Saturday, April 26, 2014

Running into an Ex-boyfriend in the 30's.



Last Sunday I was walking out of Easter mass when I felt someone looking at me. You know that feeling you get inside, like someone is looking at you from afar and you immediately begin to feel uncomfortable.

It was an ex-boyfriend from college, one of those boys who was placed in my life to teach me a lesson.

We used to go to the same church at one point in our lives but college, marriage and passing time parted our ways and I don't even remember the last time I saw him.

Oddly his face was still vaguely familiar, more mature and older looking, yet with the same distinct features. He was standing next to his wife and pushing a baby in a stroller and my eyes couldn't quite figure out which of the three to greet first.

If I could turn around I would've, but it was too late. I have to walk past them, through the door.

(He is looking at me. He looks surprised. Awkward silence fills the air)

Me: Oh...uh....didn't expected to see you, how are you?

(Awkward eye contact continues. I find it hard to stare at one place.)

Him: ...Good, how are you?

(Our eyes meet again for a brief second, must look elsewhere. I turn to his son)

Me: Oh so is this your boy? He is cute, this is my daughter....say hello.

(Daughter looks up silently and blinks several times. She is shy)

Him: Oh.. hi, so.. I see you at church....

Me: Uh....Ok.....yeah, see you around.

I walk away, don't say another word to my daughter, find my husband and don't say a word to him either. I don't know why, it's not like he would be upset. I think it's more so because I haven't quite processed my feelings about that short encounter until now.

I'm usually not the type to be at loss of words or be too nervous to talk (or be so nervous that I end up talking too much.) But I also was never in this type of situation either.

Looking back, it was the most awkward 20 seconds of my life and I don't quite have the right words to describe the odd feelings that washed over me in that short period of time.

It's funny how a person you think you love in your 20's can one day become a stranger you can't even talk to. It's funny how a person you used to hold and talk to daily can one day make you feel so strange.

I know what we had wasn't love, at least not the real kind, but I do remember our breakup clearly like it's yesterday. Come to think of it, that relationship taught me more about how NOT to break up than how to love.

And I didn't realize this, until now.

Our breakup happened overnight for no apparent reason, with little words and explanations. One day we just weren't into it anymore, and just like that, it was over--- overnight. I think I spent many months wondering what went wrong, but now I realize some breakups happen simply because it wasn't meant to be. No other reason but that.

And we ran into each other ten years later with our kids, on Easter.

Life is so random and unexpected. So strange, sometimes even stranger than fiction...

Next time Angela- if this must happen again- less words, more action. Smile, nod and walk away gracefully. No need to look back.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Zion National Park for Families


Zion National Park is located Southwestern Utah close to the Arizona and Nevada borders. It is about 2 1/2 hours from Las Vegas (where we began this trip) and one of the major attractions along the "Grand Tour Circle" which includes Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon (still on my list of places to visit).

This was our first real hiking trip as family and we didn't know what to expect. Even though we did enough research about kid-friendly trails beforehand, any wise parent knows that traveling with children includes unexpected turn of events such as carsick kids, uncooperative weather, toilet disasters, sudden tantrums, broken equipment and forgotten items among a list of others.

We believe traveling provides one of the best real-life education for kids and do our best to travel every chance we can get. It can get costly to travel as family but if planned carefully and properly, it doesn't have to break a bank. Plus, sharing memories and exploring new places together as family are priceless, as we get to learn more about the world and each other in ways otherwise not possible. Thus far, traveling has one of the best investments for our growing family.

We left Las Vegas at about 6 am and arrived at Zion National Park at about 11 am. The drive took little over 2 1/2 hours but we stopped at Black Bear Diner in St. George for breakfast (a good option for families, plus it's right off the freeway) and a few places for snacks and gas.


The obligatory family picture by the Zion Park sign

ENTRANCE


Once we arrived, we learned that we are unable to drive freely throughout the park. Unless you are an overnight camper with a special red permit, you must park your car in Springdale town or in the parking lot by the visitor center, which is located right by the entrance to the right. We were fortunate enough to find parking inside but parking can get tough around mid-afternoon so be prepared to walk and take the shuttle bus from town if needed.

Parking is $25 for one week.

The Zion Canyon Shuttle system alleviates parking problems for visitors as well as conserving the roads and natural environments of the park. I personally found it very convenient- as you can find a shuttle at any stop once every 7 minutes or so.

