Narita (Tokyo) airport vs. Zurich airport

Near Norita Airport (Tokyo)

Near Narita Airport (Tokyo)

As I said yesterday… when traveling on a budget, it makes sense to use free shuttle services provided by the hotel you are staying. But there are shuttle services and then there are Shuttle Services. In Tokyo you will find the latter. In Zurich we experienced the former. Among a few other things, we noticed that a few smaller hotels near Zurich airport cut back shuttle services for the weekend (!?!). Besides, overall, the frequency of runs is not that often compered to Tokyo where shuttle services have a feel of departing subway cars: often and on time.

Near Zurich Airport

Near Zurich Airport

Final note of comparison: airport in Zurich leaves very much to be desired. Granted, there is a bit of construction (maybe on a different day it would have been better), but compared to Narita or Incheon (Tokyo or Seoul), it is really not well planned out, not equipped to handle crowds, no designated smoking areas (so entrances are involuntarily turned into free smoking zones!), not enough information booths… Had I not known anything about my current location and judging by the airport only – I would have never guessed that this is Switzerland…

 

Tips on traveling to Japan

IMG_20140705_213744Well, it was never our goal to see or visit Japan this time around. We are simply in transit, but I have just learned two important things for those considering coming to Japan. First, they drive on the left side of the road – much like in the UK. And second, if you visit – do, do consider booking a hotel with a free shuttle service. What a treat, even though it is free – I am impressed: runs on time, easy to locate the parking, next to the airport exit, comfortable and…..FREE (as a part of a hotel service).

Confessions of a Busy Mom

The truth is that sometimes you just order take out for a meal.

To balance out all my posts on healthy eating I want to write this confession saying that sometime you are just too sick or tired or both to cook anything. So, you go out or order in.

It is a rule, by which people try to live: “pay it forward,” and it applies brilliantly to a healthy diet. Meaning, there is no need to be a 100% vegan or vegetarian. The research shows that as long as you keep a ratio of 95%-to-5% (with the animal product of 5%), your diet is super-healthy. So, on my bad days I like to tap into my allotted 5% of unhealthy reserves.

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Europe

 

What worries me most is the frequency with which I experience respiratory-related problems that are directly caused by the low air quality here. Being a teacher, my throat is my weakest spot: if I get slight cold symptoms, I lose my voice easily. To prevent it from happening I run to a doctor who is happy to prescribe me 5-6 different pills. IMG_20140611_121615Taking that many meds often makes me feel uncomfortable. So, to strengthen my throat I have gone to some lengths, including taking voice lessons and completely changing the diet. In other words, I took control of any controllable factors. However, the result is negligible. I get sick almost monthly in Korea. However, it is not the case in any other parts of the world that I happen to be, which inevitably brings me to the only conclusion – air pollution.

Asia

Asia

There are only a few places that monitor air quality

There are only a few places that monitor air quality in North America

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World data

People in the US are still debating if Global Warming is real. They have that luxury of fact-denial because so far they have never needed to wear masks outside. But this is the reality for the entire Asian continent. Of course, even in China there are those who think air pollution is a good thing because it “brings a nation together,” but being sick is a lonely and terrible business. Wearing a mask feels like a punishment in winter, and a torture in summer. IMG_20140417_114821Besides, I really wonder how effective a mask can be at keeping micro-sized dirty particles at bay… Soon enough the pollution will spread (no country has a glass dome over it), and a few places with clean air will become unaffordable for the majority. Still, if you choose to ignore the facts, data, real examples from around the world about the imminent danger of air pollution (aka Global Warming), on which side is it safer to err: (a) make some adjustments in daily habits to clean up air just in case or (b) leave the shit up in the air and hope for the best?

Dynamic Busan

DSC_0142The official logo of Busan on all traveling websites reads “Dynamic Busan.” Having spent even a short amount of time there, it is easy to see the unique features of the city, which earn its title of “dynamic.” What is so dynamic about Busan? Unlike New York, Busan sleeps, and there is no Times Square or Madison Square Garden. No. The city’s rapid growth and ever changing view warrants such a nickname. Much like technology that keeps reinventing its looks, buildings in Busan also undergo a perpetual image update. Today 30-year old apartments look as bulky and uncomfortable as a 30-year old desktop in an office. Buildings from the 1990s clash so much with the newly constructed glass high-rises that the former become something of an eyesore. Panoramic views of Busan’s harbor look like mismatched patches of a quilt with every color, fabric and purpose imaginable on the backdrop of rising mountains. Trying to build newer and more modern looking apartment towers, they run out of space, which gives the city a cramped, uncomfortable and futuristic feeling of an overpopulated metropolis.

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In addition, it is the second largest city in Korea, so it boasts a busy transportation system with buses and subway lines. Busan is a major port in the country with cargo trucks swishing on and off the loading docks that stretch for miles along the coast and cargo ships sailing off to all continents in the world.

The Baseball Experience in Korea

Have you ever been to a baseball game? If yes, then you know what it is: heat, food, beer, lots of sitting and eating (mingling, if we wish to be PC). Sorry to offend any baseball fans, but – boy, it is very boring, especially if you do not drink beer.

Korean style baseball is quite different. For example, fans are more strictly seated according to their teams. Fans of the Doosan Bears will almost exclusively be on one side, and the fans of the LG Twins on the opposite side. The game begins and two sets of cheerleaders pop up: one for each team. Music is going almost non-stop throughout the entire game as the scantily clad cheerleaders dance on their platforms. The 30-second video below captures some of the excitement in the stadium, and this energy level remains at this height throughout the entire game. Mind you, this is just an ordinary game of the season, not a playoff game.  Again, this is the energy level for every pitch of the game. Of course, food and beer is walking around too.

But what I loved most is the free daycare center for children at the stadium for the duration of the game. Should a child get bored sitting in one place, there are several daycare centers – aka closed-off playgrounds – inside the stadium, which are divided according to the age of children. A parent can drop off a child and leave an ID and a cellphone number with the daycare worker at one of these playgrounds and enjoy the game while the little one is enjoying running around or jumping on a giant inflatable castle.

There is a giant screen that features many games between the innings including the “Kissing game.” In short, the spectators are generously entertained throughout the game and they return the favor by actively cheering for their teams, slapping inflatable cheer-sticks together, participating in activities, moves, and dances. In short, with such rambunctious fans, baseball in Korea can be more exciting than an NFL playoff game.

Click here to watch the video clip.

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.

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.