Why did we choose Iksan orphanage?

There are so many orphans out there in the world.  In every country, no matter how advanced, no matter what sort of government, each country has children who have no parents for one reason or another.  So why did we choose this particular orphanage to visit and help?
This particular orphanage in Iksan exists off the grid.  The orphanage is not advertised to foreigners and so the odds of a foreigner adopting a child from here are quite small.  In addition, the Korean people value lineage very highly and they typically are not interested in adoption.
In short, the odds are that these children are destined to forever be orphans.
This fact broke our hearts.
We discovered this orphanage in a very personal way:  This is where Daniel’s sister spent the first 4 years of her life.  She came to visit us with her family this past summer and we all took a trip to see the place where she lived so long ago.  The children were shy and sweet and curious about us.  One little girl wanted to have her picture taken with us, sort of like a family photo.  They did not have a camera and we used our own.  The young girl had little hope of ever seeing the picture… she simply wanted to participate in a family activity.
So how could we not come back?  How could we not want to help?
And so this is the answer to the question “why?”

Please, help us to bring some necessities to the orphanage in Iksan!

How do we learn how to be good parents? Definitely by remembering how our parents took care of us when we were little. Subconsciously we compare and contrast our personal experience, and, hopefully, sift through it in order to pick the most effective parenting tricks.

 If this is true, then how can orphans learn to be good parents? Many countries in the world have orphanages where adult presence is scarce. The orphanages I personally know of have the ratio of about 10 children to 1 adult. Still, it makes sense that children refer to all adults as “Mother,” even though adults hold various positions there (a teacher, director, nurse) – as it is the case in one orphanage in Belarus.

 In other words, adults who happen to spend enough time at an orphanage to create memories for the children will contribute to the children’s definition of a family.

 This is one of the many reasons why we are organizing a visit to an orphanage where 57 children live under the care of 6 adults. The youngest child is 2 and the oldest is in college. We wanted to bring little gifts for the Lunar New Year celebration (the equivalent of Christmas), but having talked to the director, we realized that the children are in need of daily necessities: toothbrushes, tooth paste, soap, etc.

 In short, we are looking for some additional money contributions to make this happen.

 On my blog I created a separate page for the cause “Charity work”/”Activity Log”. You will be able to see the monetary goal we need to buy the supplies. There is a link to Donate Paypal account. Also you can see the list of the supplies we have already bought, our still must-buy list, a wish list as well as all the logistical details. As the contributions appear we will be disclosing the amounts in order to keep everything transparent and to account for everything we receive.

 Please, visit and donate into the Paypal account provided. No sum is too small. Even $5 can buy 2 tubes of toothpaste. Everything that we receive will go towards the cause. We will photo document the trip so that you will be able to see what your money brought to the children.

Seoul Art Center

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Seoul Art Center is the representing arts complex visited by two million users every year in Korea. It presents more that 1,400 performances and 100 exhibitions in the specialized spaces offering various events of the renowned national and international artists, musicians, and dancers to the audiences. In my opinion, the highlights of this February are: London Symphony Orchestra (Feb 28th), Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti (Feb 6, 7), Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky Series (Feb 20), Musei Vaticani Exhibit, American Impressionism (1870-1940) Exhibit, Van Gogh in Paris Exhibit. If you happen to be in Seoul this month, check the full schedule at www.sac.or.kr

Seoul Art Center can surely keep a tourist busy with 1 opera house, 2 art museums, 1 design museum and a music hall. Do not miss the exhibit “Van Gogh in Paris” which runs till March 24th, 2013.  The exhibit showcases the work of Van Gogh before his move to Paris. His time in Paris was the period of discovering new art and becoming a new artist. We can see his artistic talents and genius in art since he absorbed art of the time, and was able to developed his own style within such a short period of time. The time in Paris is the fruitful academic research that changed Van Gogh from a realist into a modernist. This exhibit is the result of 7-year academic research of experts in Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

World Obesity Stats

OECD’s report “Obesity and the Economic Prevention” shows that in 1970 14% of the American population suffered from obesity. Yet, in 2010 that number reached 35%. 65% of the American population falls into the category of overweight people. (It seems that Hollywood has documented the lives of all the skinny people.) By comparison in Korea, 4% of the population is obese and 30% is overweight. Read my blog below on school lunches in Korea and compare it to the US.

Difference between Wi-Fi in Korea and the US

Wi-Fi in the subway car

Wi-Fi in the subway car

I remember when I first bought my MacBook in New York about 5 years ago. I wanted to take it with me everywhere, and I did. I was hoping to search for special hidden places, Skype people overseas and show them the city in real time. In short, I thought I would stay connected. However, it is hard to stay connected when there is no free Wi-Fi connection. I remember the frustration of having to pay 5$ for accessing a hot spot. I even tried to go with the AT&T wireless connection for $70 per month. Since AT&T was involved, as you might imagine, nothing good came out of it. Companies keep developing more and more technology that requires a wireless connection, but free wireless hotspots are rather rare.

In South Korea, Wi-Fi is basically everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that Samsung had something to do with it. After all, a company that is specializing in selling smartphones should be interested in their customers actually using that technology. Of course, all phones come with a data plan here, just like in the US. But it is Wi-Fi that allows people to watch US shows (e.g. “House MD,” “Person of Interest”, etc.), news and play Internet games on their cellphones during their daily subway commute. An average South Korean family will have one smart phone per person. It would be financial suicide to sign up all 3-4 smart phones for the unlimited data plan. Yet, kids and parents alike keep using their phones as portable computers and TVs. How can they afford it?  Free Wi-Fi is available in a great number of places: public transportation (including the subway), public buildings, cafes, restaurants, and etc.

Wi-Fi on a subway

Wi-Fi on a subway

School Lunches in Korea

A heated debate was created when First Lady Michelle Obama took up an initiative of improving school lunches and steering the kids towards healthier diets. Working at various public schools in WI I observed firsthand what food is served at an elementary school cafeteria. I would name that food “an orange lunch.” Somehow the food would be orange in color – fried potato, pizza, hot dog, carrot, applesauce, etc. Some other colors could include green (for pees) and red (for pizza sauce).

This winter break I was running a winter English camp for elementary school children at a Canadian International School in Seoul. It is an expensive private foreign school with more than 90% of students being Korean natives. The school follows the curriculum of the British Columbia educational system. The lunches served for students were typically Korean. For two weeks I had a smile on my face trying to imagine what the American media would have said had this food been offered to American schoolchildren. Take a look at my photo gallery and judge for yourselves.

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