blogging because.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I will

do one thing that scares you daily. breathe deeply. sweat once a day. dance, sing, floss and travel.

These antidotes, among others, comprise the lululemon athletica manifesto. Simple phrases that are intended to inspire healthy living, balance, unite communities and entrench feelings of genuine happiness within us all.

Since its inception in the late 1990s, lululemon has been a powerful force in the athletic apparel industry. However, it was not until I joined the team this fall (as a part time educator), that I witnessed the unwavering commitment, at all levels of leadership, to the pursuit of this manifesto. It did not take long for me to realize that this kind of loyalty is a byproduct of environment, one in which people, regardless of their affiliation to the brand, want to be apart of.
Although lululemon attracts like minded people, I am constantly learning from my team. Recently, all the Toronto lemons were invited to a screening of  'The Happy Movie', a documentary that brings us on a journey in search of answers to one of life's greatest emotions, happiness. Not only did this event mark the beginning of a larger community initiative (more details to come in the new year) but propelled me to look at my own education differently. International development seeks to appease the gap between the developed and the developing world and provide resources to better equip floundering economies to curb the cycle of dependency. Ironically, the scenes I found most moving were those that illustrated stories from the communities in so-called 'need'. Riddled with optimism, their stories shed perspective on my personal worldview and highlighted the importance of understanding. Not only in the context of development but in how we interact with our surroundings on a daily basis.

I think the underlying message of 'The Happy Movie' and lululemon's manifesto are one in the same, and together, will guide us to our own peace...whatever form that may come in.

I could sing lulu's praises until there were no more lemons left to squeeze, instead, why don't you join the conversation too at: http://www.facebook.com/lululemonSherwayGardens#!/lululemon or @lululemon on Twitter.

Namaste.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

forget regret or life is yours to miss

Today was a strange sort of day.

Walking home from the subway I got to thinking about how all too often we define ourselves by what we aren't/don't have/can't afford/can't fit - whatever. This veil of negativity (likely brought on by the driver that made me get off the 44 South when I failed to present my student ID card with my metro pass... HELLO I AM ON CAMPUS NOW, CLEARLY I AM A STUDENT), like those before it, it managed to overshadow the great elements of my day. Why is that and what can I do to quell future rage blackouts? Be SMART.

Specific.
Measurable.
Attainable.
Relevant.
Timely.

This acronym, derived from my management strategies class, breaks down the framework for effective goal setting. At a glance this methodology seems quite straightforward, but in practice we are all dreamers and usually spend more time than we should fantasizing about greener pastures.
  
So instead of what if-ing until we are blue in the face, lets be realistic. Be pro active. Utilize the resources and capabilities of our existing environment to ensure success and growth. To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been...and when you know this, you will see how far you have come.

Be your best self.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

girl power

Development can wear many different hats. From immediate relief, to long term education...one aspect that is consistent is the hope to facilitate positive and sustainable change among communities in need. Perhaps the most important thing to understand before launching any development campaign is the issue. Although seemingly obvious, misdiagnosing the problem will undermine the projects success from day one. Therefore, as outsiders, we should seek to empower and utilize existing capacities and then teach the practical skills to curb the poverty cycle.

At the onset of the year, I was keen to explore development through education, and ideally work with an organizations like the Institute of International Education that subsidizes projects to bring quality education to the most dire corners of the world. All too often women and girls are left as the collateral damage of failed education systems and so began my curiosity in development byway of advocacy.

Feeling heavy and rather bogged down by the worlds laundry list of social injustices, I looked for guidance among other liked minded young women. Dr. Samantha Nutt's book 'Damned Nations', chronicles two decades of her work delivering aid and her vision for Canada as a leader in future peacekeeping pursuits. Enthralled by her personal testimonials, it has never been more clear to me how important an accurate needs assessment and the establishment of measurable and achievable goals are. For a further commentary, listen to her interview with the CBC.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Gandhi

