Monday, June 30, 2014

Resolutions Checkpoint 2014: June

This month makes me think of the Decemberist's song: July, July!


Since July is here, it's time to look back on what progress was made in June towards each of my three 2014 resolutions. Like always, this is the key:
   Bold = Completed task
   Normal = Not completed :/
   Bold + Italics = Completed, not originally on task list.

-- Progress in June --

1. Digestive health

  • Make reservation for Eastern medicine tour at Namsangol Hanok Village 
  • Make doctor appointment in Bundang or Seoul
    • Will probably push this back until I'm in the states this fall...

2. Health site

  • Finish three May posts
    • (Was caught up and published the third post on 6/11/14, I was so proud!)
  • Four June posts
    • Published all four June posts! Feels great!

3. Non 9-5 work

  • Deposit money from savings into Roth IRA (6/7/14)
  • Post Fiverr letter writing ads
  • Two hours each week on my guide projects (Korean restaurants & travel in Spain)
    • Spent 4+ hours on the Korean restaurant project, and 2 on Spain project. I've done notably less since writing/editing for... (see next bullet)
  • Applied for and got a blogging job at FluentU, which has since turned into some part time editing work!

Background goals

  • Get to Day 70 in my Give it 100 project
    • Today will be Day 69, so I almost made it!
  • Spend 1 hour working on pull-down tabs
  • Make a Camino packing list
    • Purchased NZ Sheep Wool to prevent blisters
    • Spent several hours reading blog posts and creating a packing list
  • Research helpful Camino guide books
    • Purchased Camino guide book 6/14/14

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

-- Background Goals --

And here's my overall progress on those bits and pieces that would be great to accomplish this year as well:
  • Read 32 books this year (2 in Spanish)
    • I've read 15/32 books -- (One in Spanish)
    • Finished Clash of Kings this month.
  • Gain strength & muscle, enough that there's a notable difference in a before and after picture
    • I am currently on Day 69 of my Give it 100 project to increase flexibility in my legs. 
    • My Korean Eastern medicine doctor told me I should try to gain more muscle, so that's extra motivation.
  • Add pull-down tabs to both of my Blogger blogs
  • Walk the Camino de Santiago
  • Visit Hannah and Herm in London
    • Have it narrowed down to mid/late October
  • Make a Korea bucket list and post it (and do it!)
  • Unplug more often
    • Added a Facebook blocker that pops up after 1 minute. The goal is to log on only once a week, like my mom.
  • Resume French study
    • Did just a bit of FluentU French practice this month.

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-- July Focus --

1. Digestive health

  • Read Food Over Medicine: The Conversation That Could Save Your Life
  • Drink peppermint tea every day (I have about 30 bags I need to finish, as I only have two months left in the country)
  • Try some recommendations from my Eastern medicine experience

    2. Health site

    Even though I recently just got caught up, and successfully published a post every Tuesday in June, I'll go easy on myself this month, since I'm editing/writing elsewhere now.
    • Publish two posts this month.
    • Make two images for two previously published posts, pin to Pinterest and share on GooglePlus.

    3. Non 9-5 work

    • Focus on new editing/writing gig (8-10 hours a week).
    • Read Copyblogger's ebook How to Write Magnetic Headlines
    • Read Copyblogger's ebook How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines

    Background goals

    • Finish reading The Named and Food Over Medicine
    • A half-hour each week of Camino research/planning
    • Buy plane ticket to Madrid, and Madrid --> London
    • • •

    Sunday, June 29, 2014

    Korean Traditional Medical Tourism Experience

    Sometime in May my co-teacher mentioned to me that there is a lot of Eastern medicine tourism in Korea, and my first thought was Why didn't I think to do that earlier?!  Here in Korea, where Eastern medicine thrives, is the perfect place to take advantage and learn more about the traditional medicine. Luckily it wasn't too late.

    Yesterday I had a "Korean Traditional Medical Tourism Experience" in Yun Taekyeong's Jaesil of Namsangol Hanok Village. It was great! But it almost didn't happen at all.

    Making the appointment

    When John and I went to Namsangol Hanok Village, I picked up a brochure for their "Jin Hanbang Experience - Korean Traditional Medical Tourism Experience." There is no website for the 2014 Jin Hangang Experience, which is quite unfortunate because I think many more foreigners could enjoy the experience if information about it was more easily accessible.

    The brochure did not have prices, but rather the line "Please contact +82-10-7189-0827 for reservations, ticket prices, and additional details."

    So after John left I made it a June goal to make an appointment for this Korean traditional medicine tourism experience. The first time I called the number, it went directly to an automated message in Korean, which was followed by its English translation. It basically said to call back at another time, but made no mention at all of the traditional medicine experience.

    So I'd try calling during school breaks and after lunch, thinking I had called too late the first time. But no matter when I called, I kept on getting that same message. I had nearly accepted defeat, thinking I'd have to make the trip to Seoul the following weekend just to make a reservation in person, when I tried again.

    This time I called the second phone number listed on the back of the brochure first, which was for Namsangol Hanok Village. A Korean man answered, and we could not communicate, so I eventually hung up. Then I went back to the original number that you're supposed to call for reservations, and tried adding a zero in front. This actually got it ringing, so I wonder if that was the problem in the first place. Then it went to an automated voice with two choices, and you were to press either 1 or 2 on your phone. It was all in Korean, so I didn't know what either choice was, but I pressed a random number. Then I called again and pressed the other number. It sounded like I was to leave a message on one of them.

