so he was able to provide us with the full background of each exhibit that we visited. I love learning about history, so this was a treat for me! We planned to visit other tourist/historical sites, but a typhoon was coming so we decided to head home to dryness, warmth, and safety.
The next day the storm passed so Yong Jae told us that he wanted to take us to a special place. We (Yong Jae, his friend, two girls from the day care, Shavonne, and me) drove over an hour to an even higher part of the mountain area. In fact, we were so high up that my ears started to pop and I felt light-headed! When we finally got there, we had to park our car and hike up to the actual peak of the mountain. And of course, I LOVED THIS. At the top of the mountain was an enormous Buddha statue facing the east (where the sun rises over the mountains). Yong Jae explained that this was intentional. Whenever you see a Buddha statue, stop and observe what he is looking at and you will always find that he is facing a beautiful view. Further along the mountains we were able to see an actual temple where Monks go to pray. We were lucky enough to catch a group of people praying in the temple, so I sat and quietly observed. Although I’m not Buddhist, I took a moment to have quiet conversation with my God. Words can’t explain the experience I had on that mountain; it’s just something you’d have to see for yourself.
While we were with the Ham Family, they also taught us different rituals that they practice when praying to God. They explained to us a “Map of Consciousness” that they created based on various intellectual readings. The highest possible dimension of consciousness is the fourth, which includes love, joy, peace and enlightenment. This is achieved when a person decides to BE these things, opposed to just doing them or practicing them out of mere ritual. Usually this doesn’t happen until a person is about 50 years old, but anyone can have it if they truly want it.
In addition to all of this, we were able to watch them play different Korean instruments and sit around and sing songs together! They taught me how to play the equivalent of a Western guitar and a song to go along with it. Don’t ask me the lyrics, because I couldn’t tell you right about now! But thanks to my photographic memory, I do remember the order in which I pluck the strings. :)
One of the kids had a birthday and they have a special tradition that they do on birthdays. It’s to my understanding that this is a family tradition, not a Korean tradition. Each child gets one toothpick and they have to go around and try to get as much cake on that one toothpick as possible. Whatever, they end up with on the toothpick is what they get to eat; until the turn comes back around to them. They continue this until the cake is gone. It’s a really cute game. But beyond this, there are many life lessons hidden in the game. When the child didn’t take a risk, they didn’t end up with much to brag about. But when they were too greedy and tried to take a huge piece, it usually fell off and they ended up with nothing. But the child who took his time, assessed the situation, and attempted to get a moderate sized piece if cake, they usually ended up with the best piece. I really believe that we all can take something away from this, regardless of our age or desire for cake.
Gyeongju was incredibly good to me. I found PURE peace, health, family and courage there. And even better than that, God met me there. I was able to reflect on many different aspects of my life and truly listen to Gods voice. It was beautiful. This has been my favorite part of my entire trip to Korea thus far.
June 24, 2011
11:06P South Korean Time
This morning we participated in the wind-bathing ritual. This is to be done at 6:00A, as soon as the patients wake up, and at 10:00P, just before they go to bed. Anyone can participate in this ritual, so I’m going to briefly explain how its done; So if you’re interested, you can do further research.
This is to be done outdoors (if this isn’t possible, you can open all of the windows in your home), and you must be completely naked (you can have your panties or boxers/briefs on if you’d like). You will need a really thick blanket, and I’ll explain what this is for shortly. Sit with your legs crisscrossed and your back straight up. Wrap the blanket around you until you feel warm. Then remove the blanket and begin softly pinching certain areas of your body (There is a specific order in which this should be done. There is also a designated amount of time that each body part should be pinched). This is to wake up your body and clean your immune system. After one part of the body has been pinched, you should wrap up in the blanket until you are warm; then remove it and begin pinching another body part. This process lasts for about 30 minutes.
The purpose of the blanket is to put your body through extreme temperature changes in a short amount of time. Because your body is in shock, you must pinch it order to “wake up” your body and get the blood moving through your veins. After one week of practicing this ritual, you will start to notice rashes all over your body. These are the physical manifestations of toxins leaving your body. But not to worry, after two days the rashes go away.
