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by Eli Toast

My first poignant memory of the day almost made me puke. I was eating breakfast as I watched a homeless Southeast Asian man limping down the street. He was all matted hair, missing teeth, blackened skin from collected street filth, a humpback bulging beneath his rotten black jacket, scrawny, with an angular face, puckered in the way years of alcohol make some people’s faces look as though they’re slowly imploding; balls of white foam eddying in each corner of his mouth. An insult to death, really.

In his hand he held a lime green drink in a plastic cup. We were in Northern Thailand, where that kind of drink was served at all hours of the day. I noticed him, trying my best to size up the entirety of his destitution, which was nearly complete. Death, I suppose, being the whole shebang. I imagined the life trajectory that brought him to such a nadir; the complexity of his filth. If you let yourself go too far you’ll get to the subject’s undercarriage, the balls and ass and in between. This was not your average cookie-cutter bum. I couldn’t decide if my devoted study of him was a symptom of compassion or callousness (still can’t). Either way, doesn’t matter.

I was sitting there in a café , having just finished breakfast, drinking coffee and watching this guy lope down the street, when he takes a drink of the lime green jungle juice and a second later vomits. A heavy slap of nuclear-fusion-green refuse from the guts of an old vagrant. A hot burp: “blurg”—”fwap;” thin and green with soft chunks of bread or tofu. He seemed unfazed as he carried on, scuffing a soot laden foot through the acrid slurry. THAT’S what got me! Watching him drag his foot through it. He carried on, flexing his lips once or twice over his upper teeth in recognition. It was really gross, so I decided I’d write about it.





Dear Korea #111 - Riding Dirty

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Dear Korea #111

This totally happened very recently. For some reason, my very sick mind (I caught a cold during my Lunar New Year visit to Seoul) thought it would be a good idea to make these comics in real time. There will probably be about two or three more. Possibly even more, depending on how things go. Please don’t be too surprised if you hear about a super sad artist who failed at getting her license.

On the bright side, I passed the written portion! I do the actual driving part tomorrow (technically today). Wish me luck!

Jen Lee's Dear Korea

This is Jen Lee. She likes to draw.
She also likes green tea.

Got any questions, comments, or maybe even some delicious cookies you want to send through the internet? Feel free to contact us at dearkoreacomic at gmail dot com.

You can also leave comments on the comic’s Facebook Page!


The Path to THEM

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I'm usually a private person. I don't share the intimate happenings of my life online. But this is a story so important that it needs to be documented.

So as I said in my last post...

Things have been CRAZY in these past few months.

Yes, I'm finishing up school and doing..

All. Those. Case Studies. (for my degree in Holistic Nutrition)

Yes, we are also preparing to leave Korea- our home for the past five years- and planning a 2.5 week road trip across the US.

Yes, we are preparing to pack up again and move to Ecuador in April...

But the true whirlwind of crazy started on my birthday in November.

My birthday sort of unexpectedly threw me on this path that I knew I'd be traveling down one day. A path that is wrought with emotion, joy, fear and anxiety.  The path that virtually every adopted child thinks about going down--

Finding their biological parents.

For my birthday present, Dave got together all the documents to find all the "Non-Identifying Information" from my adoption file. It turns out that due to a law change in Georgia a few years ago, it's super easy to find out information on your otherwise "closed adoption". More info on that down below.

So, I waited and waited and waited to hear back from the case worker.
She basically gets an adoption file from the state and weeds through all the information. She then types up a document in which she summarizes everything that she can tell me that does not in any way give the identities of my birth family. This could be family health history, physical appearances, details about my birth, details on foster homes (if there are any), basically you could get any information that was given up to the point of your adoption being finalized.

The four weeks I waited, I truly felt like I went through a "dark night of the soul" so to speak during that time. I was a mess. This was affecting me... it had some strange power over me. I never thought being adopted affected me until I started digging. Turns out.. it does. I dealt with a lot during those few weeks.