Sunday, October 2, 2011

c'est la vie

from sunrise to sunset - city hall
Like the interactive art of Nuit Blanche that connected  neighbourhoods across Toronto, my stories from last night required a full range of movement. Over coffee and poached eggs, my parents learned about "this guy that was on the tallest unicycle ever! I don't even know how he got up there, let alone juggle three blazing torches" and the refurbished office building with "a wading pool spanning (hmm I'd say) the entire length of the lobby. There were logs floating freely, I tried to walk on one - quickly thought better of it when I nearly dunked. I would have been pissed if I got wet, it was freaking freezing out. Oh yeah, they also provided us with umbrellas!" In between stories and bites of breakie, I came to realization that the work of art that resonated with me the most was the splash of colour that wiped across the downtown core. Every age and every colour was represented at Nuit. Last night was about Toronto and celebrating contemporary artists and embracing how we are different. United by our shared passion for beautiful and interesting things, our minds were left bursting with wonder, our bodies warmed by the spirit of Toronto.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

checks and balances

For me, feeling settled involves a routine (and it has taken a month for me to establish one that suits me in Toronto). Between juggling my post grad studies, a part time job and reconnecting with friends and family...catching enough shut eye is the least of my concerns. I'm sure like most of you, my mind rarely turns off. Many a night, I find myself hunkering through my mental to do list. Unfortunately my bedside goodie drawer holds a stack of post its and a pen to capture my midnight brainwaves...

I was surprised to learn, that compared to my classmates I've only been out of the academic world for a short while. Many have spent extensive time in the developing world working in their personal areas of interest. Impressed by their first hand experiences, I can't help but feel a little behind the eight ball. Nonetheless, our Profs have assured us that regardless of our backgrounds, over the course of the year, we will obtain the necessary skills to write: persuasive grant proposals, create realistic budgets and gain the practical knowledge to run our own field project. I can't help but gawk at these promises, alas, statistics from last years graduates are proof! It is a very real possibility that I will be writing to you from Brazil next fall.

Its clear that currently I am in a state of flux: trying to live in the present, plan for the future and remember the fabulous memories that encapsulate my past. Because, I've written several times about how much I value relationships, you can probably also assume that I find compartmentalizing the bonds I forged in Busan, challenging. These people fed my soul for a year and nurturing my old roots in Toronto without them feels unnatural now. What I have had to realize is, that like all things in life, you get back what you put in. Therefore, all I can do is love them from afar and welcome them back into my physical present when our paths cross again. 

Between listening to your gut, your heart and your head - a girl is bound to get confused! What you have to remember is, that even if you do, some of the best lessons are learned when you are piecing yourself back together after a 'fml' moment. So lift your head out of your hands, open your glassy eyes and take a look at the other nutters around you, you're not alone.
together, but different

Friday, September 2, 2011

keeping the faith

chin up, forge on
I have been a self proclaimed nomad for the last five years and now with my latest adventure complete, it is starting to hit me, that this is it. Among other things, it has been quite a challenge to move back in with my folks. Despite their flexibility, sharing living space always requires an adjustment. To remedy this, I have packed my schedule with school and a part time job, commitments that will integrate me into a new community in Toronto.

Beyond that, I can't quite sum up my feelings in one word. I know I miss Busan for the memories, people and freedom that it holds and I know that I am excited/intimidated by the uncertainty that awaits me in Toronto. At the end of the day, I suppose you just have to have faith and know, that everything happens for a reason. 

here I go again on my own

No, I don't no where I'm going
But I know where I've been
Hanging on the promises
In songs of yesterday
And I've made up my mind
I ain't waisting no more time.

Bonne chance mon petite frere.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

empire state of mind

New York City was my first love.

2dbls
With skyscrapers so tall it is no wonder that it is affectionally referred to as the city of dreams. Dad booked us into the Paramount Times Square, a hotel strategically located within walking distances of all the Big Apple's hot spots.

For five days we explored the depths of the concrete jungle. The quirky boutiques that decorate the sidewalks of SoHo, cafes that literally draw you in off the streets of Greenwich Village and politely declined the promises made by the pedlars that line Canal Street. However, I would have to say that the trip highlights include our visits to the Top of the Rock, The Empire State Building and more simply, a family dinner with my Korean co-teacher, Hyunhee.
30ROCK
Central Park in the distance
30 Rockefellar Plaza and The Empire State Building are famous for their birds eye view of the city. Up there, you realize what a small island Manhattan is. Unencumbered by its finite size, Manhattan is a hub of culture, education, commerce and new growth. Looking out from these towers, I couldn't help but feel like I was at the eentre of the world.