Zion Shuttle Stops



nps.gov

WHERE TO START

The Visitor Center is a good place to start. There are restrooms, shops and displays of pictures and information about the national park. We took the shuttle from here to the last stop: Temple of Sinawava for the kid-friendly Riverside trail. I noticed most people got off at later stops too, starting from Zion Lodge where restaurants, shops and rest areas are located.

I believe this is the easiest scenic trail in the park as it is straight and flat with roads large enough for wheelchair and stroller access. In fact, I was surprised to see so many people with young children and babies on this trail. So don't worry, this trail is so fun and easy---perfect for families with young children, even babies as long as you're equipped with a jogging stroller or one of those baby carrying backpacks.

TRAIL 1: RIVERSIDE WALK (GATEWAY TO THE "NARROWS") 



On the Riverside Trail

Sorry strangers, but you looked cool between the tree.

Hungry squirrel who wasn't fazed by my camera lens.

Look at this adorable squirrel...they were everywhere! The visitors must be very friendly to these animals because they don't seem fearful of humans at all. Or perhaps they were just hungry....

A squirrel and my cute daughter in one picture. Heaven.

Thank you stranger for our non-blurry family picture

The fearless explorer

This trail is flat and easy yet very scenic. It is surrounded by majestic rock formations, lush greenery and kid-friendly streams that run placidly along the side.

April seems to be a perfect time to visit this park because the weather was absolutely gorgeous in the 70's- warm yet breezy and never hot.

Young kids should not go past this point

This is the end of the Riverside walk and beginning of the Narrows. I really wanted to go all the way inside but it would've been impossible with the kids. Plus we weren't properly equipped with the right shoes and hiking sticks. If you're going to challenge yourself to this trail, be sure to pack an extra pair of water shoes and use good judgement as flash floods can occur during certain seasons.


Next time for sure!

TRAIL 2: EMERALD POOLS


Because the Riverside trail was fairly easy for us and the kids, we decided to challenge ourselves to a more difficult trail- Emerald Pools. After taking the shuttle back to Zion Lodge, we took a short break and ate lunch. Their lunch was actually very impressive, much better than the overpriced junk they sell at amusement parks (yes you, Disneyland) and other family destinations. We had a cheeseburger (yummy), a hotdog (so-so), cheese pizza (yummy) and french fries (my ultimate weakness). For dessert, the kids enjoyed their fruit parfait and vanilla soft serve while I treated myself to a nice cold beer...and it was one of the best cold beers I've had in a long time! ;)


View to the right

Look, a deer looking right at me!

On our way to the lower pool

View from the lower pool: so majestic and serene

This is the "I'm on top of the world" pose

Just a little more, soldiers.

Sweating, panting and one girl is still posing

Emerald Pools: Kid friendly?

This trail is supposedly "kid-friendly" but I'm not sure if its suitable for younger children and toddlers. Some of the roads leading to the middle and upper pools were very narrow and steep, a little scary for young kids as well as supervising parents. We had to make sure dad led the way and I stayed behind both my kids. There is red sand everywhere and wet areas along the pools so hiking shoes are a must.

If you have young toddlers and babies in strollers, I suggest you stop at the lower pool. Once you continue up to the middle and upper pools, it's difficult to get back down. I don't understand why this trail is considered to be "family friendly" because this can be misleading for new visitors. So parents if you have toddlers and babies, hike only to the lower pool which of course, is more than worthwhile. We even spotted a deer along the way!

Also, notice the chuck taylors on my daughters? This is how clueless we were about hiking... so LA and naive (sorry kids). In fact, we never imagined our kids would have so much fun hiking and didn't bother investing in hiking shoes for them or myself.  The chucks were fine for the flat Riverside trail but the girls definitely needed something more substantial and rugged for Emerald Pools.

Thankfully our girls were troopers and their shoes held up fine but I'm definitely purchasing real hiking shoes for our next hiking/camping trip.

Unfortunately, I don't have too many pictures of the more difficult parts of the trail-- I was too busy watching over the girls and panting (lol) to get out my huge camera for more pictures.


Middle Emerald Pools

So about 1.5 miles of hiking up to the Middle Emerald Pools, this is where we ended up. Ta dah~~~~ NOT! This trail was steep, at about 200 ft elevation. It was difficult to get up here, we were sweaty and dirty and I was scared for my kids' safety at some parts of the trail yet we kept going keeping our eyes on the prize.

Quite frankly, Middle Emerald Pools was disappointing and not worth the long, windy and steep hike. Once I reached the pool I was thinking.....What..this is it?? It's way nicer down there!

