Tag Archives: Healthy Living

Life Without Sugar

14 Nov

It’s a gray Thursday afternoon in Vienna.  Today I have few plans or responsibilities and I have treated myself to a day of leisure spending most of the day in my pajamas. I appreciate having a day to myself to tend to the quieter indoor things that I truly love and need from time to time.

As many of you know, a big part of my life, traveling and living in foreign lands, includes negotiating a way to eat healthy.  For me this means eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, healthy protein and carbs, as much as possible no glutten, and absolutely… no sugar.  This is not always an easy pursuit within the larger adventure of living in new places around the globe.  But the benefit for me far outweighs the complications.

Considering the health benefits that life with no sugar has brought to my life, it seems worth mentioning here from time to time.

The truth is, life without sugar and eating healthy has become sort of my… hobby. When traveling, I actually enjoy diving in to new “bio” or organic shops, finding new and healthy foods to eat.  I have become a bit of a health food nerd.  In Vienna there are plenty of options which is a big change from the more limited selections in South Korea.  But still, it is an adventure…  Learning to read labels in German.  Asking strangers for help translating when I don’t understand something. Over the years I have learned, paying attention to what is in my food is of the utmost importance for myself and my well-being. So, regardless of the discomfort or inconvenience, I take the time to find out what is in my food.

Ten Years of No Sugar

I first quit sugar about ten years ago.  I was going through a terrible health crisis and was willing to do simply anything to feel better.  A friend at the time had read the book Sugar Blues and was trying out life with no sugar.  “What the heck!” I thought and bought the book too.  Bottom line, the message of this book is sugar is poison… and we shouldn’t eat it.  End of Story.

After reading the book, I went “cold turkey” and stopped eating sugar.  I immediately noticed some difference in my health and well-being.  What was most interesting, however, was how I felt, after quitting sugar, when I accidentally (or on purpose!) ate some sugar.  It was off the charts.  I was 100% clear that sugar made me feel terrible, emotionally and physically.  I had eaten sugar all my life and until I quit it, I had no idea what it actually did to my body.

My body has a negative physiological reaction to sugar, but the most notable reaction for me is my mood.  When I eat sugar my moods are dramatically more erratic.  My anger is easily lit like a fuse. So after years of experience, I do my best to stay away.

Traveling

It is not always easy to live in other countries, be with new people and maintain this diet that is healthy for me.  When I lived in Korea I had a friend write a note in Korean saying that I did not eat sugar and please recommend something on the menu without it.  I took a picture of it with my phone and had it available for when needed.  My experience is often in other countries they just don’t GET why someone would not want to eat sugar… when it is such a wonderful treat. When I was in Germany I was told that people actually think that sugar is good for their kids and give them a spoonful of sugar for their health. In Korea, sugar is added to MOST of their foods. In restaurants it is often considered rude to ask for food a special way or ask what is in it.

In the United States, more and more people are considering that sugar is worth taking out of their diet.  When I was back in the States recently, it was  a relief to discover a restaurant or two that didn’t scowl at me when I asked what the ingredients were and even happily provided a meal for me with no sugar, guaranteed.

The tricky thing about not eating sugar is that is is everywhere.  In the States (and other countries as well) it is hidden in the spaghetti sauce, kidney beans, corn, salsa, turkey… just to name a few.  I feel like I have to be a super-food-detective because if not, likely some sugar (or other terrible things!) will sneak in to what I eat.  The other challenge here is there are foods that can react in your body like sugar. Some of these are obvious, such as alcohol.  Additionally, simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread and pasta break down in our bodies more rapidly and turn to sugar quickly.  Other foods for me that trigger my body like sugar are potatoes and corn.

Is Quitting Sugar for You?

I can really get that people don’t want to give up their sweets!  But if you are struggling with physical or emotional challenges, it is worth taking a look at quitting sugar.  The truth is, you don’t really know what it is doing to your body until you stop eating it. If you would like to explore a bit more, here are a couple of good resources:

Hungry for Change
This popular video on health and nutrition is a good introduction to changing our eating habits.  Their discussion includes the topic of sugar.

Sugar Blues by William Dufty
This is the book that I read ten years ago that first opened my eyes to the hazards of sugar.

Radiant Recovery
This program is based on the research of Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. who introduces a concept called sugar sensitivity.  She offers a simple and balanced approach to eating a healthy diet that supports emotional health and well-being without the need for refined sugars and other overly sweet foods.  The foundation of this diet is, every meal, eat healthy carbs and protein.  Her approach is simple and clean and when taken one step at a time, a great way to easily get sugar out of your life.  She also features a child-friendly site called Little Sugar Addicts.