    Anyway, after all of my various calls, all of a sudden my phone was ringing. Normally I ignore phone calls from numbers I don't know, but I had the brochure in front of me and could quickly confirm that the medical tourism experience office was calling me back! And then I set up my appointment for this past Saturday.

    Preliminary information

    I was warmly welcomed when I arrived back at the second house in Namsangol Hanok Village. I filled out a very brief health history/information half sheet to start. 


    Then it was explained to me that in Eastern medicine, people's bodies are generally categorized into one of four types, but many foreigners get confused so here they just stick with two: hot and cold. She showed me a list of bulleted statements under each category, and I was to say where I thought I fell. It was a really easy question, as all of the health statements under the "cold" category applied to me.

    She made me some tea that helps "cold" people become "hot" (Note that these labels don't simply refer to temperature, but also temperament and other bodily tendencies).

    This tea was served in an adjoining room where I went next to make an aroma pouch and soap. The soap takes about 40 minutes to set, which is why they had me do that before the rest of the appointment.

    Making an aroma pouch



    Since I have a "cold" body, the kind woman (I forgot her name!) showed me how to make an aroma pouch with "warm/hot" scents. My bag has cinnamon, wall gardenia, and fennel. I measured out 8 grams of each in the little bowl on the scale before dumping them into the pouch, but then she gave me some extra afterwards (as captured in the picture).

    Making a medicinal herbal soap

    Next came the soap, which I made at the same table. I stirred some of the base cubes until they had melted down, and then she poured in the scent and oil that helps "cold" people.

    I got to select the mold from four choices, so I went with the strawberry shape. After I poured the hot liquid into the mold, she sprayed on something that would prevent it from having air bubbles.


    And then it was back out to the main space for the start of my check-up!

    Initial check-up

    First she took my blood pressure in this neat machine (pictured right). You just put your arm in that sleeve hole and the machine does it all. When that was done she asked for my height. Oh no, she probably wants this in centimeters, I realized. I had totally forgotten what my height is in centimeters, since it's been a while since I've used the number in Spain. So she estimated it for me! (I'm 167 cm I think, future me, coming to this post to check).

    Then I was weighed on the scale (pictured left), and lastly I had to picked up those two handles and hold them over my head while some other measurement was being taken.
    And then it was time to meet the doctor!

    Consultation with the doctor

    The doctor spoke to me in Korean, and then that wonderful woman translated really well after each sentence. And the doctor was so kind and funny! Very approachable. We talked about my symptoms, various ways to ease them with Eastern medicine, and then we went ahead with acupuncture in my ears. He explained, using a gigantic plastic ear (below), that when you turn the ear upside down it closely resembles a fetus in the womb. So different parts of the ear are associated with different parts of the body.

    He had these tiny acupuncture band-aid type things. There were two kinds, one with beads and one with a sharper point. They're really small squares with a bead or point in the middle. You adhere it, like a bandaid, to the right spot in your ear and leave it for three days. I said I was fine with the sharper ones, so he peeled off the cover and stuck the small square on my left ear. Then he placed another on the right ear. You can faintly feel it, and he said I can press on them whenever I need the extra help. He gave me a set of eight of the bead acupuncture band-aid things to take home and use whenever I wanted. He made sure I took a picture of him pointing out the exact spot in the ear, so that I can have a friend put them in the right place.


    Then we got to discussing my spinal fusion and spinal issues. He said that in Korea they still have Western operations when necessary, but they like to follow it up with some Eastern post-treatment. I hadn't had any post-treatment from my fusion, so he suggested we do a session of "cupping".

    I had never heard of cupping therapy, but it's when suction is created on the skin to promote blood flow and healing. You leave the "cups" on for 5 - 15 minutes, and it'll leave a mark that lasts for around five days. When they were first explaining it to me, the woman accidentally said "The mark lasts just about five years." before correcting herself right away - it was funny.

    So I went into another room for a 10-minute cupping session on my back. I could feel when certain cups lost suction, but there was a different woman who stayed in the room during, and would come over and re-suction any that needed it. I have some awesome purple circles on my back now!

    Afterwards I took a picture with the doctor on their polaroid (I haven't taken an instant photo in a long time, it was neat!), and had them do another on my digital camera. The woman gave me a nice bag of my soap, aroma pouch, polaroid, rice wine soap, and an informational brochure about what teas/herbs you should stick to depending on if you're hot/cold.

    Everything was really well organized and presented. Everyone was very kind and helpful, and had great English! If you want to learn more about Eastern medicine, I highly recommend the 2014 Jin Hanbang Experience at Namsangol Hanok Village.

    IF YOU GO...