Later we went on a trail in the mountains to learn about natural herbs that can be used to cure various diseases, illnesses, and pains. The funny thing is that we had previously walked past many of these plants and never even noticed (or thought about) their healing nature! I was completely amazed to see how something as simple as this has been a source of healing for TERMINALLY-ILL cancer patients! There were so many flowers, that I simply admired for their beauty, that we could eat and gain health!! In fact, I did try a few along the trail!
Along the trail, I decided to stop and talk to one of the older patients. I referred to him as “My Friend,” but his actual name was Moon Young Park. My Friend reminded me a lot of my Papa, and his wisdom just radiated off of him! Which is why I gravitated to him so much. He told stories of when Korea was under Japanese rule, and what he learned about life as a Korean child living in Japan. After this, we talked about love and humanity; and he shared all of his wisdom and knowledge about life. His words were powerful and rooted deep in sapience and compassion. I learned so much from My Friend and I will forever remember the special conversation we shared.
After the trail we ate lunch with the patients and said our goodbyes. Although Shavonne and I hadonly spent two days with them, this was a very difficult goodbye. I learned so much from them; yes, through their words, but mostly through their behaviors and attitudes. I can truly say that being at the GNC changed my LIFE. And on top of this, I was able to become in touch with nature and it’s serenity.
Ms. Lim took us to another part of Gyeongju where we able to observe the way public health clinics operate in Korea.
Here, I had an analysis ran on me and they told me that I was beyond healthy! The analysis said that i am within the perfect weight range for my age and height, I have less than the “average” amount of body fat, and that I have waaaay more muscles than the “average” person. I began to think about Western culture and the reality of “scientific scales and assessments” being specific to a certain population. I recently calculated my Body Mass Index (BMI) and it said that I am 10-15 pounds from being considered “overweight.” -_- Now, you knooooooooowwwwww I’m nowhere near overweight! It’s clear that the analysis I had ran today caters to Asian people, and the BMI caters to white individuals. Question. Where’s the scale for people of color living in Western society?? look at how subliminally society influences our thinking of what’s “normal.” This is exactly how social constructs are developed; With something as simple as a “standardized scale!” And this goes for EVERYTHING, not just body weight and body image! But that’s an entirely different conversation for an entirely different day. :)
Before traveling higher up into the mountains and meeting our temporary host family, Shavonne and I had dinner with a North Korean defector. Out of respect (and ethics) for her, I will not share her story or her name. But all I can say is that this particular woman’s story was … phenomenal! I was completely inspired by her valor and AUDACITY! In fact, I was so moved that I had to excuse myself from the table and go to the bathroom, because I didn’t want her to see my tears. Her keen sense of strategy, intentionally developed intelligence, and wittiness are rare among North Korean defectors. She shouldn’t have made it out, but she did. All I know is, God has His hands on her and He has GREAT AND MIGHTY plans for her life!
When you start to complain about simple life annoyances, stop and remember the terminally-ill patients or the North Korean defector; and then thank God for the life HE GAVE YOU!
Full of Life,
9:51P South Korean Time
Today I traveled 4 hours to Gyeongju, Korea to meet with our temporary sponsor and translator, Ms. Lim, and learn about TKM - Traditional Korean Medicine. Gyeongju is a very mountainous area, and was once the Captial City of Korea (Seoul is now the capital). We are living in the top of the mountains in a health clinic. But this clinic isn’t like any typical clinic. It is non-government funded and focuses on alternative medicine. The clinic serves terminally-ill cancer patients.