Hyunhee, Xi and I
Alfredo's was the perfect back drop for dinner with Hyunhee. Flanked with absolutely phenomenal homemade Italian food and wine, my parents and Andrew finally met the woman that was my life line in Busan. Our families shared and instant, natural chemistry, illuminating to each respective party why the other is such an important part of my life. At the corner of 49th and Broadway I choked back tears and said goodbye. My relationship with Hyunhee is so unique. At first she was my superior, turned advisor and now, a dear friend.

Like all great loves, you never quite get over it. Watching the island fade in the distance as we climbed higher and higher into the sky, I smiled to myself and wondered - will Manhattan and I ever live happily ever after?  That story is for another day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

up, up and away

Killing time at Incheon International Airport, parked on a stiff wooden bench. I sit back and watch travellers criss cross in front of me, looking important, looking flustered, looking excited. Where is everyone going?

Behind me the clouds are clearing and the sun begins to peak through, my nerves instantly relax. I wonder if I can rationalize another Longchamp. Is three too many?

I let out a little laugh at my own expense, after all my careful planning, I managed to set my alarm for 4:00pm instead of 4:00am - thank goodness for Dad's and international wake up calls.

What was only hours ago seems like days. My eyes begin to sting as I recall my final moments with Busan. Seat 21D, starring out the window at this little man waving feverishly as the plane jerks towards the runway. We lock eyes (or at least I like to think so) and I wave back. He throws up a peace sign and we are off.



Friday, August 5, 2011

and so it goes

full circle together 2010-2011
To the EPIK Class of August 2010, here we are, 365 days later...the pictures to remind us, the battle wounds to prove it and the inside jokes to keep us smiling. Thank-you for joining us at Eva's last night to watch the video that brings these memories to life. Although entirely cliche, lets raise a glass and 'cheers to the nights you'll never remember, with the friends you'll never forget!'
reclaiming youth
Hyunhee, June and I, my co's be like ooah
I've been asked countless times over the last few weeks 'what will you miss the most?' 'what will you do/eat/buy first in Toronto?' so I decided to dedicate a post to answer these questions. 
kym + alex + jen + matt = family
womanlove, onelove
Leaving Korea, I am sorry to say goodbye to: subway fobs, #504, humpday hangouts, uh uh, my celebrity status, no tax, cheap taxis, Family Mart and underground cell service. Heading home I cannot wait to: taste barbecued corn on the cob, satisfy my sweet tooth (hello Smartfood, Fudgee-Os and sour patch kids), be invited to try clothes on, eavesdrop on conversations in public and relax dockside (Corona in tow) up north. 
Haeundae Beach
My dear Busan family, I don't know what I expected but I didn't expect you, jackpot. Toronto, you hold my roots, can't wait to sprout some new ones with ya... I'm coming home.




Sunday, July 24, 2011

cheers to optimism, may the future be bright

family.friendship.love.personal fulfillment.
United in their triumph over evil, Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny, watched the Hogwarts Express pull out of King's Cross station for the last time. As the silver screen faded into darkness, I sat there, heavy with the realization that this was the final installment in the Potter series. Although many of the sub stories met their natural ends, we are left to wonder what is next for our favourite witches and wizards and the fantastical world in which they live. Here I think Rowling accomplished something unique and really quite special. She propels readers and movie goers alike to recognize the everyday magic that exists in our muggle world and reminds us that we always have something worth fighting for.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

boreyonged

Last weekend we joined in the hilarity, randomness and straight up mess of the Boryeong Mud Festival. This annual event, attracts waygooks from across South Korea for a weekend much like those of our childhoods past. With mother nature's coveted blessing, the sun shone down on us as we frolicked in the sea, got down in the mud and shook our groove thang under midnight fireworks and lasers. 
tri mud love
bromuding

yup, definitely mud in my teeth
Scanning through photos, I would have to say that these 36 hours are best left untouched - a once in a life time experience if you will. If you have the chance to be boreyonged, jump on it, or more appropriately,
 IN IT!
video

bright neon MUD love

Monday, July 11, 2011

"excellent and sometimes beautiful photo"