Sugar Free Recipes

I am a steadfast collector of no sugar added recipes on Pinterest.  Most recipes featured include simple, healthy ingredients and no sugar added.  When cooking sugar-free I never add artificial sweeteners and also do my best to stay away from or minimize even natural sweeteners like agave nectar and honey.  Here are some links below if you’d like to check them out:

Healthy Soups and Sides

Crockpot Recipes

Rice Cooker Recipes

Breakfast and Desserts
(I have learned it is best for me to mostly stay away from sweet things of any type.  It just feeds the need for sweets.  But still, here are some healthier sweet recipes options…)

The bottom line when exploring a no sugar and healthier diet is to pay attention to your body and see what does… and doesn’t work for you!

Here is wishing you happy eating adventures!  If you have any no-sugar or healthy eating adventures to share, wherever you are in the world, I would love to hear from you!  And feel free to ask any questions you may have.  I am happy to respond.

Good night for now after a quiet day in Vienna!

Featured photo, a sweet day in Vienna at Stadtpark with my Austrian hosts.

Russian Students and Watermelon Popsicles

3 Jul

It’s my mid-week weekend at English Village.  Summer is finding her way to stay.  The heat is just a precursor to the impending Monsoon season, typically a month of practically non-stop rain.  Our slow work pace has picked up recently with a regular rotation of visiting Russian students.  When one group leaves, another arrives.

Our current bundle of students are overall really great.  They are mostly bright-eyed, friendly and engaged, traveling with supportive and interested teachers, parents and guardians.  At English Village, whenever we teach a class for the first time it is typical to invite the students to ask us questions.  Expected questions can include,”what is your favorite color”, “where are you from”, and of course… “how old are you?”.  But not this bunch.  Recent student questions have included, “why did you want to be a teacher” and “what do you think of the political situation in the Ukraine”… a bit daunting, but thoughtful and appreciated nonetheless.

One can’t help but notice cultural differences reflected in classroom behavior when teaching Russian and Korean students.  The biggest distinction I see is that our visiting Russian students typically have WAY bigger boundaries than our Korean students. For the most part, our Russian students talk more, ask more questions, and are more inclined to physically roam, try and test.  This can result in interesting and engaged classes. Sometimes it can also bring additional classroom challenges.

For example, a few weeks ago during our between-class ten minute break, a class of Russian students suddenly began playing frisbee in the classroom with about ten frisbees that seemed to appear from nowhere…  They were flying everywhere. Surprised, I did my best to collect them and asked… where did these come from?  It turns out they came from the English Village collection of sporting supplies, unlocked as typically students just leave them alone.  But somehow, they made a surprise appearance during class time break.

Despite the increased activity, life at English Village still seems laid back and slow.  Some days this feels like a wonderful gift.  Other days it has me a bit anxious, feeling like there is something I need to do.

I indulged and purchased a watermelon this week with my regular delivery of organic fruits and vegetables.  Some things in Korea are just more expensive than we are used to in the States.  Watermelon is one of them.  While it can be a bit daunting to pay sometimes twice as much for basic things… in general I have learned to just pay it and move on.  We refer to it as the Korea factor – some things are very expensive, but in exchange the lifestyle is simple, salary is descent and expenses are few.  Not a bad trade.

In an effort to make good use of my watermelon (I now have watermelon a-plenty!), I snooped around looking for watermelon popsicle recipes.  I used what I had on hand and easily concocted a basic watermelon brew and poured it into my popsicle molds to enjoy a frozen summer treat later.watermelon popsicles

Here is what I did:

  • Cut up some fresh watermelon and put it in my blender
  • Added a little lemon (lime would be better, but it is all I had on hand)
  • Added just a drop of vanilla

Voila!  Watermelon popsicles!  And not a drop of sugar!

How about you?  Any summer stories or refreshing recipes to share?  It’s always great to hear from you!

That’s it for now from Paju, South Korea.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

My 5 Favorite Healthy Snacks

4 Jun

Whenever people learn that I don’t eat sugar, not any, not even a drop, it is often met with faces of horror or disbelief.  “What do you eat” they often ask.  In truth, while inconvenient at times, it’s not difficult to eat a simple, healthy diet.  Living in Korea does complicate things further with language challenges and most Korean foods being tucked with a hearty amount of sugar.  But the benefits and improvements of how I feel without sugar definitely outweigh the inconvenience.

I am like anyone else – I still love to snack!  It’s important to have things I love to eat so I don’t feel denied. For me, snacking is something that requires no fuss. Nothing fancy, no big preparations. As more and more people are choosing a sugar-free healthy eating lifestyle, I thought I would share my favorite munchies.  Here are my top five healthy gluten-free, sugar-free snacks.  With the help of Iherb.com, they are accessible no matter where you are in the world!peanut butter and apples

1.  Peanut Butter and Apples
This is my go-to favorite snack, so simple and healthy.  I use only natural peanut butter with no-sugar added.  My top pick is Arrowhead Mills Organic Creamy Peanut Butter.  It is delicious, smooth and creamy, and not a drop of sugar added.  You can find this peanut butter in many health food stores as well as iherb.com.