The drive here was absolutely amazing. Shavonne and I woke up early this morning to begin our 5 day journey through the mountains of Gyeongju. And as tired as I should’ve been, I couldn’t bring myself to take a nap on the bus because I didn’t want to miss any of the beautiful scenery. I’ve always been a lover of nature, but this drive wasn’t quite like anything I’ve experienced before. I felt (and feel) so very close to God; almost like I could hear His actual voice. I can already see that this trip will change my life. Of course, I will be intellectually stimulated, thus causing me to view life differently. But God is speaking to my soul. There is so much room for spiritual growth here. I am at such peace here. PURE peace. Last summer I visited a cliff that stretched 40-miles wide and was completely surrounded by water. While on the trail, I wrote in a make-shift journal (pieces of scratch paper) and experienced a great deal of peace. And as beautiful as that experience was, it doesn’t even compare to this. And the timing couldn’t be any more perfect. This past week, I have been experiencing a number of tests/challenges (aside from the one I discussed in a previous blog post) and frustrations. But I can honestly say that my soul is at ease being here. I’m able to truly reflect and soul-search. I can introspect and spend intimate time with God. I’ve always been active in ensuring my personal growth and maturation, so this is perfect. In fact, I’ve been keeping a separate personal journal with all of the things I’ve been thinking about lately.
After finally arriving here, Shavonne and I were able to meet with 4 terminally -ill cancer patients. One man, Hoanh, spoke fair English and Ms. Lim translated for the others. It was most shocking to see that the patients looked healthier than we did! And these aren’t just your average cancer patients, these are patients that were given a “death stamp” by medical doctors who had no other possible options for them. The Gyeongju Nature Clinic (GNC) has given them a second chance at life! For the first three weeks, GNC sends patients to another area in the mountain where they are further educated on their illness and alternative ways to treat it. There, they learn a completely new lifestyle. After the course, the patients are brought to the actual clinic where they will put to practice everything that they had learned. They will stay here for three months, and return home to continue their new, healthy life. Shavonne and I are staying in a patient room and will be living as if we had an illness. We don’t sleep on beds, instead we sleep on yellow soil (which contributes to patients’ health as well). Every morning and night, we must participate in a ritual called “wind-bathing”. I will be able to explain this in greater detail once I participate in it tomorrow morning. There are also various exercises and activities that the patients participate in, such as Kouk Sun Do; which we were able to take part in today. Kouk Sun Do is similar to yoga, however this is designed to help enhance one’s health and immune system. There is an English written book on it that I plan to purchase and read so that I can fully understand the concept and theory behind the practice. As I did the exercises, I couldn’t help but to thank God for my health and my life. I was physically in the room, but mentally and spiritually, I was in another world. And although the patients were very welcoming and pleasant (and funny), you could still notice some of the pain behind their eyes. In fact, they didn’t feel comfortable with going into the full details of their experience; which is completely understandable.
After Kouk Sun Do, I laid down and appreciated nature’s beauty until I fell asleep. After my nap, we traveled deeper into the mountain to have dinner with the Chief. The Chief established this clinic 5 years ago after he first learned of alternative medicine. He had already been a medical practitioner, but recognized the need for alternative medicine; especially since there were no clinics practicing it in Korea at the time. He sought assistance from the government, but when they wouldnt support it because it wasnt “scientific”, he decided to take a different route. Because of this, GNC is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). At the dinner we met “Patient X”, a Korean-Australian patient. She was born in Korea and moved to Australia when she was young. She stayed in Australia until she was diagnosed with Renal Carcinoma (Cancer of the Kidney) and it spread to her liver. Her family, and husband, is still in living in Australia. She shared with us her heart-wrenching, yet inspiring, experiences and thoughts on her illness. Out of respect for “Patient X,” I will not share the details of her story.
[Chief. Chief’s Wife. Dani. Shavonne. Patient X. Ms. Lim. Lim’s Husband]
In GNC, the worker-patient ratio is 1:2 and its so clear to see their dedication to the patients. Many of them have fully, and selflessly, committed their own lives to ensuring positive outcomes in the patients. They even LIVE in the clinic as well so they can offer the amount of full-time support their patients need. And it seems to be working! Ms. Lim told us stories of many people that have come to GNC and have been completely healed of their illness! I certainly commend and have a deep respect for Chief and his staff. So often, it’s easy to brush off alternative medicine as irrelevant or “fake”, but it’s evident that there is healing in unification with nature and self. This isnt just “folk-tale” medicine, this is simply MEDICINE.