Talked to my parents via Skype
watched 'Bad Teacher'
woman love, best type
so snoozy, stage five leaker. 
Basked in the sun
sipped my iced mocha 
I could have had more than one
lived la vida loca. 
Brunch at the Wolfhound Pub
barely arrived alive
I needed a tummy rub
definitely did the porcelain dive. 
Flipped through my photo book
and enjoyed my eggs and bakey
the lime green cover was all it took.
Woke up shakey
star fishes decorated the room
fits of laughter
snapshots of the night, zoom zoom zoom
looked like disasters. 
Face down outside Elune
so not okay
made the boys swoon
mayday, mayday!
Rocked and rolled
one flip wonder met her match
shots, shots, shots I was told
even saw someones snatch.
Big Apple pre game
little black dress, 5 inch heels
primp, push up, you know, same same
should have had a proper meal. 
Toasts from the girls I love the most
cake too beautiful to eat
really I'm not trying to boast
what a twist of fate that made us meet
But thank god that we did
I can't imagine life without you now
although its time to make our bids
this is not goodbye or ciao
so lets leave it there
keep in touch and share our next endeavors
take care
love you forever. 
Girls, you know who you are. Thank-you so much for the most precious birthday and heartfelt words.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

oh the places you'll go

21+2
With 23 just around the corner and my return home around a few more (might as well run with that metaphor) the words "what next?" have been haunting me. In truth, I know what's next, I'm back to the ol' academic bump and grind to begin my post graduate work in the field of international development. Ultimately, I would like to work for a non governmental organization that shares my belief that education is the cornerstone of sustainable growth. Growing up in Canada, 'a baby country', a term affectionately coined my by my 6th graders, I did not appreciate the role of history in modern society. Overtime it became clear why traditional values remain in Korea's education system today. Among other things, this year has taught me patience, understanding and tolerance of cultural differences, an attitude that I hope will allow me to realize my professional aspirations.

The above paragraph sounds like a well rehearsed answer, but what lies in the subtext are the anxieties I have about the unknown. When I can't make sense of my feelings, I usually look to the internet and self medicate. Arguably the worst thing to for oneself (so Cancer of me). Today Google connected me with an astrology site, that assured me that my emotional flux is characteristic of my zodiac sign. Phew. What is more:
  • Cancers need to feel like they are making a difference, however small, in order to feel content.
  • Cancers dig house parties. 
  • Cancers are prone to poor eye sight. 
  • Cancers love pillow talk. 
  • Cancers reaction to confrontation is directly proportionate to how thick their shell is.  
I guess, whatever will be, will be. 






Wednesday, June 29, 2011

busan vices

Here are some 'not so obvious' remedies to homesickness, culture shock and all the surprises that come with living abroad. In addition to a wonderful network of friends and family, these things have aided in my survival this year. 


FOOD:

Costco
Suyeong Station (line 2 #208), any exit will do. From here, flag a taxi, shouldn't set you back more than 3,000w.  I encourage you to add an 'e' to the word "CostEco", this will ensure you are deposited at the right place. When in doubt, wave your membership card. Just as an aside, each member (35,000w to join) is allowed to shop with a guest/time on their card. Costco is the foreigner food mecca. Cheese, wine and pesto, OH MY! It is difficult to escape under 200,000w, they only take cash so arrive prepared. The best part of any Costco excursion is the personal pan pizza and soft serve ice cream waiting for you on the other side.  

Pasta Vanita and Burger Pasta, KSU
Kyungsung University Station (line 2 #212), exit 5. Located on the second floor just outside the station, PV has been a staple in my carb hungry diet. A full course meal will set you back no more than 20,000w (+booze). I suggest the caprese salad and the cream of mushroom linguine combo. For the other winos out there, PV has a stocked wine (beer and spirits too) list, glasses starting at 6,000w and bottles starting at 30,000w. 

