Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have lived a very blessed life. There were tough times and bad times but overall, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience life and learn. Everyday is a new gift and my heart is full of gratitude.

Here are some of the things, memories and people I love and am grateful for.

Pistachio gelato; summer nights in Paris; making soup in a sun-lit kitchen in an autumn afternoon for people I love; being caught off-guard by the sound of classical music; cuddling with a good book and a warm cup of tea; dinner with family, the laughter and smile of my niece, the mosaic of the blue sky through autumn leaves; street hotdogs; talking endlessly with someone I love; watching winter-white streets and foggy windows of restaurants; warm blankets, chocolate chip cookies, milk, a good romantic comedy and girlfriends; the budding of new leaves in the spring; footmassages; Christmas trees; Facebook; a stroke of artistic inspiration; watching good acting; meeting inspiring people; breathing in clean air; hiking in Ireland and Scotland; the love of my friends and family

Thank you for blessing my life, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Party-crashing the G20 Summit

We were trying to get the president of Indonesia to come on our show, "Heart to Heart." Well, to be more exact, we were looking for ways to roll-over and bark and see if we could get 30 minutes of his time whenever we could, wherever we could. The embassy took forever to get back to us so meanwhile we applied for the press pass just in case we could show up with our cameras to the G20 Summit. Well, he ended up coming on the 2nd day of the summit and didn't have time to meet with us. This post would have been much more interesting and glamorous if I said I sat with the president of Indonesia, sipped tea and talked about the recent natural disaster he had to deal with and the state of Indonesia as a newly emerging market. But it was not to be.

But on the up side, we had the press pass so some of my co-workers and I went to the G20 Seoul Summit on the second day anyway (just to remind ourselves how important we are).

We first registered and got our badges...

...and went to the media center. Because there were thousands of reporters from all around the world, only a few were allowed in the actual room where the meetings were held. Most of them were placed in the media center and watched the meetings from the big screens.

I tried to get online to work on the post-production writing (subtitles, names, bio that goes into the program) of the episode of Dena Merriam, the founder of Global Peace Initiative of Women who came to Korea to attend the World Religious Leaders Forum that was being held in parallel to the G20 Summit. It was being aired that night so I was frantically trying to finish.

We walked around trying to look cool, calm and collected.

We posed for pictures...

...and had a fabulous buffet of lunch.

It was really great to feel the vibrancy of the reporters. I just wanted to sit there all day but we had to go back to work so we posed for one last time.

The head-spinning speed of Korea's economic growth is lauded as the "miracle of the century." When Korea was nothing but a waste land of war, its gross domestic product was less than $20. Sixty years later, its gross domestic product is approaching 1 trillion dollars making Korea the 15th largest economy in the world. It's really mind-boggling to think about it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Conversion to Buddhism

For two days that is. I went to do a temple stay at a Buddhist temple where people could come and learn about Buddhism and mediate.

Day 1

We first had a tour of the temple and the temple ground.

There were a lot of exchange students who came that day and the interpreter was so nervous to speak English, I ended up doing most of the interpreting.

We had dinner after the tour. We sat on the floor with our bowl and couple of people went around the room to distribute food. We had to eat every tiny morsel of food then wash the bowls with water and a piece of radish and drink the water and eat the radish. We ate/drank everything that was in our bowl.

After dinner, we had tea with the head monk of the temple for a Q & A session.

Around 9:30pm, we all went back to our room (shared by all the females there)and laid out our sleeping blankets on the floor. Lights went out at 10:30pm. The thing about communal sleeping arrangement is that someone is always bound to snore. This night was no exception. I was woken up a few times by a girl whose snoring got progressively more thunder-like as the night deepened. I was woken up again around 3 am feeling very annoyed and irritated. The calm, peaceful, chatter-less mind of the previous night, GONE! I got up and followed the sound of roaring thunder marveling at how she can sleep through the sound of her own snore. After brailling through the floor in the dark, I finally found the culprit. I really wanted to stuff toilet paper down her throat and nostrils but decided against it (after all, I was at a Buddhist temple). Instead, I gently shook her to wake her up so she would stop the damn noise. But she wouldn't wake up! So, I shook her harder, and she still wouldn't wake up. So, I slapped the side of her arm, and she stopped snoring. I crawled back to my blanket and lied down. A few seconds later, the snoring resumed. I wanted to kill myself.

Day 2

We woke up at 4:30 am to get ready for the morning chant, prayer and meditation. We did 108 prostrations to repent for our sins and offer gratitude for our blessings.

After prostrating 108 bows, we sat and meditated until the sun came up.

We had breakfast after and went for a brief hike and meditated some more.