    What: Jin Hanbang Experience - Korean Traditional Medical Tourism Experience
    Where: Namsangol Hanok Village
    Metro: Chungmuro (Line 3) Exit 4
    When: March 5 - November 1, 2014; Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 10:00 - 18:00
    Cost: The program I did cost 20,000 KRW, but depending on what you would like to do, they have various programs that cost 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; and 40,000 KRW.
    Reservation: Call +82-10-7189-0827 to make a reservation, or I'm sure if you were there in person visiting the traditional houses, you could see if they had a spot open that very day.
    • • •

    Friday, June 27, 2014

    The week in review: 6/23/14 - 6/27/14

    Monday 6/23/14
    I got an exciting email just after third period today, after having turned in my first article the day before for that new blogging gig! Details to follow once things become more official, but I could not wipe the smile from my face all day! Sixth grade classes were great - I love starting my week out with them. There was really loud, shorter thunder during the morning, but during these "storms" it hasn't really gotten very windy, and the sky doesn't darken much either. Double daycare classes in the afternoon wiped me out per usual.


    Tuesday 6/24/14
    Sixth graders ended class with a project making a museum brochure. In our first class, most used examples from the book (Toy Museum, Snack Museum, and Book Museum), though our later three classes students were instructed to choose from those three (which I really didn't like... it's so much more fun when kids can be creative!). There were a few interesting ones in the first class (Fish Museum, Chocolate Museum, etc.) but my favorite by far was "Real Madrid Museum". (Real Madrid is Madrid's soccer team.)



    Wednesday 6/25/14
    My third grade classes went well again, I really like teaching this school year - none of the worries I had last year. My co-teacher told me that the schedule was changed that day for all other grades because June 25 is a memorial day for the Korean War. It began on June 25, 1950, which is why it's remembered today. I guess students did various activities about wanting peace/reunification with the north.

    In the afternoon the English room phone rang and my co-teacher answered. Then my two co-teachers talked briefly in Korean, and I heard my name said. What would it be this time, I wondered. Then one co-teacher said to me, "Let's go have watermelon." Um, okay! Watermelon is super expensive here so I never buy it myself, just eat it when it's served at lunch. We went upstairs to a teacher's room, where they'd sliced up a whole watermelon. Delicious! I had to leave about ten minutes in to go teach my new after school 1st/2nd class. I started with about ten or twelve, but by the time the 40 minutes was up there were only three students left in the room. I'm definitely going to keep bringing some paper craft for the kids to make/color each time.


    Thursday 6/26/14
    During my fourth grade classes they watched a short "We Are The World" clip near the end, which usually teaches some aspect of world culture. The narration is done in Korean, with a few English sentences during the story, so my ears perked up when I heard "I like Spain!" I was so shocked and unpleased with what followed that I wrote a post about it on Oh No She Madridn't, complete with screenshots for your viewing entertainment!

    A little girl brought us ice cream cones later in the afternoon. With my 2nd grade daycare class today I brought a few pages from magazine ads that I'd cut out of an English magazine that this apartment's previous occupant had left here. After doing an alphabet trace sheet, the kids had to identify and cut out letters, trying to do the whole alphabet. It kept them really occupied!

    Alphabet magazine collage for ESL elementary

    It was great! They were all on a scavenger hunt for letters, really scouring over the magazine pages for their next letter.


    Friday 6/27/14
    Fifth grade classes felt extra long today -- one of those days where you've just begun third period and think it's fourth period. It seems unreal when you finally notice that there's another whole class to teach once you finish your current class. My two daycare classes were alright in the afternoon, got two more drawings from those girls that drew pictures of me last week!
    • • •

    Thursday, June 26, 2014

    Thankful Thursday: 6/26/14

    [Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

    I am so very thankful for a new opportunity that has come my way. After years of writing and blogging for myself, plus years of editing for friends and the blogs I regularly read, I'll now be getting paid to write and edit! It's for a site that I was already using (and loving) as a French language learner, so I fully support the content and site's purpose. I'm writing about learning Spanish, while posts I'm editing span five languages (the posts are mostly in English, about learning each of those languages). 

    It's flexible: I can work when I have the time, even though the startup is based in New York. And come fall, once I'm back in the states, there is opportunity to expand my knowledge, role, and working time. The founder has been very kind, and it feels great to receive recognition of my writing/editing from an outside point. I only started editing for the site this week, so it's all still very new to me. I'm learning how to write catchy blog post titles and intros! 

    Huge strides have been made towards my third 2014 resolution these past two weeks, thanks to continual effort and hard work!  I'm excited and I'm grateful (and glad I hadn't yet quit my habit of browsing Craigslist pages from various cities around the world -- I saw the job post on Craigslist - Madrid!). 

    "It's not happy people who are thankful, it's thankful people who are happy."
    • • •

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014

    Korean elementary schools: English teaching life advice and info

    When I started teaching elementary English in Korea ten months ago through GEPIK, I really had no idea what to expect. I went in knowing close to nothing about the work environment, and feel that the knowledge I've gained since then would be helpful to others making the move to teach here.

    So in no particular order:

    Experience varies by school/co-teacher

    First, I'd like to point out that your teaching experience will depend on your school and co-teachers. I was constantly surprised at how different my experiences were compared to my friends' who were also teaching in Gyeonggi-do through GEPIK. During the fall, some were bored teaching only 20 classes a week, while I often felt overwhelmed, taking work home in the evenings because my 26 classes came out to 9 different lesson plans each week. My co-teacher wanted quality games and activities for each one; she didn't like using the book's CD-ROM.

    Some friends taught in a beautiful "English Zone", with so many materials and technology available (like a laminator and color printer!). I was in a plain classroom with chalkboard and a TV hooked up to the computer. We had glue sticks, scissors, crayons, and markers.