Take exist 5 and walk towards the Puckyung University Campus, turn right at the Dunkin' Donuts. Burger Pasta will be on your left, half a block in from the main road. BP is the place where everyone knows my name (Cheers! ahaha). They cover all the western favourites, from greasy spoon hangover specials to hearty salads. Their chicken burger is often too hard to pass up but can be substituted with the potato wedges. Try their lemonade too! 

Namaste, Haeundae
Haeundae Station (line 2 #203), exit 3, about half a block beyond The Wolfhound PubNamaste is a quaint Indian restaurant tucked away from the bustle of Busan night life. Before my first Namaste experience, I was not an Indian food lover, but I have since been converted. The energy in the room echos the colourful menu, the tandori chicken and butter nan particularly delectable. Although the dishes are expensive, I promise 
that you will not be disappointed! 

SHOPPING:

When in Korea, shop like the Koreans do! Nampodong (#111), PNU (#128), KSU (#212) and Seomyeon (#219) are the areas that have the best market style shopping. Stores and stalls here will see massive inventory turnover, so don't wait if you spot a must have piece. Your shopping experience will vary depending when you visit, typically independent vendors setup their stalls only on the weekends. Get ready for for sensory overload!

For cosmetic purposes Shinsegae and the Lotte department stores (line 2 #206) are the only way to go. No one should risk going native when it comes to skin care! After a little beauty pick me up, the Kyobo bookstore, located inside Shinsegae, offers a plethora of English books, keep your brain cells engaged.

ENDORPHIN'S:

KAFA Fitness, KSU
Joining a gym was one of the best things I could have done for myself this year. Finding motivation to honour this commitment is always a challenge, but, true to form, it has been the most effective antidote to relieve stress. There are loads of gyms around the city, however they are not usually street level, so keep that in mind when you are searching your area!

Beomeosa Temple & Hiking, Beomeosa
Beomeosa Station (line 1 #133), follow the crowds to exit. There are dozens of trails around Busan, but none really compare to the variety and beauty of those found decorating the hills of Geumjeong Mountain. 

Savory says
@Namaste
Enjoy our dynamic Busan!





Monday, June 20, 2011

its always in the details

Writing has been my therapy for years. A means of self discovery with the hope of finding myself somewhere in the black and white letters that dance across the page. Although this journey has seen many faces, it is unsure of its audience. What I've realized along the way is that's okay. For this reason, it came as a great surprise when my close friend JB shared one of my recent blog entries on her Facebook page.

I am private about my writing and I understand that maintaining a blog effectively contradicts this statement. Nevertheless, this attitude is rooted in the admiration I have for my peers and how eloquent their writing styles are in comparison to mine. I read about a dozen blogs, some are sharp, quick witted accounts on Waygook life, others are informed political proses and another chunk are trashy tabloids. I guess its fair to say that regardless of their content, they have an impact on me and thus are bookmarked online as weekly must reads.

To learn that JB reads my work like I read so many others is wildly flattering. The fact that she then re posted this particular entry for a greater audience, implies that in her opinion my words are worth hearing. At the end of the day, its always nice to receive a little personal validation. Thank-you for being there to listen even when I didn't ask you to be and thank-you for reminding me that life is not about comparisons but instead finding comfort in your own skin.

So let it be said JB, possessing the ability to celebrate my passion only intensifies the light you have been in my life this year.

Listen. Acknowledge. Support. Repeat. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

my kids are cuter than yours

Remember when I moved to Busan, South Korea to teach kids English for a year?
Snoopy 
go grade 3 gaga 
Snow, Ball and Me
Polo, just wait Ralph on line one
Oh yeah, it was amazing.

"see you next time"
video

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"you make it sound like destiny"

As I sit here, clicking away at my school computer, I do some fast math. Only 54 more days until I am back in the motherland you say!? Madness!

I've spoken about relationships a lot this year. Some have grown stronger, some disintegrated and some surprised me. Perhaps the ones that have surprised me the most are the ones that I have forged here. I'm sure I am not first to compare these friendships to family, but they are. I knew early on that these bonds were going to be unique, but moving through the final weeks of our contract, each get together is more meaningful than the last. I attribute this to the unanimous realization of the fact that we are approaching the end of something great, something that cannot be duplicated.