kale krunchies2.  Kale Krunchies from Lydia’s Organics, Herb de Provence flavor
This crispy treat is a great way to go when you have the munchies for something crunchy.  The Herb de Provence flavor is very inviting.  I often use it as an addition to a simple, quick lunch or to fight off the evening munchies.  It’s also a good way to get some veggies on the go if you are traveling or someplace where you don’t have access to healthy food choices. Delicious!NOW-Foods-Real-Food-Dry-Roasted-Macadamia-Nuts-Salted-733739070197

3.  Macadamia nuts
Oh, my favorite of the nut family.  In the 90’s romance film, It Could Happen to You, the first thing she buys when she wins a million dollars is Macadamia Nuts.  True luxury!  I find when I eat these I feel like I am getting an unexpected treat.  Surely I must have done something good to deserve something so yummy.  A great late afternoon snack to get you through until dinner time.  I order NOW brand from iherb.com.

beanitos4. Beanitos
This is my solution to my snack chip cravings.  It is a great alternative to corn or potato chips.  The ingredients are simply black beans and rice.  They can be purchased at most US grocery stores or at iherb.com. They are delicious on their own, but also great for dipping in humus or guacamole.  Yumm!

5.  Fresh fruit and Greek Yogurtyogurt and kiwi
As ice cream for me is a thing of the past, this is truly a refreshing and satisfying treat.  It is so simple, just a dollop of yogurt and fruit of your choice.  I often like bananas or kiwi.  It’s important to choose a greek yogurt with no sugar added. Here in South Korea I order from a company in Seoul that makes their own fresh and delivers it to my door.  If you are curious, you can find them at www.medfoodinkorea.com.

If you are new to iherb.com and would like to save up to $10 on your first order, use coupon code STG569 or click here for more information.

What about you?  What are you favorite healthy snacks?  It’s always great to learn about more healthy, sugar-free snacking!

Featured photo, a sneak peak at the rice farm in the “backyard” of my current home, Gyeonggi English Village in Paju, South Korea.

Adventures in Healing

18 Feb

It’s Tuesday at English Village.  The second day of my new weekday-weekend and my time off is quickly slipping through my fingers. I am spending a little time at home.  Quieting down.  Settling into my bones.  Enjoying a simple meal of a veggie filled omelette with some quinoa on the side.

Now that the Lunar Holiday has passed and I’ve been back to work, my life and job are quite different at English Village.  Gone are my intimate weekday classes with small collections of young English readers as the weekday Bookclub program is no more. The program continues on Saturdays only.  Wednesday through Friday I am back with the masses teaching the often bustling programs of our middle school students (and sometimes elementary, high school, university and adult students) here for just a week or a few days.  It has felt surprisingly good to return to teaching these classes.  While at times the sheer number of students in these programs can be overwhelming to me, it seems my more personal teaching time with a small group of regular young students has brought some benefit to me.  Returning to the older students I have noticed subtle changes in my experience in the classroom.  I feel more present with the students and a bit more at ease and laid back in the classroom. And while I enjoy and appreciate good content, it is clear to me that the first priority is simply to connect with the students.

Positive experiences aside, it was still good to return to teach Bookclub on Saturday.  I appreciate its simple nature of two regular teachers and a small collection of familiar faces. I enjoy the basic lessons we prepare for them newly each week. Two of my Saturday students who used to be in the youngest weekday classes have now “graduated” to the next higher reading level. It is really a delight to see their sparky little faces participating well in the class.

The weekend, now newly located on Mondays and Tuesdays, is of course still a welcome break. Earlier today I used some of my weekend time to take a bit of an adventure in healing with Korean traditional medicine.  I have heard from other expats and locals alike that acupuncture is very affordable here in Korea.  Even better, there is a clinic in Paju just a short taxi ride away.  So, in my earnest continued explorations for healing on all levels, most notably now my long-term pain from an injured ankle and a persistent stiff neck and painful back, I thought I would try it out.

For me, any excursion beyond English Village can turn in to an adventure.  While the clinic was just up the road, I took a taxi just to be sure I could find it.  I asked our security guard to call me a cab and when I hopped in the back seat I showed the driver a map on my smart phone of where I needed to go.  I pointed to it and used one of my small collection of Korean words, “yogi” which means, here.

With ease we skipped down the road and soon arrived at the clinic.  Upon entering I took off my shoes, put them in the cubbies at the door and put on the communal slippers available (which, notably all had “love” printed on them).  I was welcomed by a warm and friendly face greeting me with some basic English.  She asked just a few questions and within minutes I was escorted to the back of the clinic. There were an array of private cots with curtains drawn around them and a mysterious vent of some sort that looked suspiciously like the ones you see at Korean style barbecue restaurants.  I wasn’t quite sure what would happen next.

The doctor at the clinic couldn’t have been more kind and it was a comfort to me that he spoke some basic English.  We talked briefly about my health concerns.  He asked me if I had ever tried… and he used a word I did not recognize, but it wasn’t acupuncture. I smiled and said no and thought perhaps I was in for a bit more than acupuncture today. Shortly thereafter he began his treatment.