After the dawn and morning meditation I forgot all about the snoring of the previous night and felt at peace. We had some warm tea and Snickers (yes, Snickers) on the mountain and slowly descended down to the temple. The last thing in our itinerary was making lotus blossom lanterns. I gave mine away to a sister missionary and I forgot to take a picture before I gave it to her so you'll have to just rely on my word that it was the most amazing lantern you've ever seen in your life.

The head monk delivered a final remark before we departed as I interpreted in the back of the room.

We said goodbye after 2 days of meditating, praying and friendshipping.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Day in the Life of Hannah Kim

I have been putting this off for a while now but I promised a couple of you that I would write this post so here it is.

About a month ago, I was on my way home from work when a stranger accosted me and said, "You have a very bright face. You look like the oldest child in your family." My first reaction was "Okay, psycho, what are you selling tonight?" Then, she proceeded to tell me about my family history (which were uncannily true). Then a short little man that came up to my armpit chimed in and said, "Do you have someone in your family with a bad back and bad knees because they are really hurting me right now." (My dad had recently hurt his back and my aunt was suffering from bad knees at the time.) So, yeah, they had my attention.

The woman asked if they could speak to me for a bit because they had something to tell me. I was curious so I said yes and we went into a cafe. She volunteered me to pay for the drinks and we sat down in a corner.

They peered piercingly into my face (which totally amused me) and the woman said, "You have a lot of ancestors following you around. You also have a lot of baby ghosts around you. Have you had miscarriages or abortions?" I said no. She looked dubious. "Well, your life is about to change," she said confidently. "It's not a coincidence that we met you today. You haven't been able to accomplish what you really wanted to accomplish because something always got in the way. That is going to change from now on." She was freaking me out with all the ghost talk but I liked what I was hearing so far about how my life was going to change. (I am gonna be rich and famous!)

She said the reason why my ancestors were around me because I was "the person" in my family that could help them. Because they are without bodies they couldn't repent for their sins and couldn't enter heaven. So if I would go to their temple, and pray for them they will be able to rest in peace and leave me alone. Finally, I realized they were Buddhists. I don't have anything against Buddhism and I am open-minded so I continued to listen.

"Why don't you come with us tonight and offer food and prayers to your ancestors? The reason why your life didn't go the way you wanted is because your ancestors got in your way so they could get your attention." I was hearing this for the first time and I was trying to think critically like an intelligent, full-witted person. But this was all new information and I just didn't know how to filter it.

They saw my resistance to accept their offer. I mean it was getting late, it was dark outside, and I was supposed to just blindly following these two strangers to some shady temple to pray for my ancestors? Besides, they told me I had to pay 490,000 won, about $450, and I couldn't tell anybody about this for 3 weeks. Anybody with a quarter of a brain would hear these stipulations and high-tail out of there.

Well, not me. I told them I would go (partly out of curiosity and partly because I thought I would regret it if I didn't go.). But I told them I couldn't pay the 490,000 won but I would pay 200,000 won (about $180). They accepted my offer and I clapped my hands and said "Okay everybody, let's go to heaven!" (Well, internally that is.) And off we went!

We took the subway train, got off and starting walking. I was looking for a Buddhist temple when they led me to a shady-looking karaoke building. The man said, "It's on the 4th floor of this building." So, we went up and I found a large undecorated space with several rooms. They had me bow to this wall (because apparently there was a god there. I wondered if he/she would have been offended if I walked to the wall and just sat there.).

They prepared the table of offerings as I changed into a Korean traditional dress they lent me (because that's how they roll there.)

FYI, that's not me.

After I changed into this outfit, a few people decked out in their outfits and I bowed constantly (for about 30 minutes) to some strange chant uttered by the woman who accosted me. It was in ancient Korean so I didn't understand a word of it. In the midst of all this, I kind of came out of this mental cloud and thought, "What am I doing here? I was just on my way home!" Sometimes I can't believe the life that I live.

But I did feel the presence of my ancestors and I felt at peace. I felt it was a good thing that I did. After the ceremony, the woman asked if I could come for 21 days and recite the chant that she had just recited. So I went back a few times a week mainly because I didn't want the ghosts to haunt me down and freak me out.

But each time I went, she tried to convert me to Buddhism. I told her I wasn't comfortable her trying to convince me of the realities of reincarnation and how we can wash away the sins of the dead through our good works here. It made me think a lot about the gospel and the plan of salvation.

She really got on my nerves toward the end so ghost or no ghost, I stopped going. And for a few nights I couldn't sleep or if I fell asleep I was woken up in the middle of the night in cold sweat because I thought my ancestor ghosts were coming after me. (I know, this sounds ridiculous but the woman really scared the crap out of me with all her talks.)

But I told myself that this is all psychosomatic and that I should be able to sleep in peace. And I have been. Just with the lights on.


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