There are no words that fully drive my point home. August 13, 2011 will be the epitome of bittersweet. To those that met me, got me, backed me and loved me - don't go.

"Smile at the chance to see you again..."
Foster the People - Miss You
Gwangali Beach Sunset

Thursday, June 9, 2011

just a silly diddy

Sand between my toes
Best feeling ever
A smile stretched beneath my nose
Dreaming of my next endeavor.
Sunshine so bright
Cass in tow
Lid on tight
Beach it, lets go.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

so. not. into. it.

DISCLAIMER: this post is a rant. 
general disgust
Korea we have been playing a game of chicken for nine months now..."do I stand up to my administration today, or not" "do I smile politely as my close talking kids blow remnants of their seafood lunch in my face, or not" "do I accept the flem spit up in public, or not"  today I'm gonna bring it.

A fellow EPIK teacher posted a cry for help on our group page this afternoon. She revealed to us that her co-teacher is unstable and despite her pleas to the administration, BMOE and EPIK, none of our superiors are willing to go to bat for her and resolve it. Turns out that said co-teacher has already received a multitude of complaints and to this extent, was transferred. Not punished...transferred. Teachers in Korea cannot be suspended or fired, the kind of job security that threatens to supersede North America's flawed teaching unions. At orientation we were assured of many things, of which, that our rights as guest teachers would be represented and protected...because lets face it, irregardless of our best efforts, a lot still gets lost in translation. In this case, previous concerns were hushed and met with a band aid solution displacing the issue.  Like many games of chicken in Korea, the waygook (foreigner) ends up with the short end of the stick. This EPIKer has reached yet another stalemate, essentially backed into a corner and confined by the terms of her contract. I hope things work out for you.

And while I'm at it...

I really hate it when you point and stare at me. I know I am tall. Some call me 'Jumbo Jen' because that is how they package the only pair of tights that fit me in this country. My size is not an invitation for you to stop me in the street and take a picture with me.

You can't have my business unless I can try it on. Pssssst.

I love to grocery shop and even though this experience is finally becoming enjoyable here, please refrigerate the eggs. I only have time to eat eggs on the weekend and I am always weary of another face off with food poisoning...that $h*t is no yoke.

Paying my bills. This monthly task is even more despised in Korea then at home. I cannot read them. I cannot pay them online. I cannot go to the bank during business hours because I am at work. To take care of them, I must sign out for at least a hour, borrowed time from my holidays. Riddle me that.

OPEN THE WINDOWS! As the only waygook on my am bus route, let me say that summer is definitely here folks. Just because I don't speak Korean, I can see you gawking as I swing back and forth as the buses jerks down the road, glistening with sweat. What do you want me to do?

Hey you at the back of the class, I see you picking your nose and eating it.

- sigh -

Sunday, May 15, 2011

bridal busan

'bridal viewing' pre ceremony
Hyunhee and I

the colourful affluence of traditional Korean wedding garb

Yesterday I attended my first wedding, ever, the irony that it took place in Korea is almost too much for me handle. It consisted of two ceremonies. The first, I will say was western inspired...the white dress, the priest and the bouquet toss. Throughout the nuptials no one really appeared to be paying attention. Cell phones were answered, texts exchanged and children were running up and down the aisle as if they were the main event. What really put the icing on the cake, was when the groom piggy backed the bride's mother down the aisle as a 'thank-you' for 'giving' your daughter to me. When we left the hall, another bridal party was ready and waiting. Interval wedding, 1:25. From here, we moved into another room where we observed the traditional component of the day. Surrounded by their immediate family, the bride and groom exchanged personal vows and made various offerings that will hopefully bring them a life of wealth, happiness and a big family. I had my other co-teacher next to me, translating, filling me in on the purpose of this and that along with various superstitions. My favourite fact of the day would have to be the belief that if the bride smiled/showed her teeth at all she would be fated never to birth a boy to carry the family name. Aheeeeeem.

video

lotte lotte lotte

Saturday we went to the Lotte Giants baseball game in Busan to celebrate Bryan's birthday. As with all good sporting events, the energy was high and the fan fare was flying. Mid way through the fifth inning, orange plastic bags were doled out for your end o game trash...until then, you wear them on your head while shaking newspaper 
pom poms. Why am I ever surprised in Korea?

