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Donna N. Murphy
May 5, 2013



 
Life is back to normal in South Korea. Normal at the U.S. Embassy compound means Spring Fleischfest, where big men grill large amounts of meat wearing T-shirts that say “Meat for peace,” and “You don’t make friends with salad.” This was Tom's second time as a Fleischmeister. He helped order meat, marinate it, rub it, and was on the 10 pm-1 am shift the night before to cook it. Drinking Bourbon slushies helped keep the Fleischmeisters motivated, albeit somewhat inebriated.

Uncle Frank's grilled chicken recipe was, once again, a big hit. My Hello Dolly bars won first place in the Fleischfest dessert category, made from chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, graham crackers and sweetened condensed milk. Mmmm good. But I didn’t make them, my maid Aya did. So I gave her the prize, a bag full of kitchen implements.
 
Six days after Fleischfest, I showed my book-club members the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” about the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. They were grateful that I hadn’t shown it before. Aya made a delicious vegan dinner for them.
 
The Public Affairs Dept. is running a program for North Korean defectors where once a month, someone from the U.S. Embassy goes to centers that help them integrate into society and talks about the U.S. Afterwards, they do a related group activity and have dinner. Last week I traveled to Daegu and to Gwangju, giving the same speech about the U.S. and family, gender, marriage, and gay rights. A P.A. intern interpreted and did a great job. Each time, we took the KTX train, which is as smooth and comfortable as the Japanese bullet trains.
 
I learned a lot from the Q and A with these most courageous people, who risk their lives illegally crossing the border from North Korea to China, and once in China, can be sent back if caught, be subject to human trafficking, etc.
 
I learned that being gay or lesbian is illegal and considered immoral in North Korea. Homosexuality is punishable by death. It’s hard enough living in that country; it must be almost impossible if you have feelings for members of the same sex that you can’t talk to anyone about. I also learned that North Korea discourages divorce. The way it discourages divorce is by punishing the children! If a young man’s parents are divorced, he is prohibited from entering the military, but you need to have served in the military in order to get ahead in any job.


 
Secretary of State John Kerry visited South Korea for less than 24 hours in April for meetings with new President Park Geun-hye and other officials. His advance team arrived one week before, and between then and when Kerry left, numerous Embassy officials worked almost full-time on the visit, on site checks, security briefings, planning meetings, etc. He stayed at the Hyatt Hotel because it’s up on a hill with no other buildings next to it.

He spoke to Embassy employees and family members the morning before he left, telling us how his dad was in the Foreign Service, and he lived abroad starting at age eleven. I shook his hand, and he posed for the customary photo with all the Embassy kids. There was also the customary "wheels up" party after Kerry flew out.
 
BTW, the Secretary of State is called “S” in diplomatic parlance. “D” is the Secretary of Defense. POTUS stands form the President of the U.S., and FLOTUS for First Lady of the U.S.
 
The cherry blossom season was lovely here. We hiked on Mt. Namsan to see the trees in bloom, and went to Yeouido, an island in Seoul which sports the National Assembly and numerous modern buildings, to see a famous street lined with cherry blossoms, next to a park along the Han River where people picnic.

Now the azeleas are in full bloom!
 






 
May 2017 White Privilege
April 29, 2017 Climate March
Jan. 5, 2017 Williamsburg
December 5, 2016
May 30, 2016
Feb 15, 2016
Dec. 31, 2015
Nov. 29, 2015 Mexico and England
Oct. 31, 2015 Colombia and Peru
Sept. 23, 8015 Pope Francis
June 28, 2015
May 24, 2015
March 20, 2015
Feb. 12, 2015
Jan. 1, 2015
Nov. 30, 2014
Oct. 15, 2014 Clare's wedding
Sept. 29, 2014
Aug. 16, 2014
July 4, 2014 Farewell Korea!
June 24 Empowering Women
June 8, 2014
April 30, 2014
March 29, 2014
Feb. 17, 2014
Jan. 30, 2014
Dec. 28, 2013
Nov. 27, 2013
Oct. 27, 2013
Sept. 18, 2013
Aug. 19 Bali
July 7, 2013
June 6, 2013
May 5, 2013
Apr. 1-12 North Korea
Mar. 14 - New Zealand
Feb. 2, 2013
Jan. 10, 2013
Dec. 19, 2012
Nov. 23, 2012
Nov. 8, 2012
Oct. 2, 2012
Sept. 3, 2012
July 25, 2012
July 15, 2012
July 4, 2012
Copyright 2017 by Donna N. Murphy