    I was warned before coming to Korea that I would have to sing in front of my coworkers at a school dinner. Pick a song and learn the lyrics, because when you go out to dinner everybody will get drunk and they'll make you sing.  Well, there never was a welcome dinner for me.  In March (my seventh month here), we had a welcome dinner for the new teachers this school year, and singing was not even mentioned. So basically, you'll just have to find out what your school/workload/co-teachers will be like once you get here.

    Frequent schedule changes

    Your weekly class schedule will change all the time. You'll prepare for a class, get everything set up, and then the bell will ring and no students will be there. Sometimes your co-teacher will tell you ahead of time, but usually you won't find out until the day-of (more likely at the time of the class). In my elementary school the kids had "special events" all of the time. School violence prevention, science day, special reading activities. Half the time my co-teachers didn't even know what the event was, just that the English schedule would change. Just know that this will happen, and realize that it's often last-minute notice for the Korean teachers as well. Nobody's out to get you! Besides, it usually means a cancelled class and more prep time!

    New school year means new teachers

    I knew that the Korean school year began in March and ended in February, but I had no idea that there were new teaching assignments each year. Korean teachers will only work in the same school for about 2-5 years. Due to the turnover each year, teaching assignments change. However, they aren't decided until mid-late February, giving teachers only a week or so to move their entire classroom and prepare for the next school year. 

    One of my co-teachers from the fall was assigned to teach music during the next school year, so my English co-teachers changed. This gave the new school year a completely different feel. It would have been nice to know ahead of time that this was a possible scenario. If you aren't a fan of your co-teachers when you begin in the fall, know that it could change come spring. Likewise, if you have the greatest co-teacher ever, appreciate him or her while you can because it could end come March.

    The schedule is also likely to change when the new school year starts. I had an after school 5/6 class that met for an hour and a half each time. There was no curriculum, so classes took me a long time to prepare. I decided to use my "deskwarming" time during spring break planning for the spring semester. And then the new school year started and I found out that program was run by a grant, and my school didn't receive the grant this year. No 5/6 after school class. Whoops, time not well-spent. But now you know, right?

    Cold in Winter

    As a Wisconsinite, I didn't pay any attention when my co-teachers told me it would be cold in the winter. Psh, I've lived through enough Wisconsin winters; this can't possibly top that. But the thing I didn't realize is that when I'm inside a public building during the winter in Wisconsin, it's heated. But inside Korean schools in the winter? Nope. There's not enough budget to turn on heat to a comfortable temperature.

    We started using small space heaters back by our offices in November. I'd never remembered my hands being so cold before! Cold to the touch, always, they were now. I wore leggings every day to school under my pants, left my winter coat on all day (as students and teachers will do), and wore arm warmers/glove types of things. And don't get me started on when teachers open the windows. Yes, it's really cold out, everyone is cold, yet for whatever reason teachers often open the windows during the winter for "fresh air" or something. Unnecessary, in my opinion, but open windows in the winter seemed to be a common phenomenon among my Korea teacher friends.

    Then one day we had an Open Class with parents, and all of a sudden heat was blasting out of vents in the ceiling. Oh my gosh, they have heat?! I was so surprised. And we're using it to look good when parents come?  A few days or a week later, we started being allowed to turn on that same heat for a few hours in the morning, and then it would be off for the rest of the day. It was controlled by the front office downstairs. So again, just know that this will likely happen! You'll survive, and you'll gain a greater appreciation for indoor heating as a result.

    No toilet paper in bathrooms

    This one might be unique to my particular rural school, as none of my other teacher friends in Korea have experienced this. However, in my school there isn't toilet paper in the bathrooms. They do have the single dispenser up on the wall outside of the stalls, but it's always empty - never filled. So I bring in toilet paper from home and leave it near my desk, ripping off sheets every time I walk down to the bathroom. It's just a small inconvenience that I've since adapted to, but different from all of my previous work environments.

    TVs in Korean classrooms

    All classrooms I've seen here have a TV that's hooked up to the classroom computer, and they're heavily used. The two most common uses in our English room were PowerPoint presentations and the textbook's CD-ROM.

    O = Yes, X = No

    During a third grade class on my first week in Korea, my co-teacher handed me a red marker and had me go around and check the students' writing activity they'd just completed. I wasn't sure what exactly she wanted me to look for or how picky to be with handwriting. I saw a spelling mistake on one, so naturally I circled the word. Rookie mistake.

    I quickly learned that in Korea, circles are good. O's are Korea's green light, their gold star. If you do a writing section correct, your teacher will draw a huge circle right over the question, the line often cutting words down the middle. And boy do those students crave circles.


    If something is wrong, the teacher might put a small check mark or X near the mistake for the student to fix. And I was so used to check marks being good things! 

    But I soon adjusted to Korea's X/O culture. For many book activities as well, students will be instructed to make an O with their hands if the statement is correct, or make an X if it's incorrect. X's and O's.

    New writing lines

    When I learned handwriting in elementary school, we usually had writing guides that looked like this:


    Two solid lines with a dotted line in the middle. So in the fall during a third grade class, my co-teacher had drawn the lines on the chalkboard and asked me to write the answer as we went through each word with the class. I began to write "pink" on the first line:


    Imagine my surprise when she stopped me and said "Oh, no," and immediately grabbed the eraser. "Write on this line," she said, while pointing to the dotted line. Huh?