Then, one night as I was getting ready to sleep I checked my email one last time with heavy eyelids. And BAM! There was the summary in my inbox! My heart raced and my hands were shaking. Was I ready to read what this email contained? Was I ready to face my reality? I had always made up crazy scenarios about how my life came to be, and who my parents were. But once I read this, there was no going back. I'd finally know.  Dave was asleep, I had to go at this alone. So I opened it!

As I read through the THREE page summary of the circumstances that lead to me, it was surreal. I learned SO MUCH! I learned about my biological parents' physical characteristics, their relationship, their parents, their siblings, their hobbies... so much more than I ever dreamed of learning!!! I even learned my ancestry.. something I've longed to know for as long as I can remember!

Are you ready for this?
I learned that my grandmother was from Colombia! My friends growing up always said I didn't have "white girl hair" (Click HERE for pics) and boy were they right!

I'm 1/4 Colombian! WOW! I have always loved the Spanish language and latin music. We've also been planning to move to Ecuador for over a year.... Ecuador is.... BESIDE COLOMBIA!!!

A HUGE piece that I didn't know was even missing has been replaced. Since learning what I know I have felt so different inside.  I know where I came from! I know the blood that runs through these veins, I feel it's pulsing culture and tradition. This is something children who aren't adopted take for granted. I know there are people out there that share a part of me. To me, this blows my mind.

When the summary talked about my birth parents hobbies, personalities, and physical characteristics I couldn't believe it! I am truly a mix of them both!

I have never been anything like my adoptive family. PERIOD. If you know them, you know what I mean!

But now, I "make sense" so to speak! There is just so much joy in knowing the details. I've always felt like nature won over nurture in my life- and this just confirmed it!

What's next?

Well- now that I have the non-identifying information, I am beginning the process to FIND THEM! Families First in Atlanta, Georgia partnered with the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry offers a super easy process to locate your biological parents, siblings, etc. There are a couple easy forms to fill out and you have to write a letter to the person you are searching for. They will contact the person on your behalf and read your letter to them. Then, if the person is willing, they will arrange a contact information exchange and you will be on your way to that first meeting.

The documents ready to be sent out!

So, I've completed and mailed in all the paperwork. That means....

I had to write a letter to my birthmother

It was certainly surreal as I sat there on the first day of the new year writing to a person I didn't technically know, but a person that I thought about so often- the person that made me- the person that I grew inside of for all those months!

I wrote through blurry eyes and I composed my letter. What should I say? How could I put down into words what I felt? When it was all said and done, I had a page and a half. This could be my only shot at communicating with the person that carried me and brought me into this world, so I had to be very intentional in my writing.

I had a few objectives that I wanted to accomplish in writing:
  • I wanted to tell her about me, and let her know what a beautiful life's journey I'm on.
  • I wanted to let her know the purpose of my wanting contact.
  • I REALLY wanted to encourage her to agree to contact, without scaring her off.
  • I wanted to let her know that I have always felt her love for me and I've never felt "unwanted".
  • I wanted to thank her for giving me life.
  • I wanted to help bring healing to her. It must be so hard to do what she did.
  • I wanted her to know that she will always be in my heart regardless of her response to my request for contact.
So with my page and a half, I hope I have accomplished this. 

This process is supposed to take anywhere from one to six months! Today marks the one month mark. I just called in and they said they have not found her updated contact information yet! UGH!

Families First and The Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry have a 90-95% success rate in finding people they search for, and of that group about 90-95% agree to contact. But, I'm trying not to get my hopes up. There are so many scenarios that could come out of this, I need to protect myself and be ready. I'm so happy I have my husband and some of the best friends a girl could have to help me during this time. 

So many unknowns coming up in my very near future! But this is going to be such a transformative year for me in so many ways. 

The Year of the Horse on the Chinese calendar has just begun. Is it a coincidence that both of my biological parents cited their love for horses in my adoption records? I personally, think not. I think it's a good sign of things to come.

Won't you send some positive energy, thoughts and prayers my way? If it's for the better good, I really hope to find her before we leave for Ecuador in April.

I'm healing.
I'm journeying.
I'm opening painful scars in attempt to heal them.