(I later learned that the middle pool is the least interesting, and we should've just hiked up to the upper pools. Oh well, another lesson learned. This is why thorough research is necessary. Oops!)

But of course I hid my disappointment for the kids because to them, this place too, was amazing and I didn't want to ruin their proud moment. After all, they fought their way all the way up with their tiny legs to reach this destination, and that's all that really mattered.

After a few pictures and about 5 minutes of rest, it was time to hike back down. By then I was tired and couldn't wait to get back down to the car but the girls must've been on an adrenaline rush because they wanted to keep going!

It's a good thing we suggested to hike back down because by the time we reached the bridge by the entrance, my poor T finally began to show signs of being tired.

......and we made it! We calculated the distance of the two trails both ways and we hiked a total of 5.2 miles this day. What a huge accomplishment for our first experience!

There were things I would've done differently, like buying hiking shoes for the entire family (only my husband had a pair), packing more healthy snacks beforehand (we only had some beef jerkey and popcorn from last minute pitstops- not enough), not letting my older daughter carry her Hello Kitty purse up to the canyon (thank goodness it wasn't heavy) and not letting my younger daughter carry her stuffed animals in her backpack. (Isn't it amazing what we parents sometimes allow our children to do, even though we know it's a bad idea?)

Overall, this was an awesome day trip and one of the best times we had as family. Being surrounded by nature is always therapeutic and calming, and accomplishing a common goal together as family proved to be an excellent way to bring us even closer.

Also, hiking is an amazing physical, mental and spiritual exercise for adults and children, and even my young daughters seemed to understand the beauty and charm behind this popular activity.



Here is a quick list of what to pack

1. Water (We only had one bottle each which was enough because weather was nice. However for summer, I'd bring two bottles per person)
2. Sunscreen
3. Hat
4. Hiking sticks (a must, especially for the more strenuous hikes)
5. Snacks (Next time I would pack healthier snacks like fruits, nuts & sandwiches).
6. Hiking shoes for the whole family
7. Hiking socks (for comfort & protection)
8. Extra clothes (In case you get too dirty, sweaty or wet)
9. Water shoes (If you plan to go in the water)
10. Towel 
11. First aid kit (Neosporin, bandaid, disinfectant spray etc-- we used ours)

All in TWO sturdy backpacks with lots of pockets- one for mom, one for dad simply because it makes life much easier with multiple children.




WHAT TO WEAR


I was glad I didn't put shorts on the girls because there were moments when they fell and their long pants prevented their knees from getting scraped. I too, was wearing capri yoga pants which turned out to be a good decision because I ended up with scratches here and there on my legs. I envision summer time would be too hot for longer pants, but for spring & fall, breathable longer pants proved to have its benefits over shorts.

Also be sure to dress in LAYERS- as temperature can slightly change depending on the trails, shade availability and time of day.

CONCLUSION


Two trails were enough for one day and I don't think we could've done anymore with or without kids. After about 4 hours of hiking, we drove 2.5 hours back to Las Vegas, ordered room service and fell asleep on our comfortable beds.

I never considered myself an outdoor type of person so I wasn't quite sure how this hiking day trip would turn out. I might hate it, the kids might hate it, and this could've been our first and last time at a famous national park.

Despite my reservations, this was an amazing and therapeutic experience and a memorable Spring break vacation. I'm not sure if I'd return during summer because hiking in the hot summer heat would be dreadful but I'd definitely return in Spring and fall to explore more trails.

Next destination on list: Sequoia National Park!





Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Korean Ferry Disaster & Confucianism Gone Wrong: A Mother's Perspective


Nicolas Asfouri /AFP/Getty Images
As a child growing up in Korea, I remember often getting in trouble by teachers and adults for "talking back," "questioning authority," and "being bossy.” There were two leaders for my large class of about sixty students- one boy and one girl- and I was the girl leader who acted too much like the boy leader.

We were given the same tasks and roles in the classroom, yet I was often told that I was "too bossy," while the boy leader was considered to exhibit "good leadership skills." I was too young and naive to understand gender roles at this time and I was simply being true to myself, not realizing that I was expected to behave differently than boys.

About one week before my family came to America, the boy leader who was also my close friend killed himself in his home after school. I don't know the exact details because adults tried hard to keep them from me- but I do know his death involved an imperfect report card, doorknob and scarf.