He began with needles in just a few points on my arm and my head and then continued later with additional needles focused more directly in the area of my injuries and pain.  It was after the acupuncture, however, that the real fun started. The practitioners removed the needles, pulled the vent overhead closer and then placed some smoldering coils on my ankle.  It was hard for me to see, but … interesting… I thought.  It was warm but didn’t hurt. Upon returning home I did a little google search and I believe the treatment was moxibustion.

When this treatment was complete, they flipped me on my stomach, and began again with acupuncture.  But that wasn’t all! Next they did what I think was cupping, an alternative medicine practice that I have seen but never experienced before. He filled smallish ceramic cups with gas or something and then cupped them on my back.  All over my back.  In truth, while the sensation was a bit odd… it felt pretty good!  And finally, the highlight of the day, they attached four or five suction-cup-like devices to my back that were hooked up to a machine.  When they turned it on it felt like there were tiny little feet running and pressing on pressure points on my back.  It was an odd and unexpected sensation, for sure.  But altogether, not bad.

When my treatment was complete, I was so grateful for the thorough care and experience I had.  All that was left to do was pay.  This was an unbelievable experience in and of itself.  My grand total for the extensive treatment?  Equal to about $10 USD.  Extraordinary. The doctor recommended that I return regularly to treat my concerns.  And so begins my new adventure with traditional Korean medicine!

I am back now at home enjoying the final hours of my weekend before returning to work.  It’s been a good day.  How about you?  Any new experiences or adventures to share?  It’s always good to hear from you!

Bye for now from the quiet winter lands of Paju and Gyeonggi English Village.

Featured image, dwindling snow and lingering winter days at Gyeonggi English Village.

Don’t Worry About a Thing!

10 Feb

It’s a bright Monday morning at English Village, the second day of my weekend. There is a pleasing blanket of snow on the ground and sunny blue skies with a cool crisp air. I have to confess, at nearly mid-day… I am still in my pajamas.

The Making of White Bean Vegetable Extravaganza!

It is a typical day in many ways.  I began the morning with chanting, the foundation of my SGI Buddhist practice.  The morning has easily drifted into noon and I am enjoying some homemade soup for lunch.  It is delicious and just what the doctor ordered.  It was inspired by a recent Pinterest pin, Tuscan Vegetable Soup. But as I have been grocery-challenged lately, it really should be called “whatever I had left in the refrigerator” soup… or as I continued to add random this and that, “White Bean and Vegetable Extravaganza!”… you know how it goes.

Mmm!  Hot Steamy Soup!

Mmm! Hot Steamy Soup!

I have had some bad grocery mojo over the last three weeks.  With the Lunar New Year holiday, I forgot to order my weekly dose of organic veggies, dairy and poultry from veggiehill.com. Coupled with that is the mysterious closing of two major stores that I count on for groceries, Home Plus and Costco.  I am sure it isn’t as mysterious as it appears to me…but twice now I have made shopping attempts, once the Sunday before the lunar holiday and once yesterday. Both times, the stores and their surroundings were eerily quiet. It seems that everyone knew the stores were closed…. except for me. One of the challenges of being an expat in Korea – finding myself “out of the loop” about such things…

Yesterday was a great day for me.  I began the day early as I needed to make my way to Seoul for an 11am SGI World Peace Meeting.  This is a regular monthly meeting of my English-speaking chapter in Korea of the international buddhist organization.  At each meeting a member shares their experience of how chanting and SGI has benefitted their life and this month I was invited to share. It was a great exercise to revisit my journey in SGI over the past three years paralleled with my gypsy adventure and just take note of how amazing it has all been. Writing the story of the fulfillment of so many large and small unexpected gifts almost felt like telling a story seen in a movie or read in a book. I had to remind myself, no really, it all happened.  And it happened to me!

The basic understanding of SGI Buddhism is that we are operating within a world of cause and effect.  That is a cause (word, action, thought) creates the effects in our lives.  This is Karma.  And so truly, we are not victims in our lives but instead living out the effects of our past causes.  With this in mind, SGI Buddhism offers the opportunity for liberation from past causes through chanting “”Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” which, as identified by the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren, is the key to developing the Buddha nature.  As it says on the SGI website, “chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables people to unleash their hidden potential and unlock the courage and compassion to transform their lives and create positive value in their family, community and society.” I think of chanting like putting the most powerful pristine cause into creating a new effect in my life.  Or, in other words, changing my Karma.

I have only been practicing for three years now, but I have to acknowledge the very specific things I have chanted for on my journey that have found their way into my life in distinct and unpredictable ways.  I see my chanting practice as a tool for opening the door of the impossible and letting the possible in.

