Chinese New Year

On Image result for chinese new year 2017Feburary 2, 2017, the Asian American Student Association (AASA) hosted their annual Chinese New Year Celebration. The Chinese New Year is a traditional Asian holiday that marks the beginning of a new year based on the lunar calendar. Therefore, the exact date of the Chinese New Year changes each year. This year it was on January 28th. Since it was on a Saturday, AASA decided to host the celebration the week after. The Chinese calendar cycles through every 12 years and each year is represented by an animal; 2017 is the year of the rooster.

There was a huge turnout to this event and the room was packed. The evening began with Chinese food and a dragon dance by fellow students. Attendees could obtain tickets at different activity stations such as a dragon boat race and making a paper lantern to try to win prizes. Throughout the night, there were different performances such as martial arts and dancing. The guest of the night was DANakaDAN who is a Korean YouTube star. I sadly had to leave the event early due to a personal emergency involving ammonium hydroxide.

 

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Things That ‘Did Not’ This Week

Her teeth white and painful and fake

My X-Ray the fuel for her finessed façade of interest

“You nearly fractured your elbow,” she says

But I didn’t

“All the damage is here except for an actual fracture,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should have paid attention to your body,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should have listened to the pain, come in sooner,” she says

But I didn’t

“You should feel very lucky,” she says

But I didn’t.

 

 

You sit in front of me with your despair dripping like melting ice cream

The need outweighs the discomfort found in every pause

“I wanted to,” you say

But you didn’t

“They say I am at risk,” you say

But you didn’t

“It’s heavy, it’s everywhere, I feel like I’m drowning in it,” you say

But you didn’t

“I want to end all of it,” you say

But you didn’t.

 

 

3:00 AM wears thin on my ceiling as I stare up into the morning darkness

The paint of that hour dries faster than my eyes drift to sleep

“You could choose stay,” I say

But I didn’t

“It would be safe, you should feel safe there,” I say

But I didn’t

“You could have found a boring, beautiful happiness,” I say

But I didn’t

“Don’t run away, just this once,” I say

But I didn’t.

 

 

God makes His plans known to his people by blowing kisses through gusts of wind

He sits in a tall tree above an empty wooden swing

“You could write beautiful things instead of sad things,” He says

But she didn’t

“Listen, the world is asking for you, don’t you want them?” He says

But she didn’t

“If you left Me, the whole world would applaud you,” He says

But she didn’t

“I think your sad things are also your beautiful things,” He says

But she didn’t.

 

 

The Music of Jewish Spain

The words song, Jewish, and Spain all have special significance to me; therefore, when a poster advertising the event Sephardic music: Songs of Devotion and Desire: The Musical Heritage of Jewish Spain caught my eye, I was immediately enthralled. I love listening to live musicians, have a deep personal connection to Judaism, and adore Spanish language and culture. Although I had a crazy Monday due to cancelled flights back to campus and was extremely tired by evening, this was an event I knew I could not miss. Entering Pitman Recital Hall, I was extremely curious as to what exactly I was about to experience; it seemed like such a perfect collision of my interests.
The event began with a short lecture about the history of Jews living in Spain and in Sephardic communities outside of Spain (these emerged after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492). Although people most commonly associate religion in Spain with Catholicism, a rich Jewish history existed there for many years prior to the domination of the Catholic Church. Important figures emerged from Spain during this time, including the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides and several significant Jewish poets.
After the professor concluded his talk, the musical portion of the night began. Janice Meyerson, the singer, floated onto the stage in a long black gown, followed by her accompanist. As his fingers danced along the piano keys, her operatic voice filled the hall with the sounds of a spectacular cultural heritage. While I recognized signature elements of the Jewish musical style, it was a new experience to hear them played with ladino words. (Ladino is the Sephardic Jewish dialect of Spanish). Some of the lyrics were a blend of Hebrew and Spanish, and this unique intersection of language was absolutely amazing to discover, as I never knew such a thing existed. The songs Ms. Meyerson sang revolved around love and desire, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the magic of the music of Jewish Spain.