My friend, this smart and capable young boy, was barely ten years old and already laden with pressure, guilt and fear of parents and teachers. One bad report card was enough for him to think his life was worthless. I don't know exactly what went on in his personal life at home, but it's not difficult to deduce that he was victimized by a system that he was too young to understand.

I too, was too young to understand the implications of my friend's death at the time, but as a child growing up in 80's Korea, I always sensed that something was wrong with the place I called home.

HUNDREDS OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE DEAD OR MISSING


On April 16, 2014, a South Korean ferry called Sewol capsized en route to Jeju island, submerging about 300 people under its dark waters. Of the 476 people who were on the boat, only 174 were rescued including the captain and most of the employees. The rest- mostly 16 & 17-year old high school students on a school field trip, are confirmed dead or still missing.

This of course, is not the first time a ferry capsized killing its passengers. But this incident is especially disturbing because the captain and his crewmembers abandoned their duties and left behind hundreds of trusting minors to die under water.

Pictures and video clips of final moments inside the ferry show students solemnly lined up against the wall and awaiting further instructions by the crewmembers.  You can tell that the ship is slowly sinking but everyone looks calm and orderly. Most of them are wearing life vests, which indicates that there could've been more survivors if the crewmembers made efforts to aid the passengers. 

Instead, the crewmembers ordered everyone to stay put and escaped the ferry by the first rescue boat, leaving behind hundreds of unsuspecting teenagers to die.

No survivors have been reported since then.


AP photo/ Woo Hae Cho


Through this tragedy, I finally came to understand why my world felt so wrong as a girl living in Korea.

 

KOREAN CONFUCIANISM AND ITS IMPLICATIONS ON WOMEN & CHILDREN


The Korean culture is based on Confucianism that deems children and women as inferior and less valuable.  Its rigid hierarchy places males, elders and authorities on top while teaching women and children to obey and follow directions. In Confucianism, a child must obey her parents, then after marriage, obey her husband.

I thought much has changed over the years, but this tragedy reveals that the foundation remains the same. Confucianism must be uprooted. 

Many Koreans to this day wear their age, power and money like badges of honor and bark orders at younger people by acting as if they are untouchable. The worst part of it all--most do as they are told.

These children, so-called "future leaders of Korea," eventually learn to follow the same system they were bred to survive in. They become politicians, executives and captains who create laws, make important decisions and maintain existing institutions. As they age, their status and power increases- and they compensate for their childhood by exercising and abusing their power.

Therefore, it's no surprise that those at the lower end of the hierarchy- children, women and the disabled- are often victims of senseless murders, rapes, abuse and indirect mass killings as evident by the recent ferry incident.

The price for not being taught how to think critically, to question authority, to speak up against wrongdoings, to freely express oneself regardless of gender and social status, to protect oneself against harm, to know one's God given rights and to protect the weak is collective ignorance, which to me, is synonymous with a dead society.

My heart continues to ache for the victims and their families and yes- I will not be afraid to call them victims. They are victims of collective ignorance, indifference and selfishness; victims of a generation that cannot think and act on its own.

The numerous deaths of innocent high school students have stirred the entire country to tears, uncovering layers and layers of corruption, irresponsibility and indifference. The entire nation is grieving and filled with shame, guilt and helplessness. They know something is wrong, and they know something must change- but who and how?

I have lived outside of Korea for more than 20 years yet I still find myself surrounded by the same kind of collective ignorance. Even though I'm an American, I can’t run from my Korean roots. I am American and I am Korean. Both cultures and identities are equally important and meaningful to me.

A culture of repression engenders another generation of repressed and oppressive people. There may be a few revolutionary voices demanding change, yet no one hears or cares if the voice comes from the bottom-- much like the weeping of students that are forever buried deep inside the murky water.

My heart aches for all the missing children. They must've been so cold, so scared and so disappointed that no one came to save them.

I'm grieving yet I know there is little I can change. After all I'm only a mother who sits at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Only a mother.


Yonhap/AP

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Break Getaway: Las Vegas & Zion Canyon







Wynn pool


My daughters are on a year round track system where spring break is one month long so we decided to take the girls on a 5-day Spring break trip to Las Vegas, Nevada and Zion Canyon in Utah. Las Vegas is one of our most frequented destinations because it's fairly close (about 3 hour drive from our home) with luxurious five-star amenities and tons of good restaurants and fun activities for kids. We take full advantage of our generous casino host and card member room rates, which makes Las Vegas the most luxurious yet affordable Spring break destination. (One of many perks of living in Southern California!)