    It felt so wrong, but I wrote:


    And that was my introduction to the writing lines that Koreans use with English. They use four lines instead of three, so that letters like "g" and "j" have a guide for how low to make them. Here's an English notebook from a student so you can get a feel for the four lines:



    Oftentimes that pink line is dotted, the four lines looking like this:



    Jessica Teacher

    The kids will call you "First name Teacher", for example: "Jessica Teacher" was my predecessor. It wasn't as surprising because when I taught in Spain, the students also call you by your first name, or they just shout "Teacher" (and they do the same in Spanish, "profe!"). But I had the students here in Korea call me by my last name, "Ms. ~".  If anything, it's a cultural lesson because you never address a U.S. teacher by their first name, nor "teacher".

    School Messenger

    Rather than email, your school will use a messenger system - back to the good 'ol days of AIM. From the contacts menu, you can see if teachers are at their computer or out of the office, which is helpful if I was going down the hall to talk to my co-teacher, or to the principal and vice principal's offices for attendance sheet signatures.  Expect to get many messages every day (sent to all teachers), accompanied by a loud sound to notify you of incoming messages.

    Some advice: Don't just ignore all of the messages just because they're in Korean. Take five seconds to copy and paste the message into Google Translate. The translation will never make a lot of sense, but you'll get the gist of the content of the message, which helps when your only source of information is your co-teacher. My first co-teacher was really good about telling me things, like schedule changes and school events, but not all co-teachers are made equal.

    ^^

    My first week, while messaging one of my co-teachers, she wrote back " ^^ " to me as a message. And later another. What did this mean? Was it just to notify me that she'd read my message?  What the heck is ^^?! Later I learned that ^^ is a happy face, like :), so it only means good things. Expect to see this and use it and love it.

    Use Google Drive

    The programs on your work computer will probably all be in Korean. Navigating around Word/PowerPoint is much more challenging when all of the pull-downs and buttons are in Korean, so I did all of my school work in Google Drive. If you don't already use Drive for your personal stuff, I recommend starting now, as it'll be very useful while teaching in Korea. You can access your lesson plans and presentations from any computer, so no need to carry around a flash drive. And it's easy to use, all in English!

    Also, a friend of mine lost everything when a teacher updated her computer or installed new software. Everything since day 1, erased. So if you use Google Drive, you'll never be in that terrible situation.

    Don't forget to make your documents A4-sized in Google Drive, then they'll fit correctly when you print, since Korea uses A4 paper. (File --> Page Setup --> Paper Size --> A4. Then click "Set as default" if you want each document to automatically be A4 size).

    Have you taught or are you teaching elementary English at a public school in Korea? What advice/info would you add to this list?
    • • •

    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    The Low FODMAP Diet

    This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a past blog of mine active from 2013-14.


    When I joined an IBS forum earlier in the year, I kept running into the letters "FODMAP" on various posts. What the heck is a FODMAP, I wondered. So I did some research online, and today I'm sharing my findings.

    Low FODMAP diet

    The "low FODMAP diet," as it's called, is specifically meant to reduce IBS symptoms. FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols; which are all different carbohydrates found in many foods. 

    Liquid and gas are created in the large and small intestines when foods high in FODMAPs are consumed. This temporary diet was created by researchers in Australia in 2005. It's recommended to adhere to the low FODMAP diet for 2-6 weeks, and then slowly re-introduce foods one at a time - preferably with the help of a dietician. 

    What to eat on a low FODMAP diet

    Since I prefer visuals, I've put together a chart of foods to eat and foods to avoid when you're following a low FODMAP diet.
     

    Low FODMAP diet is worth the effort

    Many people comment that the low FODMAP diet is too strict or difficult to adhere to. The important thing to remember is that it's only a temporary diet. It's not meant for weight loss, but rather to relieve IBS symptoms - and it's the only diet that's had repeated success with IBS patients. Putting in the effort to meal plan and stick to the diet for just six weeks is completely worth the effort if it were to resolve IBS problems, in my opinion. Just take it one day at a time.

    Now that it's on my radar, the low FODMAP diet is next on my list of diets to try in order to heal my own IBS-D. Unfortunately, it'll have to wait until I'm no longer in Korea (just two months left, though!). Without going into much detail, the cultural complexities surrounding eating what is offered to you does not give me much control over my daily lunches or snacks that are served at school. Since the social consequences of refusing food are so undesirable in the Korean culture, I'm okay with my decision to wait a few more months until I have total control over my diet.

    Have you tried the low FODMAP diet to treat IBS symptoms? Was it successful?
    • • •

    Friday, June 20, 2014

    The week in review: 6/16 - 6/20

    Monday 6/16/14
    Last week some of the fifth graders who clean the English room after lunch had been telling me about their sale that took place today. (Some grades did this last fall, sell food/items during passing time to raise money for a nursing home). One boy wanted me to buy from his "hot noodle" stand, so they wrote reminders for me to come. I went between third and fourth periods, the first break that I had enough time, but he had sold out! So I bought a pack of kpop post-its and earrings from another cleaning girl, for 10 cents each. The earrings look really nice!