This is why I have created this blog. Things are hard to deal with. But our actions can bring us healing if we will it to be. Healing gives us true freedom.

I see no other way to live.

Everyday, I try to live.....

The Empowered Way!

Stay tuned for good news!

Oh and you can get my blog updates sent to your email by typing your email address in the side bar to the right! You're not going to want to miss the coming months!!
If you want your reading to be anonymous, don't worry. I can't see who subscribes via email! It's a big mystery! :)


Any adoptees out there reading this? Have you found, or do you want to find your biological parents? We need to talk!


If you were adopted from Georgia and are interested in finding your biological family, please contact The Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry HERE. They offer services to adopted children, birth parents,  siblings separated by adoption, and adoptive parents.
The fee for non-identifying information is $30.
The fee for a search is $300 per person.
There is free in-depth consultation available as well.
If you need financial help, they offer that too!  It really is such a great organization! I can't speak highly enough of them.

If you are thinking of starting this process and have questions, send me a message: Megan(DOT)Rushbrook(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Should Expat English Teachers Be Afraid of the North Korea and China Situation?

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North and South Korea are technically still at war and of course we all know the supporting allies for each country are China and the United States, respectively. There are various opinions on the whole entire conundrum, but one thing we can all agree on, especially those of us actually in South Korea, is that the situation can be a little disconcerting.

For those of us who are here teaching and have been through those school days designated for mock disaster/war rehearsals, I’m sure we can agree that the situation on the peninsula went from being an online news story we read in the comfort of our own homes to a stark reality.

Not only do we as expats come to appreciate the tension more, but many of us start to look more meaningfully into the situation as a whole. This includes forming our own opinions on China and the presence of the United States in this region of the world.

So when China recently unilaterally expanded their airspace to include an area including some disputed islands in the region, it caused for some ruffled feathers. Sovereign airspace can be a gray area at times as it generally includes areas in the oceans and seas. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of it all since I assume you’re probably somewhat familiar with the situation.

As a foreign English teacher in South Korea, the tension created by this action started to make me a bit leery. Even though it was not directly related to North Korea (this ONE time!), anything that happens in this region involving China, Japan, and the Koreas tend to irritate any calm that had previously been established. Even though all South Koreans tend to write off essentially all actions by North Korea, in this case something made me feel different.

In America, our media tends to use itself to form perceptions based on whatever agendas may be present at that time. So I quickly learned that there is a large gap between our perceptions of North Korea coming from the West and those shared by South Koreans.

Even though I live here in South Korea, I still get my information from American outlets.

One important thing to keep in mind is that we live in a much more “intimate” global setting than 50 years ago. Overt military decisions are nearly impossible to go unnoticed and there is much more accountability for decisions and actions by any nation. The fears that I may have are rooted in the perceptions I’ve formed through growing up in America. But the reality is, the doomsday scenarios that our media hint at are so very unlikely because of the new global environment we live in.

I liken it to flying. We all know that statistically speaking, flying is the safest form of travel in the world. Even so, we still know that planes go down every so often. So in my case, there’s still a part of me that is freaked out by turbulence! So is there a threat of something actually going down here in South Korea? Yes. But it’s very unlikely.

I tend to make myself step away from looking at things from a news story perspective, or one of a military action. I’ve learned to look at the whole more (as I grow older and grayer!). I remind myself that in between the saber rattling, and joint military exercises, and former NBA freak shows I’m so proud to be associated with…is life. Life is just going on and people are traveling, buying stuff, going to school, starting families, and even trying to build bridges between nations. To go against all that is happening in real life, as well as the international accountability would be extremely drastic and in my opinion, unlikely.

Kind of like the airplane scenario. Unless you fly Qantas like the Rainman. Then it’s all good.

The post Should Expat English Teachers Be Afraid of the North Korea and China Situation? appeared first on The Red Dragon Diaries.

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The Good Stuff

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In an effort to wrench ourselves away from the digital glow of our television screens, we decided to take advantage of the early spring weather we had last weekend and head out on an excursion of some sort.  After blindly picking Tongdo Temple out of our plethora of Korean guidebooks and retrieving my camera from the shelf where it had sat for far too long, we ventured forth into the world. 