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Denial

The Holocaust was an extremely horrific event in history; millions of innocent people were murdered due to prejudice, antisemitism, and hatred, and it is a hard thing for many people to talk about. However, for professor Deborah Lipstadt, talking about the Holocaust turned into a fight to prove its authenticity. The movie Denial is based on the true story of how she was challenged in court by famous Holocaust denier David Irving. After discrediting him in her book Denying the Holocaust , he takes her to court for allegedly slandering his name. In the subsequent court proceedings, Deborah’s dedicated legal team endeavors to prove that Irving intentionally twisted the meaning of historical documents to suit his personal view that the Holocaust was invented by the Jews and never really happened. It is a battle to prove that the Holocaust happened, to have this tragedy legally recognized as a part of history. It tells the incredible story of a woman who dedicates herself to fighting for the truth.
The Schusterman Center for Judaic Studies and OU Hillel co-sponsored a showing of the movie Denial several weeks ago, and since then I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about its significance and relevance in a world that is once again becoming increasingly antisemitic. We cannot allow the Holocaust to slip from our memory, as bomb threats are regularly being called into Jewish Community Centers around the nation and antisemitic messages are being spread. Allowing ourselves to forget about the Holocaust is just as dangerous as denying it ever happened – acknowledging and learning from the horrors of the past is the only way we will ever be able to move forward toward a brighter future.

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My First Few Weeks in Daegu

As my days abroad continue to rush by, I haven’t had a great deal of time to sit and process everything around me that has changed so drastically in such a short amount of time. So far, my study abroad trip in South Korea has been a whirlwind of new experiences and new friends to share them with. However, I find myself noticing so many little things within daily life here in Daegu that are so similar to back home. despite the wide array of difference, there is so much that seems fairly universal.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been exploring Daegu and trying to find the best coffee houses and restaurants I can! My KNU buddy has been extremely helpful in navigating the campus and their online systems. Most of my exploring has actually been with other exchange students. there are people from all over the world living right next to each other in this new environment. My roommate is Russian and I’ve become good friends with people from France, Portugal, Ireland, Mexico, Italy, and Japan to name a few. Most of my classes are of course mainly Korean students (besides Korean 1 XD) so I’ve made some Korean friends with the help of group projects! Most everyone is very friendly, although I definitely feel the shift of perspective from majority to minority.

Korean is slowly but surely coming more easily to me. the alphabet can be a bit confusing due to how similar the syllables can sound, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Making Korean friends has definitely helped with this! Also, I’ve been trying to eat as authentically as I can while I’m here, which can be a bit difficult when fried chicken and beer is on of the most popular group-hang destinations! But I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve eaten thus far.  (except the dorm cafeteria)

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Visa Adventure

Good news: I finally got my Austrian visa. The process of gaining a visa from Austria as an American, for some reason, is very complex if you do not live in or near California or New York. If an American cannot get it from one of those two locations in the states, then it must be granted at the Austrian Embassy in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

I’m certainly not complaining about the complexity, because it gave me the opportunity to travel to two new countries; Slovenia and Italy.

Myself, as well as a large group of students who needed to get their Visas, as well as other students who signed up for the sight-seeing portion of the trip, boarded the bus by the Opera house in Graz at about 6am on Thursday morning. In a little less than two hours, we were in Ljubljana, waiting in line at the embassy to turn in all the required documents. The process of approving and printing visas takes about one business day, so once we finished the visa business, we all piled back onto the bus and headed for the beautiful border town of Trieste, Italy.

Thankfully, Trieste is only about an hour away from Ljubljana. When we arrived at our hostel, which sat right across the road from the Adriatic sea, the sun was shining so bright I felt like it was trying to blind me. The water was perfectly blue. Our large group dropped off our overnight bags in the lobby of the hostel (we couldn’t quite check in yet because not all of the rooms were ready), and headed back out for a short trek to the nearby Miramare castle and gardens.

We spent about two hours at the castle, and took far too many pictures of the scenery. Afterward, all ~50 of us hopped on a public bus to go toward the heart of the city. Let me tell you, that bus ride was uncomfortable! We were squeezed in and I was standing right by the door, so anyone new who got on the bus had to squeeze in next to me. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of their Italian, the locals who surrounded me on the bus were pleasant and kind. I shared some chuckles with some elderly Italians, and that was the extent of the conversation that we needed.

Finally, after what seemed like a hundred bus stops, we arrived at our destination, and were quickly ushered onto a short walking tour of the city center. Unfortunately, there was only one guide and fifty of us, so I didn’t hear much of what was said, but I did admire the sights.