    I was super exhausted after school, probably a combination of the heat and my six Monday classes, two of which are after school daycare. Takes a lot out of you.

    Tuesday 6/17/14
    Sixth grade classes went well; I was sleepy today. At the start of one class, my co-teacher took down the bulletin board in the back of the room. Later in the afternoon she had started putting up flags of various countries, and big printed pictures of touristy landmarks (Eiffel Tower, Mount Rushmore, etc.). She said it's because of my other co-teacher and mine's open class on Thursday - trying to make the room look better.

    That other co-teacher and I finally talked again about the open class (that we have in two days!), and this time there was a lesson plan to accompany it. So there was talking, but not much communicating, I felt. If I hadn't specifically asked about the schedule, I wouldn't have known that the open class will take place in the afternoon during sixth period, so I'll probably have to push back my daycare class or something. Even though I think it's a pretty big deal in terms of the Korean education system, the class feels like a normal one so far. Yes, there is a formal written lesson plan, but we still haven't discussed the details that are always left undiscussed for regular class. We'll have three other fourth grade classes that morning to test out the lesson plan on, which is why I'm not worried about my end.

    After school I was super tired again, and actually fell asleep from about 5:30 - 7:30. Made for a strange late evening, but I got my health post finished and published.

    Wednesday 6/18/14
    When I was about a minute from school on my walk there this morning I heard a huge roar of shouts, but couldn't see where it was coming from as I stopped to look around. Where were the people making this noise? And then it clicked, as the noise was reminiscent of nights in Madrid during soccer games. Korea's first World Cup game must be now. And sure enough, as I got into school, I saw the game on every TV in the classrooms I walked past on the way to the English room. Many of the men teachers from our floor were watching the game in the English room with my co-teacher. It ended just before 9:00 class began - good timing.

    My co-teacher had stayed late and finished that bulletin board yesterday - it looks so great!

    World Map bulletin board

    Our third grade classes went well, and then I finished my detailed lesson plans for summer camp! (Still have to make lots of PPTs/worksheets, but the hardest part is done). I brought itsy bitsy book worksheets to color for my new after school class, since there's no TV for songs. There were at least four more kids than last week, so I had to run and make extra copies after I passed them out. When I got back to the English room at the end of the day, my co-teacher told me that a lot more teachers are coming to watch the open class tomorrow, about ten, including some native English teachers. He was going to stay late and keep working on his PPT and a few other preparations for tomorrow. I'm just banking on the fact that we get to practice the class three times in the morning, so it should be fine. I just need to ignore looking at the back of the room when all those people are there tomorrow.

    Thursday 6/19/14
    Open class day! In the morning I found out by checking my email that I was accepted to start writing for that blogging gig I'd applied for on Sunday! So that helped to get my mind off of things, as I started writing a draft during my break periods. We only got to practice the class twice in the morning, because it turned out the third class was actually behind a period. After lunch, chairs were set out in the back of the clean classroom for our observers. I successfully avoided eye contact with the adults sitting in the room while teaching, and it felt fairly normal for me. Afterwards there was an hour-long meeting with the observers, but 97% of it was in Korean so I had no idea what was going on. Quite frustrating, actually, to put in so much effort into an open class and not get to hear any feedback. And then I had to get going to my second grade daycare class. I'm just relieved that it's over with! Last Open Class in Korea - check.

    Friday 6/20/14
    Today there was a fire drill during second period, so all of the classes lined up and "sat down" (aka squatted, as Koreans can magically do so well). I found out at the start of third and fourth periods that it was club day today, so that means after lunch I had four classes back-to-back: two fifth grade classes, a first grade daycare, and then second grade daycare. TGIF!
    • • •

    Thursday, June 19, 2014

    Thankful Thursday: 6/19/14

    [Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

    I have a few new students in my second grade after school daycare class. Two of them are third grade girls that like me, which really helps to balance out the energetic, angry second grade boys that can't sit still or behave well. Today two of the girls each gave me a note after class. 

    I unfolded each one, and to my surprise, I saw two drawings of myself:


    They really made my day! I especially like that I don't own a pink skirt, nor have I ever worn my hair in pigtails this year. I'm so thankful that these two girls have joined my class, and that they've taken a liking to me. They're so cute, sweet, and smart!


    "Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for."
    -Zig Ziglar
    • • •

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    Eating for IBS

    This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a past blog of mine active from 2013-14.


    I was browsing some posts on Reddit today in the IBS subreddit /r/ibs, and was not too pleased with what I saw. Many newcomers would say that they thought they had IBS, and then ask what should they do to help the symptoms. The most common response? Take such and such a drug. No! Don't turn to medicine first!

    Although I'm still working on healing my IBS-D, I know that digestive problems don't just appear out of thin air; there is a cause. That cause could be your diet, or perhaps you have a bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Maybe you were on antibiotics that killed the healthy bacteria in your gut, or you could have a gluten sensitivity. Whatever the reason, taking a pill will not stop the source of the IBS. You must be your own advocate and you need to find out what the root problem is.

    You may see some doctors along the way, and they could be helpful or not. So know that ultimately it's up to you to research and experiment to identify the cause of your IBS, and then make appropriate diet/lifestyle changes to become healthy again. Diet is usually to blame, especially in the USA where the terrible highly-processed Western diet still thrives. Diet is only a part of the picture though, as IBS takes into account your whole self - but in this post I'll focus on food.