Sharing my experience to the group was really great for me.  It felt good to say out loud what I had accomplished and to take note of the many ways that chanting and SGI have been a pivotal part of my journey.  Additionally, it is said in the practice that any time you participate in an SGI activity or share your experience, it is another way of creating a powerful cause in your life (which brings a positive effect).  And I noticed that after sharing my experience to the group I felt transformed.  I spent the rest of the day feeling like I was in a sweet little slot of life.  It was as if my being just bypassed all the negative trappings of daily living and stayed for a bit in a crisp cool place.

And so, I continue the simplicity of my day.  As I find the considerations about “what’s next for me?” beginning to dance in my head, I will leave you with the message channeling through my mac speakers courtesy of Pandora.com… “Don’t worry about a thing.  Cause every little thing is gonna be alright!”  Have a great day!  And don’t forget to write, it’s always good to hear from you!

Image above, the  snowy greeting outside my front door on a wintery Sunday morning.

Winter Fun

12 Dec

Well, it seems winter has come to Paju.  And I have to say, I find myself greeting it with a bit of child-like enthusiasm.  For the most part, I am prepared for the winter.  I have warm clothes.  My refrigerator and freezer and filled with food.  I have delicious herbal teas, some good movies, a book or two, and a strange life living and working at English Village that is (mostly) easily sustained even in the midst of the winter snow and cold.  As I, and all foreign teachers, live right here on the English Village campus, even with a few inches of snow… it’s an easy commute to work.

Paju is in a strange pocket of weather in South Korea.  With a full spectrum of four seasons, it is known for having a surprising dive into seasonal extremes.  It is unexpectedly hot and humid in the summer (but in truth it ain’t got nothin’ on New Orleans!) and the winters are long…long… and cold.  The winters here are cold even compared to our neighbor just an hour to the South, the grand city of Seoul.  Paju has a biting humidity with a cold winter wind that can chill you to the bones and an exorbitant amount of snow.

So today, with a healthy blanket of snow already on the ground and a fresh batch of snow scattering in the skies, I am staying inside.  I am already well-underway with my winter hibernation activities.  I have been busy cooking healthy, yummy food, practicing yoga and reiki, reading books and watching movies.  I have even broken out the watercolors and started a little light painting.  Winter fun.  What more could a girl ask for?

Alas, this is just the beginning of the winter season.  It is possible my lighthearted winter attitude will fade as winter and the snow drifts grow deeper.  The winters here are extraordinarily long.  Last December when I first arrived here in Paju and South Korea, my first day of life and work was met with a was a terrible ice storm.  I wore my long down coat doing my best to keep my frozen New Orleans body warm, still in shock from the cold weather.  I didn’t take that coat off again until April…. we will see how I and the weather fair this year.

This past weekend I made two very yummy dishes that helped keep me warm, happy and satisfied.  The first was spinach polenta lasagna.  I followed a very simple recipe I found online, modified it a bit to suit my tastes and cupboard, and easily assembled layers of gooey wonderfulness.  What a treat it was.  It tasted delicious and is an easy way to eat Lasagna gluten free!  I also made some carrot soup.  I basically followed a recipe from the foodnetwork.  It is a very easy carrot soup enhanced with fresh chopped onions, garlic and I added some fresh ginger.  It is sautéed in a curry paste and then cooked up with some stock with a hint of cayenne pepper.  About an hour later with a little help from my immersion blender and a dollop of greek yogurt on top, it was a smooth and satisfying winter treat.  Delicious!

I continue to lead a weekly yoga class for interested teachers at English Village.  The winter weather provides a few challenges as we begin our yoga class in the early evening bundled up and huddled up feeling at first unable to move.  We practice in a nice size room with a heater that doesn’t come close to heating the room.  I begin the practice with my wool scarf tied around my neck, in layers and two pairs of wool socks on.  Slowly as we warm up it gets a little bit easier… and in truth I get so interested in the yoga I forget that I am cold.  But it is still cold nonetheless.  At any rate, it is a really nice mid-week diversion particularly as we are coming into the sometimes isolating land of English Village in winter.

I sang Christmas carols with my students this week.  It wasn’t a planned thing.  But in one of my younger classes a few of the girls started singing the carols they knew.  So I jumped on the boat, wrote the words on the board to perhaps help them with their English, and we sang a few songs.  In truth I find I like singing with the students.  I like it perhaps… more than they do…  Lately I have had some fun teaching my youngest students songs from my (and most americans’) childhood.  My repertoire includes the hokey pokey, the itsy-bitsy spider, and of course… “head and shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes…)”… you know the one.

I suppose Christmas is just around the corner now.  Even though there is a bit of Christmas energy on the EV campus, its easy to forget being here in South Korea.  As best as I can tell, many people in South Korea celebrate Christmas but it’s not the all-encompassing seasonal experience it can be in the States.  I am told that many folks in South Korea simply go out to dinner to celebrate, much like we would on New Years Eve.

Good-bye for now from the newly frozen and snow-covered land of English Village in Paju City South Korea.  Doing my best to keep it simple and stay warm!

