Moving abroad is a bit like giving birth. A veil of forgetfulness descends over what a messy, painful procedure it is so that you’ll do it again. We moved to Seoul this past summer. Tom is a Minister-Counselor who serves as a special advisor to the US Ambassador in S. Korea on Regional Affairs. Donna’s now employed full time at the embassy as an assistant to the Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs. Public Affairs does happy things to promote happy US-Korean relations and is a happy place to work! Her activities have so far included dressing up as the Statue of Liberty for a program at the President Hotel where hundreds of Koreans watched US presidential election results, planning a Thanksgiving dinner for US high school students studying in S. Korea, and editing documents written by fellow Korean employees. Favorite blooper in a report about coursework: “I take a refreshing course every year.” Tom and Donna are studying the devilishly difficult language of Korean, and undoubtedly make bloopers Koreans chuckle about.
Daughters Clare and Andrea recently visited us, and in our holiday photo, they’re standing in front of a baby elephant at Yogyesa Temple’s Chrysanthemum Festival. Together we explored Seoul, including the ritzy, south of the Han River area made famous by Korean pop star PSY’s must-seeYouTube.com video “Gangnam Style.” We also visited the Namhansanseong mountain fortress where Korean kings hid out when the country was under attack. This leads me to three points. 1) Korea’s history is as tragic as Ireland’s. Geographically it is a shrimp between two whales, China and Japan, but once S. Korea escaped from colonial status and recovered from the Korean War, it became a modern, developed country in record time. 2) Hiking’s quite a popular activity in S. Korea, but Koreans almost never warn you that the hiking paths will be steep. That’s because in this mountainous country, almost ALL hiking paths are steep. You don’t waste flat space where you could be cultivating rice, gingseng, red peppers, or cabbage. 3) They use the red peppers and cabbage to make kimchi, which most of them eat EVERY DAY. They are surrounded by spicy amniotic fluid in their mother’s womb, and by age two, they’ve burned out their taste buds, so they don’t notice how FRIGGGIN’ HOT kimchi can be. However, lots of walking and being addicted to kimchi is healthier than addictions to french fries or candy bars, and overweight Koreans are rare.
We hosted Thanksgiving at our home for friends as well as four US service members stationed at Yongsan Garrison where we live. We have much to be thankful for. Tom is busy working on fascinating North Korea-related issues with a great group of folks at the embassy. Andrea did a wonderful job as senior story editor for a series that’s now airing on National Geographic: “Highway to Hell,” about tow truck drivers in the Donner Pass in Nevada. Clare and her boyfriend Kyle are off next week on a Caribbean cruise, after which Clare begins an exciting new job within the State Dept.’s Bureau of Energy Resources. Donna’s scholarly book just came out: The Mysterious Connection Between Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, and T. M. An English Renaissance Deception? She also earned her Competent Communicator award from Toastmasters.