    So what foods are common triggers of IBS? And what should you eat to make your gut healthy?  

    What to eat when you have IBS

    Everyone has unique triggers, but below is a list of some foods that are commonly hard to digest, as well as foods that usually aid digestion.

    Common IBS Triggers

    I'll start with some problematic foods that you should really avoid.

    Drinks

    • Coffee
    • Milk
    • Soda
    • Alcohol

    Foods

    • Dairy (milk, cheese, ice cream, butter)
    • Insoluble fiber
    • Raw vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Fried foods
    • Fatty meats
    • Processed foods (ingredient lists longer than 5 items)
    • Chocolate
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • Artificial sweeteners (fructose, sorbitol, malitol, mannitol)

    Foods to help IBS-D

    These foods are easier to digest, and can help to calm things down in your digestive tract.

    Drinks

    • Water
    • Decaffeinated tea (peppermint, especially)

    Foods

    • Bananas
    • Soluble fiber
    • White rice
    • Mashed potatoes (no butter/milk!)
    • Applesauce (organic, without additives)
    • Steamed chicken
    • Blueberries
    Here is another great list to refer to when you're eating for IBS, from Foods-Healing-Power.com: IBS Foods - Soothing Foods To Heal Your Colon.  

    How to eat when you have IBS

    Avoiding common trigger foods is one of the first changes to make, but how you eat can also make a difference when you have IBS. Here are two simple tips:

    Eat slowly

    Take your time and eat slowly. Chew more than you regularly do, and pay attention while you eat (Hint: Put down the phone and turn off the TV!). You could even count chews per swallow to stay focused on eating.

    Eat many smaller meals

    Rather than two main, larger meals each day, try to eat smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. This one really helps me out, so I make sure to have plenty of snacks on hand when I'm away from home. It's usually bad news when I eat on an empty stomach, so I don't let myself get to that point.  

    Find your food triggers

    The two food lists above are common food triggers for people with IBS, but you probably have your own set of special sensitivities. Here are two ways to help figure out what your food triggers are.

    Elimination Diet

    Start an elimination diet, of which you can find many samples online. You begin by eliminating all foods that could be wreaking havoc on your digestive system. Stricter elimination diets have you eating only the same few "safe" foods every day at the start. Then, you slowly reintroduce foods into your diet, one at a time every 2-3 days, watching for any reactions. This helps to isolate and pinpoint exactly which foods are causing you problems so you know what to avoid. Here are some elimination diets for IBS, found online:

    Food journal

    While on an elimination diet, or before you commit to starting one, it could be beneficial to keep a food diary. Write down what you eat every day, right when you're eating it, and also keep track of how you feel afterwards and your bowel movements.

    Since it's only helpful if you remember to write down the food you're consuming in the moment (memory often fails us), you could also try a photo food journal. If you use a smartphone, simply snap a photo of everything you eat for a few days.  

    Be your own advocate

    IBS is a frustrating digestive disorder. I've been suffering for over seven years! Since everyone's bodies and digestive systems are different, you must look out for yourself and put in the time and energy to investigate what causes your IBS to flare up.

    I decided to take control of my health at the start of 2014, and while my IBS is still problematic for me (and I have many more changes to make and research to do), the more I read, learn, share, and experiment, the more determined I am to heal myself. I want to be healthy! Eating right for IBS is the first step towards eliminating IBS struggles.

    What are your IBS trigger foods? How did you find out?
    • • •

    Monday, June 16, 2014

    "Work vacation"

    This past week I've had a burst of motivation to be productive, and since this certainly doesn't happen all the time, I wanted to keep it going into the weekend and take full advantage of the situation. So to avoid distractions at home, I went into Seoul on Saturday and brought my laptop along.

    I started at a Starbucks, one of the last places I'd normally go to, and stayed for about four hours. It was great!

    Then I grabbed dinner and dessert to go, and brought it back to the studio room I'd booked at My Home hostel in Sadang. Back to work!

    By the end of the day on Saturday (I somehow stayed up past midnight even though I woke up at 6:30 that morning. Must be the caffeine I normally don't consume.) I had accomplished the following:
    • Seoul/Hong Kong trip planning with sister for over an hour, just one hostel booked so far
    • I finished/wrote four posts here:
    • Started a draft for a Seoul hostels post
    • Published two posts on John and mine's health blog, finally "caught up"!
    • Stretched, then made and uploaded Day 56 video to Give it 100
      • (Spent over an hour troubleshooting a frustrating iMovie problem during that too! Ug!)
    • Ordered Hiking Wool from NZ for the Camino de Santiago
    • Listened to well-over two hours of Clash of Kings on audio while in transit today
    • Spent nearly two hours reading posts about what to pack for the Camino de Santiago
      • Ordered a Camino guide book online
      • Started my packing list
    Sunday was much less productive, with the pending "doom" of Monday looming in the air, and a tired me. After spending the morning working on an application via email, I checked out of the hostel just before noon. I went to another Starbucks to work, but didn't stay too long, as I wasn't nearly as focused as I was on Saturday.