Winter Warm-up

6 Dec

Good morning from English Village!  Winter is slowly creeping in.  Admittedly, I am not a cold weather person.  But with some proper layering and a good scarf… so far, not so bad!  As the cold weather has begun to show her face, it is standard these days to see teachers roaming about wearing coats, hats and scarves – inside and out.

It’s been a good week.  Life has been about teaching English, staying warm and easing into winter. Warm soups and spicy herbal teas. Enthusiastic (and some not so enthusiastic) young Korean English students.  And the regular  diversion to Seoul.

This past Sunday I went with some friends from my SGI Buddhist group to a restaurant in Itaewon (in Seoul) called Petra’s Palace.  It was wonderful!  It’s a mediterranean restaurant owned by a family from Jordan.  The selections are delectable.  I had the chicken kabob.  Another friend had the curry.  There was hummus and tabouleh for everyone.  The best thing for me was – nearly the entire menu included items with no sugar added!  Hooray!  It was a wonderful, satisfying meal and I look forward to going back.

When we were leaving Petra and heading up the small windy road in Itaewon, a Korean man on a motorcycle buzzed by in an elaborate flair.  His motorcycle was decorated with…I’m not sure what… but it was big and unexpected and he couldn’t help but be noticed as he sped loudly down the alleyway.  It was such a breath of fresh air to see something outrageous… if even for a moment.  After living in New Orleans for 13 years, it seems that is something my spirit has been missing.

Adventures in teaching English continue.  Overall, it’s really a great break to teach small groups of young children.  While most days ease by with the typical reading of books and English games and activities… every once in a while there is something unexpected or unpredictable.  I have a few little ones who don’t get along with each other and this is challenging in class.  They say things to each other in Korean and… I don’t know what they are saying.  So I don’t know if one is provoking the other or if I need to intervene.  Inevitably it ends with someone getting mad, not talking, stomping off and sometimes… in the swinging of little arms and someone getting hit.  Yikes.  Nothing too serious, as it is little people arms and little people hits.  The parents are helpful and supportive but as they speak limited English and I don’t speak Korean… it can be difficult to create a good resolution.

I have some happy breakfast news in my world of healthy eating.  A friend of mine recently turned me on to a new protein powder called Juvo Raw Green Protein.  I just got it this week from my favorite Korean delivering company, iherb.com.  It’s fabulous and I am so excited.  It turns out this product was actually created by a Korean doctor who teaches at a local university. It has wonderful ingredients, doesn’t taste too bad, and provides all the nutrients and proteins I need for breakfast in the morning.  It has slimmed down my morning routine considerably (which typically includes making oatmeal and eggs every morning.  Ugh.)  I follow a diet called radiant recovery for people with sugar sensitivity.  At the heart of this diet is plenty of protein and healthy carbs at every meal (oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa…).  It takes some effort to do, but it is well worth it.  This protein powder is a big help!  Yippee!

The winter slowdown is starting to kick in.  The skies are white.  The wind is cold.  And the need and desire to be out and about is… diminishing.  Life is slow right now.  And in truth, it feels pretty good.

Good bye for now from the newly barren lands of English Village, reminiscent of the stark and quiet country I saw when I arrived here nearly a year ago.  I am sending warm winter thoughts your way!  Feel free to write and let me know how you are.  It’s always good to hear from you!

Little People

1 Jun

It’s a Saturday evening in Paju City, South Korea.  It’s a quiet night at English Village and once again I am grateful for the luxury of a warm spring day and gentle cool evening.  I think I am still defrosting from the long cold Paju winter. The warmth of the sun continues to feel new… and welcome and satisfying.

The typical pattern of work life in English Village has had a new beat this week.  Gratefully, we had a much-needed break with a few days of light teaching with just one or two classes a day. Our students this week have been mostly elementary students, much different from the regular diet of middle school students and the recent weeks of high school and college students. I still remember the first elementary class I taught this week.  When I walked in I was startled by how… little they were.  I did my best to recover from the slight shock and proceeded to teach the lesson.

The second half of the week we had a more regular pace of classes with another elementary school group.  This group was quite good with their English and mostly good attitudes as well.  I even had one student who had spent two years in Australia.  She was quite comfortable with her English and when she would respond to a question she would stand up and announce her answer eloquently to me and the class. Of course, some classes had the expected high level of elementary school ENERGY that must be released in some way!

I piloted a new lesson I created this week with the elementary students.  It’s an English lesson on adjectives for an upcoming month-long program in August called VIP.  Here at English Village we create our own lessons, then “try them out” or pilot them, then make any necessary changes before the lesson continues to be used.  I had a pretty good time creating this lesson (with the help of many other EV teachers).  It’s a mystery sort of lesson where students learn and practice some basic adjectives to describe people.  Next they watch a series of short videos we created of the “EV Bandit” (EV, that’s English Village) perpetrating a few innocent crimes.  Guided by a worksheet, the students choose adjectives that accurately describe the bandit to help “identify and catch him”. My first run this week of the lesson went quite well.  The students were bright and participated whole-heartedly.  They seemed to enjoy the lesson.