Tongdosa is one of the oldest and largest temples in Korea, having been hallowed ground since some time in the seventh century A.D.  This temple is often referred to as the center of Korean Buddhism because it houses sacred relics from the Buddha, including a piece of his jaw bone, his begging bowl, and his robe.  The actual artifacts are enshrined in the Diamond Steps, located at the heart of the complex of temple buildings.  Visitors can walk around the stupa where the remains are enshrined, but they aren’t allowed to take photographs. 


Since it was Lunar New Year (설날), the temple was festooned with colorful paper lanterns and everyone was busy writing down their hopes for the coming year.  Not wanting to be left out, we wasted no time scrawling our own  소원 (wishes) onto the large paper lantern that was going to be lighted later in the hopes of carrying everyone’s desires to the heavens where they are granted.  


The temple itself is built in the shadow of Yeongchuk-san, an amazing mountain which provided backdrops so gorgeous they almost looked painted on. Most of the southern slope of the mountain is on temple land, which means there are probably some gorgeous, relatively unspoiled areas to hike when the weather warms up for good.  


The buildings themselves are also beautiful, with floral and traditional Buddhist symbols carved or painted into most of the doors and walls.  They are in various stages of restoration as well, which allowed for a little variation from the highly lacquered red and green buildings of most temple sites.  



In fact, I was happily clicking away, shooting photo after photo of these gorgeous painted flowers when I heard Ric call my name.


“Kelly,” he said, gesturing to an older Korean gentleman in a suit.  ”This guy wants your attention.  His wife’s been watching you take pictures for like the last ten minutes.”

Crap, I thought, somehow despite my best intentions and despite the droves of other visitors (almost all Korean) taking photo after photo, I have somehow managed to unwittingly take a picture of the one thing in this temple that was off-limits but didn’t have a sign posted.  I’m always kind of paranoid about doing this because, while temples in Korea are half tourist attraction, half house of worship, they are still houses of worship.  I started practicing my Korean apologies and thinking of ways to communicate to the offended couple that I would gladly delete the image in question from  my camera.  

Turns out that wasn’t what she wanted at all. After tossing out several paragraphs of rapid fire Korean, I finally understand that the man’s wife wanted me to come with her.  Apparently, there was something she needed to show me.  She led me around a corner and up to one of the temple outbuildings, where I saw this.  ”예쁜,” I said to her, the Korean word for beautiful.  


ImageImageRow after row after row of these amazingly gorgeous wooden flowers that were hand-carved by somebody a pretty long time ago.  The good stuff.  Day made.  

Communication in a foreign country can be daunting, and on more than one occasion, we’ve had salesclerks and other people pawn us off on someone else rather than try to communicate even basic ideas with us.  But not today, not this lady.  She understood something that artists have been trying to communicate to words-y people like me for centuries.  Beauty transcends language, religion, location, culture.  It just is.  And is should be shared.  



Some Practical Matters:  

Admission is 3,000 KRW.  There is also a Buddhist painting museum on site which contains some cool stuff, but its hours are limited and vary seasonally. If you go during warm weather, be sure to bring socks.  There are a lot of places (like the stupa and the museum) that are shoes-off.  Sandals are provided.  

Getting There:   I’m sure there are a host of ways to get there, since Tongdo-sa is located in Yangsan, just to the north of Busan proper.  We took a 20 minute bus ride from Nopo Intercity Bus Terminal (located at the Nopo subway stop off the orange line).  Buses run pretty much every twenty minutes all day long, and the cost was about 2,500 KRW one way.  Once you get to the bus terminal, head to your left if you are facing the front of the building.  The temple gates are only a couple of blocks away.  

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Seoulmates’ Valentines’ Day Date Guide: Fish Pedicures and Jjimjilbang

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Need some time to relax with your valentine? If the man in your life isn’t fully ready to commit to a spa day or you are both feeling adventurous, how about trying a fish pedicure! What is a fish pedicure?  You and your date will submerge your bare feet into a modified aquarium pool where tiny carp aka “doctor fish” will nibble away the dead skin cells on your feet.  Namu Geuneul Cafe in Gangnam offers complimentary fish pedicures when you purchase a beverage.