That evening, our large ESN group ate pizza at a local shop. The pizza was great, but my favorite part of the meal was the pint of beer that I ordered. I’m usually not a fan of the taste of beer, but it was just right. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of beer it was. I hope to taste it again someday, because I am still thinking about it.

After dinner, a small group of us crossed the street to get some fantastic gelato, and then we traveled with the large group to a small bar where we sang karaoke and partied well into the night. I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that we brought the house down with our epic renditions of several classic songs.

By the time we got done at the karaoke bar, the buses had stopped running, so myself and a group of about five others went off into the wee hours of the morning, searching for a taxi that could take us to our hostel. We made a pit stop at a Kebap shop that I will never forget, because I had a wonderful conversation with one of the men who worked there. He was from Bangladesh, and we spoke about the importance of accepting and loving people no matter where they come from.

Finally, we made it back to our hostel at what must have been about 3am, and after a short while on the rooftop terrace conversing with some other students, I passed out onto my hostel bed without even properly putting the sheets on.

The next morning, we returned to Ljubljana to get our visas, and luckily had no trouble. We then spent about 5 hours aimlessly wandering the beautiful city, but we were very tired from the previous night, so we didn’t do anything more exciting than walk around and try to soak in some sunshine.

We got onto our bus to head back to Graz that evening, and made one delicious pit stop at a famous Krapfen shop. Krapfen is a donut-like pastry usually filled with apricot marmalade, and they. Are. To die for.

All said and done, the trip was very short, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I feel like I only got a tiny taste of the two cities (and countries) to which we traveled. I know that I’ll be back, and soon.

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Entrada 3: Las Amenazas en Madrid

Era muy interesante como el tiempo a parecía al tiempo de Oklahoma. De ese modo pasaba el invierno en Madrid el diciembre pasado (“Nueve meses de invierno, tres meses de inferno”, les dicen). Estaba muy parecido al ambiente de que estaba acostumbrada, pero, a diferencia de mi ciudad natal – la ciudad de Oklahoma – las vidas de los madrileños pasaban por este tiempo de festivo con una caución anormal. Por lo general, los españoles saben como vivir la vida muy bien: pasar tiempo con amigos y familia, trabajar solo para vivir (en lugar de vivir para trabajar), y para ir de fiesta en cualquier momento. En esa Navidad del año pasado, había más de un nerviosismo por la ciudad de Madrid.

En aquel entonces, había algunas avisos de ataques terroristas en marcha para las ciudades más grandes de Europa. Madrid no es ajena a ataques, crisis o amenazas, pero esa temporada era la primera vez que podría imaginar unas de las situaciones (sobre que he oído una y otra vez por las noticias) afectarme directamente. Por el mes de diciembre, aunque las amenazas más conocidas fueron las ferias de Navidad, había policías armados, policías a caballo, o policías con sus grandes camiones en casi cada esquina y plaza. Frecuentemente uno podría oír el sonido de helicópteros encima del centro de la ciudad. Parecía como podría ser un peligro en cualquier momento de mis caminos por la ciudad, mis viajes en el metro, o cuando iría de compras encontrar regalos de Navidad.

Evitaría las ferias de Navidad ese mes. Sobre todo, era muy triste pensar mientras que estaba caminando en cada calle o sentado en un autobús que algo mal podría ocurrir; para saber que había la gran posibilidad; para ver una persona sospechosa y empezar planear como podría escapar, por si acaso. Madrid es una ciudad increíblemente segura (además de las carteristas), pero, en ese tiempo, tenía que pensar con frecuencia en la posibilidad de una tragedia.

Casa Hogar Getsemani

Over spring break, I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve at Casa Hogar Getsemani, a children’s home in Morelos, Mexico. I went with a team of thirteen–six women and seven men–to cook meals for the children at the home during the week so we could give the house parents a vacation of their own. The men travelled each day to the nearby town of Allende to build an outdoor tabernacle for Pastor Oscar, whose family and church we have grown close to in the past four years of making these trips. It is always such a joy to be in the presence of people who are so in love with the Lord and who really see each moment as an opportunity to bring him glory. I’m always so overwhelmed by the love of the kids at the home and the genuine joy they have in whatever they’re doing. It’s hard to put a trip like this into words, so I’m going to share some of the pictures to (hopefully) give you a glimpse of what I was blessed to experience this week.