video
The cheer leaders were something else. We were there as the guests of the starting pitcher of the Giant's...some might argue the best seats in the house. Balling. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

beijing and back

Nin Hao!
I am  back from my final tour of Asia...this year! Beijing was awesome! I am not sure really what I expected, but I was a little caught off guard by the presence of the government. Hints of Communism lined the streets, parks and subways. To gain entry to any tourist site you had to go through security, a x - ray bag scan and a metal detector pat down. The whole 9 yards. We learned that these measures were not for show as some people were asked to open their bags for further investigation, then given the green light or for the not so fortunate ones, toted off somewhere else. 
not sure if that is your colour Obama?
eyes on Tienanmen Square
We (sort of) lucked out with weather. Saturday we walked around the city for 7 hours...a poor choice in hindsight as I returned to the hostel with shredded feet and a crispy face. We stopped at the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the Peoples Labour Museum and the Olympic Village. The Forbidden City was built throughout the Ming Dynasty (1300s-1600s) to house the Emperors, the Empress (+ a multitude of concubines) and a full staff. No one was allowed to enter the city without formal invitation and once inside, you were forbidden to leave. With architecture and colouring indicative of traditional Asian design, I could not get over its seemingly endless walled expanse. I think it is a true testament to China's nationalism that they have preserved this site within a metropolis where space is limited. 
outside the wall of the Forbidden City

Just opposite the FC, Tienanmen Square stands strong. Like the FC, it is massive and can hold 1,000,000 people at once. It is hard to describe how I felt here. Aside from several statues, the square is empty. Thinking back, this seems most appropriate, a solemn memorial, silently acknowledging the message of the 1989 protests. 

Sunday we rented bikes and bombed around the cities parks, most notably the Imperial Gardens and Bei Hai Park. Beijing puts Busan to shame when it comes to its greenery. Mid afternoon the heavens opened. Kym and I were keen to hit the infamous markets. You can see for yourself...we looked absolutely ridiculous haggling prices with various shop keepers. 
but can you rock a poncho?
Monday we visited the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs. Stretching as far as the eye could see, over the sharpest peaks and valleys, the view was as magnificent as promised. As with all of the worlds wonders, there are so many unanswered questions pertaining to its integrity and construction. That said, I was more than happy to bounce around at my own pace while concocting the 'Jennifer Savory' version of how the wall came to be. We had two more 'ah ha' moments here. First, as made our way through one of the towers, we bumped into the Waymann's, a fellow Kingsway family. I went to LKS with Kim back in the day and Kym went to Queens with three of the Waymann sisters. What are the odds!? Second, you don't have to walk up or down the wall to get a stellar view. A gondola/chairlift and/or toboggan option have been installed. Because time was limited (ahaha) we opted for the chairlift ride up and the sled ride down. Terrified of heights, the chairlift was no fun for me. However, I cannot remember a time when I have laughed harder than I did speeding down the Great Wall.  
fact

After the wall, the Ming Tombs were a little underwhelming, unfortunately our visit landed right in the middle of widespread reconstruction and a lot was closed off to the public. 
WISH YOU WERE HERE

Its been quite a trip visiting four countries on this side of the world. With many commonalities (especially in relation to Canada) I have taken something different away from each. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to explore these places to the extent that I have, especially as the world continues to globalize. 

As Asia becomes an even more competitive player in the international arena, I feel like I can move forward with an enlightened understanding of its history and its role in the twenty-first century.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo - imnida

In the past I have written about the hardship I have had living abroad when a holiday rolls around. Yesterday was Children's Day in Busan, a day off work just in time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo
tequila sunrise
handy crafts
 This holiday, not of particular symbolic value to me, holds a lot of meaning and fond memories for some of my friends here. In order to honour the day, they put together the most colourful rooftop fiesta for us. 

fiesta favours pour pa vour 
Complete with homemade tortillas, guacamole, margaritas and quesadillas. Warmed by friendship and the summer sun, my heart swelled with appreciation. It is so thoughtful when people take the time to include you in their traditions. Thanks for an awesome day Texas.