Address:  2/F 1305-3 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu. +82 2 599 1210
Directions: Subway station- Gangnam (Line 2)

Looking for a formal spa experience? Korea’s Jjimjilban are considered to  be some of the most quintessential experiences in Korea. Upon arrival you will be given a cotton uniform and after changing can relax with your Valentine for any number of hours in rooms of varying degrees of temperature and humidity. Escape from the chill of the winter by  relaxing your cold bones in the warm lounge or go for a hot steam. Many Jjimjilbangs offer a variety of entertainment such as gaming rooms, movie viewing rooms, libraries, and food courts.

To find a list of Jjimjilban’s in Seoul Click Here!

I went to Gakwonsa Temple (각원사) in Cheonan last summer, but the...

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I went to Gakwonsa Temple (각원사) in Cheonan last summer, but the “big Buddha” is more impressive in the winter. Also, the temple is way less crowded.

How to get there: Take bus 24 from the opposite side of Shinsegae, to the end of its route. Make sure you follow the bus to the last stop, or you’ll end up walking further. The bus will make a U-turn at a narrow road before heading for the last stop.

About the girl

Hi, I'm Stacy. I am from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living and teaching ESL in Busan, South Korea. Busy getting into lots of adventures, challenging myself, and loving people. Something more than an ethereal will-o-wisp.

Thank you so much for visiting and reading.

Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, LastfmFlickr, and FacebookAsk me anything


England Story

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I never said it'd be all South Korea innit...

Many many years ago in the early days of for-the-masses internet the beautiful 65daysofstatic proclaimed that one of the rules of touring was that you could never return home.

Rule 9: You can never go home.

I don't think they were being quite so literal but it was something I took to heart, not that I've ever toured seriously but travelling is a sort of friend like that...anyway last summer I broke the rule and went home. It was nice to be back for a second...

Soundtrack (to the cities):

Birmingham: Jesu - Tired Of Me

Bristol gets its own love.


Yi Hwang – Start of Spring

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Yi Hwang (李滉, 이황, 1501-1570) was a Chosun dynasty Neo-Confucian scholar and literati bureaucrat. He was of the Jinbo Yi Clan (眞寶李氏, 진보이씨); his courtesy name (字, 자) was Gyeongho (景浩, 경호); his pen name (號, 호) was Toegye (退溪, 퇴계); and his posthumous name (諡, 시) was Munsun (文純, 문순). In 1534, he passed the civil service examination (科擧, 과거) in second place (乙科, 을과), and served on various bureaucratic posts. As for his philosophical contributions, he is most remembered for his Neo-Confucian metaphysics debates with Ki Daeseung (奇大升, 기대승, 1527-1572) and his founding of the Dosan Confucian Academy (陶山書院, 도산서원) in 1570, which would produce many scholars and literati. Today, most Koreans recognize him as the figure whose face graces the 1000 Won Korean currency note.

In the poem below, Yi Hwang describes his thoughts during the Start of Spring, or Ipchun (立春, 입춘), one of the 24 solar terms. It falls on February 4th on the Gregorian calendar and varies on the traditional Lunar calendar, as Ipchun begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 315 and ends when it passes 330 degrees.

正月二日立春 정월이일입춘

Second Day of the First Month, Start of Spring

黃卷中間對聖賢 황권중간대성현
虛明一室坐超然 허명일실좌초연
梅窓又見春消息 매창우견춘소식
莫向瑤琴嘆絶絃 막향요금탄절현

Within these yellow-stained volumes, I encounter the saints and sages.
In the empty but bright single room, I sit solitarily.
The plum tree outside my window again sees the news of Spring’s arrival.
Facing my jade zither, I do not sigh over a broken string.


Yellow • books • middle • space • to face • saints • sages
Empty • bright • one • room • to sit • to be aloof • grammar particle
Plum tree • window • again • to see • Spring • news • news
Not • to face • jade • zither • to sigh • broken • string


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