Today I made my regular journey to Seoul and my (as of recently) weekly trip to the chiropractor.  Afterwards I treated myself to a little lunch.  I have been craving sushi for some time lately.  Granted I need to travel a little further east to get the good stuff, but it seems it is still possible to get sushi in South Korea.  I went to a place called Alilgato in Itaewon, an expat friendly area of Seoul.

They began the meal with a delicious cup of miso soup. I kept it simple and ordered two sushi rolls – a spicy salmon roll and a California roll.  They were beautifully created and quickly delivered to my table.  Both rolls were truly scrumptious and a real treat as I haven’t had sushi since I left the United States two years ago.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the monthly World Peace Prayer Meeting for my Buddhist SGI group in Seoul.  It is also the last meeting of one of our members before she and her family return to the US.  After my meeting I look forward to returning to Paju for a juicy afternoon relaxing at home, doing a little cooking and just taking it easy in the fresh spring weather before a new work week arrives.

Cheers to everyone from Paju City!  As always, feel free to write and say hello!

Stop the Bus!

19 May

It’s a quiet rainy Sunday at English Village.  I am sneaking in a little time to write my blog before I head off to Seoul.  There is a district meeting today for my SGI Buddhist group.  Our meeting is at 1pm but I generally allow about two hours for the journey.  This includes waiting for bus 2200 traveling directly to Seoul, the 50 minutes bus-ride, then catching the subway and any miscellaneous walking involved.  I spent part of my morning today preparing a simple dish for the potluck lunch after the meeting.  It was a good reminder to me how grounding it is to spend a little simple time preparing food.  Cutting vegetables, adding seasonings, mixing ingredients and preparing it to share with others is a simple ceremony that feels like it honors my soul.

I am glad for the rainy weather this weekend.  It somehow gives me permission to have a quiet steady pace after the preceding hectic workweek.  This weekend has been a gentle rhythm of spending time on my own reading and tidying up a bit, traveling to Seoul for a chiropractor appointment and doing a little grocery shopping.  Then yesterday afternoon there was a staff barbecue at English Village.  And last night, I made some homemade tomato soup.  I have never done this before.  It was just wonderful and seemed to feed something in me deeply in need of nourishment and comfort.  Here is the recipe I used!

My second visit to the chiropractor continues the journey of healing my left ankle from my fall in France.  As he works on it, with his friendly and comical “bedside manner”  he gently scolds me as he points out the many different places and ways that my ankle is in need of adjusting.  I have also talked with him a bit about my persistent back and neck pain.  He has concluded that this problem is a hereditary thing and suggest that I sue my parents and we split it 70% for me 30% for me.  Then, he says, I can quit my job and sit at the beach and drink beer.

This past work week was a different rhythm from the sometimes frantic pace of teaching busloads of visiting middle school children.  I worked Monday – Wednesday with a group of college students here from Japan.   It was fun to connect with them and explore the distinctness of being Japanese, the different sounds of their language and names.  I was grateful for some of the simple benefits of teaching college students.  You don’t have to collect them or herd them like disgruntled cats to get them to class.  Generally in class they are well-behaved.  And you don’t have to worry that they might randomly run out of class or hit their friend if you don’t have your eye on them.  That said, upon returning to my regular middle school appointment on Thursday, I was genuinely happy to reconnect with the younger students.  Although challenging at times, it is fun for me to be around their lightness, sometimes shenanigans, and fun spirit.

The greatest challenge lately and this past week has been… how to teach English to students who speak very little if any English.  As I have mentioned before, English Village is a teach English in English organization.  Even the Korean teachers here are encouraged to teach only in English.  English Village even trains teachers how to teach English in English.  And as I continue to develop this skill and refine how to simplify a lesson or express something in its most simplest terms, sometimes I am at a loss of what to do.

Earlier this week I had a class of Japanese college students who spoke and understood only the simplest of English.  My class to teach them was Idioms.  An idiom, if you’ve forgotten, is a phrase commonly used that has its own distinct meaning that is often very different from what the words literally mean.  An example is ” a chip on your shoulder” or “high as a kite”.  Quite difficult to explain to students who don’t have a grasp on the basics of the English language.  But I went into the class with good intentions and did my best to explore it and simply.  After about five minutes as I looked out into a class of totally blank faces, I stopped and said “just one minute!”.  I snuck out of the classroom and quickly made my way to my supervisors down the hall.  I desperately told them my situation and we quickly decided to change the lesson to a word game using English called “Stop the Bus”.  In this game each team has to think of words for different categories beginning with whatever letter is offered for that round…. B, S, T.  When their team has written words for all categories they have to shout “Stop the Bus!”, hence the name. I returned to the class and smiled and announced that we will do a new lesson.  They smiled and laughed and then were fully engaged in the game.