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a selfie with baby Danny 
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Daniél
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montando en caballo 
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playing on the playground
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more selfies 
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coming in after playtime 
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Jessica y Danny 
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taking a break 
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working on the tabernacle 
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“real vanilla ice cream is yellow” 
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close to being finished 
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the peacocks 
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another one of baby Danny 
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riding in the tractor 
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the food is so good I could honestly cry 
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an albino peacock (how cool is that??)
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elote en un vaso 
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Victor and his chalk art 
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more chalk art 
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“you are the most beautiful of all the planet. I love you 100”
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Victor y Rocio 
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playing futbol 

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my walk every morning 
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my backdoor neighbors 
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the people who started it all 
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some of my other backdoor neighbors 
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honestly can’t describe the impact these people have had on my life and how grateful I am to them for it 
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I didn’t know there was a Taco bell sauce hotter than hot but there you have it 
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my sister being cute 
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my sister braiding Jessica’s hair on the trampoline
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where I spent 90% of my time (and loved every minute)
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can’t get over how beautiful it is 
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another kitchen pic 🙂 

Return to Daegu

Last weekend, I decided to visit a good friend and fellow GEF, Sara Fisher, in Daegu. She is also doing an academic year aboard but in a different city. She has visited me a couple of times in Seoul, and so I thought I should go see her too.

After a three and a half hour bus ride, I arrived at her university, Kyungpook National University. I was here during the summer for the KNU Global Summer School program and I remembered the campus very well. I met her outside her dorm, and we greeted each other like long lost sisters. There was jumping and a little screaming. (It’s a good thing no one saw us…) Because I was feeling a little hungry, we decided to get coffee and bread at a place fittingly named ‘Coffee and Bread’. Afterwards, we chilled in her dorm room until we went for a quick round of karaoke before dinner. We had Korean barbecue, which is never bad. After walking around a little, we decided that we should both get some rest.

The next day we met for lunch. We had one of my favorite foods, ddeokbbokki which is spicy Korean rice cakes, After lunch, we had to go for coffee, and she took me to one of the cutest coffee shops. Although the interior was small, the coffee was amazing! I got a Strawberry Blooming Creme Latte, which to this day is the best latte I’ve ever had. It was very aesthetically pleasing and very delicious.

1000% would recommend
1000% would recommend

The rest of my visit flew by with more walking, talking, and eating. We told each other everything that had happened to us while we were apart and also shared many laughs. I had a great time visiting Sara, and I definitely will be back to Daegu to see her again!

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A Break and a Fresh Start

Before coming to Korea, I thought I would never get tired of being in a new country and being able to explore my surroundings. However, I found myself missing home a lot more than I thought I would. So, during winter break (which I have to add is two and a half months long here in Korea) I decided it would be best to go back to the States. Although I knew I could have spent that time traveling or meeting new people, I felt that it would be good for me to have a break from the loneliness of living abroad.

The one thing I missed more than my family was my mom’s cooking. Growing up with a mother who cooked not only every day but also amazingly tasty food has definitely spoiled me. During break, I ate my weight’s worth of Vietnamese food, and it felt great!
I also decided to go back to work as I knew I would be bored without anything to do. If you know me, you know that I always complained about work. The long hours were rough, but dealing with hungry people is even worse. However, this time around, I found myself really enjoying work. A semester aboard made me miss not only my family but the people I work with. And so, I made an effort to engage with the other employees. We would joke around and laugh at even the smallest things. I found myself building stronger friendships in those two months than in the three years that I had been working there. I was a little sad when I had to say goodbye to them.

At the end of February, I packed up my things again for Korea. This time I brought less clothes and more food. I realized that I missed American food too, and so I packed myself a big jar of peanut butter and oatmeal, both of which are expensive and hard to find in Korea. (However as I’m writing this, my oatmeal stash has run low which means I must hunt for more soon.)

This semester, I am staying in the school dorms. It is a lot cheaper than the previous place I lived at but it is also more lonely. I have Korean roommates, but they are so busy with their lives and plans that I rarely see them. Also, I think the language difference makes them scared to talk to me, and so we only exchange greetings and then go about our lives. However, this semester I have made more international friends than I did last semester. I’ve met some very same-minded people who are in Korea to learn about the culture and experience the unique Korean lifestyle. I am excited to hang out with them and do some crazy things! Although last semester, I enjoyed my time in Korea, I hope this semester brings me some more new and unforgettable experiences!