We lounged around the beautiful pool at the Wynn, spent a day at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum (which contrary to my reservation, turned out to be a fun & educational place for kids with plenty of activities and lessons) and explored the familiar city a little more by visiting new spots like the Stratosphere.

The highlight of our family trip however, was not Las Vegas but Zion Canyon in Utah. We were a little concerned about how we can pull this off with two young kids but our girls proved to be strong and determined little explorers by hiking a total distance of 5.2 miles!

It was the perfect opportunity to accomplish a common goal as family, share priceless memories and get fit; all while being immersed in the wonders of nature.

We were extremely proud and excited as the Zion Canyon day trip marks the beginning of a new chapter of traveling for the Kim family. We can now participate in more adventurous activities and explore nearby canyons and hiking trails. What a huge milestone for the girls!


An easy, flat riverside trail leading to "The Narrows"


Intermediate trail called "Emerald Pools" with lower, mid & high pools


Riverside trail


Another amazing part of the trails at Zion Canyon is its abundant wildlife in its natural setting. I saw so many squirrels and even a deer during the hike, it was such a unique experience. There are so many adorable squirrels that come right next to you and let you photograph it close up. One hungry squirrel came so close to my daughter, she couldn't resist sharing her snacks!



This was my family's first time hiking through a huge national park like Zion Canyon and the experience was no less than amazing and surreal. The magnificence and beauty of a well preserved national park cannot be contained in pictures, and I was in awe of its majestic presence.

Nature truly is, the best teacher for kids and despite the strenuous walking, this was a great opportunity for my children to experience the beauty of nature. Even better, I think they now understand the benefits of hiking not only as a physical but a mental exercise.

I will dedicate another post to Zion Canyon for families with better pictures and more details and tips. Until then, I plan on enjoying the last week of spring break with more relaxation and quality time my little ones.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fresh Haircut for Spring

 

Spring is the time for change, time for rebirth, time for renewal.

For me, it meant finally letting go of my long locks and trying something different for the first time in years. I liked my ombre, but was getting tired of it and my hair was getting so long and flat that it was becoming difficult to manage. It's easy to forget how long your hair is getting when you're used to wearing it in a messy ponytail like, everyday. (Thanks motherhood!)

I think I was sad for about 20 seconds. Good-bye highlighted locks, Good-bye ombre, Hello Spring hair.

Now I just have to commit to at least 3 days at the gym. I love yoga but hate running. I'm going to give it another try so I can feel energized and be bikini ready for summer. ;)

I'm totally feelin' this weather, totally feelin' the new do, totally feelin' the Spring air.



Done with gluttony and hibernation. Back to the gym.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday Elly

My dearest Elly

Where do I begin. You are the foundation of my life and the tie that binds our family. Without you we might not even be here today (and no, it's not an exaggeration) and thanks to you, I always had a reason to hold on a little longer, try a little harder and love more selflessly.

Raising you wasn't easy. With your pretty smiles and sweet giggles came many trials and uncertainties that began when you were barely one years old. You have no idea how much it hurt to know that you may be different from other kids.  I felt a deep sense of guilt and failure as a mother; as your mother. Yet your differences came with such abundance of blessings and love that I think I finally understand why God's plan is more perfect than our own.

Despite your sensitivities, you are a happy and healthy child. Your sister Tessa doesn't like to do anything without you and despite your sisterly quarrels, you are her best friend and play buddy. You have wonderful friends who like to hold you by the hand and show you new things.  You have an amazing set of family and friends who genuinely love you for who you are. I hope you felt how much love was in the air during your birthday song because baby, you are truly loved and so blessed.


You continue to radiate your surrounding with your angelic presence and purity. Everyone who gets to know you tell me you are an angel. Your innocence and beauty are so rare and so untainted, it sometimes makes me feel bad for others who eventually has to become worldly in order to survive.

You taught me one of the greatest lessons in life- and that is the ability to let Go and let God. You also taught me the value of spiritual over material, and precedence of inner purity over outwardly achievements. You show me God's love in its purest form- one that is selfless, unconditional and always hopeful.

Elise, you are an angel from heaven; my eternal grace and lifelong teacher. Thank you for coming into this world as my daughter because without you, my life would've been nothing but a meaningless cycle of superficial desires and worldly achievements.

Through you, I now understand the deeper meaning of love and faith. You are perfect just the way God made you. You are more perfect than anyone else I know.

Happy birthday my sweet child, I will take care of you and protect you eternally.