This coming week I will work again with a special visiting group.  They are high school students from a language school.  It is likely that their English level will be high and their behavior a bit more mature as they are in high school.  I am looking forward to it and we will see how it goes!

I must depart now as the bus to Seoul is calling my name.  The bus driver is unforgiving if you are even a few seconds late and will not stop the bus…  Enjoy your weekend!  And of course, feel free to write and share what’s up in your world or even just say hello.  It’s always good to hear from you!

Photo at top, another view of the hills and land surrounding English Village.  Those stone pillars you see on the right… yes those are the giant replica of Stonehenge that greets you as enter English Village.

Sweet Potato Muffins and the Chicken Dance

20 Apr

It’s been a full week for me here in South Korea.  My activities have crossed the spectrum from baking Apple Sweet Potato muffins to doing the Chicken Dance with young Korean children.  I even took a little time to stop by Severance Hospital in Seoul and get my ankle x-rayed… and no, my ankle, still sore after falling down some stairs in France nearly a year ago, thankfully isn’t broken.

Let’s start with the Apple Sweet Potato muffins.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my search continues for yummy satisfying food with no sugar added.  Refined sugar is definitely not an option for me, but sometimes too much sweet from fruit and honey does me no good as well.  So I adapted a recipe I found recently and baked a muffin with only apples and sweet potatoes for sweetener (no honey or other sweetener added).  Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups almond flour1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded sweet potato
1 cup shredded apple

I combined all of the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) and then all the wet ingredients (vanilla, eggs, oil, yogurt).  Next I combined them both and finally added in the uncooked shredded sweet potato and apple.

I baked them at about 350 degrees F (that’s about 175 degrees C) for 25-30 minutes.

The results were satisfying flavorful muffins with just a touch of sweet.  They were especially tasty with a little butter or with a smear of creamy organic peanut butter (no sugar added!)  If I were to make any changes to the recipe, I might try a little less Greek yogurt as when finished the muffins were a little wet.  I also would liked to have added some nutmeg, but didn’t have any on hand. But just the same, they were a moist and satisfying treat.  Hurray!

And what’s next… yes of course.. the chicken dance!  Who can forget.  Why was I dancing the chicken dance you may ask?  The simple answer is… it’s part of my job.  On the weekends, when we’re not teaching middle school students, we teach fun classes that are open to the public at English Village.  One of our weekend lessons is called Dance Party.  It’s pretty simple… we dance and lead the Korean visitors in a variety of fun and well-known dances.  YMCA, Disco, the Hustle and… the Chicken Dance!  Often our guests are little children who enjoy dressing up in our costumes and doing a little dancing.  Sometimes we get older students… like today.  We had a visiting quartet of early twenty-somethings who put our dancing to shame.  It only took a few dances for my co-worker/dance partner to suggest…” I think they’re professional dancers…”  and…as it turns out…indeed they were.

As I mentioned, earlier this week I took a little sojourn into neighboring Seoul to visit the doctor at the local Severance Hospital.  I learned they have an international clinic from a colleague here at English Village.  It was a welcoming first-class experience all the way.  The hospital itself  had a professional, open and inviting feel.  It didn’t feel really like… a hospital. When I arrived at the clinic I was greeted by friendly English-speaking staff who quickly and easily assisted me with my needs… which was to make sure the my ankle wasn’t broken.  I speedily received an x-ray and soon after I learned, happily, it is not.  After my appointment was complete, I made a stop by the Smoothie King located in the food court inside the hospital. Next I was delighted to find a health food store in the hospital.  I did a little browsing and discovered one of my favorite American brands – Amy’s organic foods.  This is the first time I have seen this brand since I left the States.  They only had a few items, all pizzas, looking somewhat misplaced in the freezer section tossed next to items that were unidentifiable to me.  And what did I do, you may ask?  I bought one of each… yes three different types of frozen pizzas.  What can I say, there is nothing like some good old-fashioned “healthy junk food” for a little comfort like home.  I spent more money on them then I care to say, then made my trek back to the land of Paju.

Earlier, en route to the hospital I encountered what in America we might begrudgingly call a busy intersection.  In South Korea these sticky situations are handled with a little finesse courtesy of the traffic director.  Pictured below in a cowboy hat, the local traffic director displayed an almost choreographed array of moves and ushered traffic with some style and flair.

Well, my laid back day of work is coming to a close…. a real treat today after the past few busy weeks.  Tomorrow is  Sunday, my day of rest, and then once again a new week will unfold.

Spring continues to tempt us with a few days of weather in the 60s this week. But even so, I can’t quite declare it Spring weather even though April continues to fade away.  There are, however, some blossoms showing their face in the surrounding Korean hills among the still barren and dead trees of winter.

Good-bye for now from my world and life in S. Korea.  Feel free to write. It’s always good to hear from you!

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