    I headed home around 13:30, and was exhausted and felt a bit nauseous (per usual) from that darn bus ride when I got back to my apartment sometime after three. I napped a bit later that afternoon, something I rarely do here, but apparently my body needed some more sleep. By the end of the day on Sunday, this is what I recall having accomplished:
    • Found and applied for a blogging job at FluentU
    • Spent another hour on next month's Teach Abroad Blog Carnival post that I started writing last week. Not finished yet!
    • Researched for next week's health blog post, started a draft
    • Stretched, made and uploaded Day 57 video to Give it 100
    • Wrote two letters for friends
    I would definitely stay at My Home again, and actually might do so this coming weekend as well. It was so great on Saturday to choose what to work on, and be on my own schedule. During the week all of my energy gets sucked up by teaching and lesson planning, I don't usually have much left in me when I get home from work.

    This weekend "work vacation" success has provided more motivation to keep after my third resolution of not working a 9-5 when I go back to the states this fall. The day was much more fulfilling when I was working on projects I wanted to spend my time doing.
    • • •

    Sunday, June 15, 2014

    Bangkok: Day 11 - Chinatown

    [At the end of January I spent 10 days in Bangkok, Thailand. Here are the retellings of Day 1 - Getting There, Day 2 - Wander Walking and a Thai MassageDay 3 - Wat PhoDay 4 - Saranrom ParkDay 5 - Wat Arun and the Grand Palace, Day 6 - Chatuchak Weekend Market, and the memory card mishap. Day 7 - Thai Cooking Class, Day 8 - Siam Center and The Golden MountainDay 9 - Ayutthaya, and Day 10 - Khao San Road]

    On our final morning in Bangkok, Anne and I returned to our favorite breakfast joint, Quest.

    Bangkok-Quest-Connaisseur-Cafe

    Then we headed to Bangkok's Chinatown to check out the Chinese New Year celebrations.

    Chinatown-Bangkok-Chinese-New-Year-2014

    There were some kids in dragon costumes doing performances for donations on the streets. A few boys played drums and cymbals as background music while the dragons danced around, with a few kids holding up each head and tail. The heads of the dragons got to collect monetary donations from the audience.


    They were having so much fun! I have no idea what sort of group they were with, or what exactly the donations went towards, but it was great to watch the children enjoy dancing around, and see the joy on their faces when someone handed them a bill.

    There were lots of events going on and some news crews reporting, even though the biggest celebration would be later that night, when Anne and I would be flying back to Korea.

    Chinatown-Bangkok-Chinese-New-Year-2014

    Hot and hungry, we decided to go back to our hostel for one final meal on the food street, pad thai, before packing up and setting off for the airport.

    Bangkok-Pad-Thai

    It was such an excellent vacation exploring Bangkok. I stayed at the Siam Journey Guesthouse in Bangkok the entire ten nights, which I highly recommend. One of the owners, a young man around my age, was so friendly and kind - a really bright person.

    The location was perfect, close to the skytrain and really easy to get to from the airport (especially with the handy video they email you, showing exactly where to go). Yet it was in a non-touristy Thai neighborhood, which I really enjoyed. I felt quite safe in the neighborhood and very comfortable inside the hostel.

    Siam-Journey-Guesthouse-Bangkok
    • • •

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

    Bangkok: Day 10 - Khao San Road

    [At the end of January I spent 10 days in Bangkok, Thailand. Here are the retellings of Day 1 - Getting There, Day 2 - Wander Walking and a Thai MassageDay 3 - Wat PhoDay 4 - Saranrom ParkDay 5 - Wat Arun and the Grand Palace, Day 6 - Chatuchak Weekend Market, and the memory card mishap. Day 7 - Thai Cooking Class, Day 8 - Siam Center and The Golden Mountain, and Day 9 - Ayutthaya]

    We started our morning at "the breakfast place" near our hostel, the place we fell in love with right at the start (it's actually called Quest):

    Quest-Cafe-Bangkok

    Then it was back to port S6 to take the boat up the river and walk around Khao San Road. We did some shopping - I bought three shirts, one of which was the typical "Same same but different" shirts that are sold in Thailand.

    We took a break from Thai food and had lunch in an Israeli restaurant recommended in Anne's guidebook. I had falafel pita.


    And then we did something that brought about fifteen minutes of laughter and shrills: we let small fish nibble on the dead skin from our feet!


    Oh. My. Goodness. You guys, the feeling was so strange! Unlike anything I'd ever felt before!

    My heart was beating fast and my pits were sweating as I resisted every urge to shake the little guys off my feet. I don't do anything special to my feet and I've never had a pedicure, so the fish swarmed me - they loved my tasty feet!


    We paid 100 baht ($3 USD) for 15 minutes with the fish. After about seven minutes my face started to feel fuzzy because I was screaming/laughing/being terrified for so long continuously. Those were some 15 minutes, let me tell you. If you ever want to slow down time, just let some fish eat at the dead skin on your feet!

    While sitting there getting nibbled on, Anne and I decided it would be a great business to start. You just need a tank and some of those fish to start up, and then you make money just by having people sit there for short periods of time. No more supplies costs! Nice, eh?

    Afterwards I got some melon and sticky rice, a delicious Thai dessert, and ate it in the nearby park where I'd gone the first week.

    Mango-Sticky-Rice-Bangkok-Thailand

    Anne and I decided to take a tuk tuk back to our hostel, just to try it once. We probably way overpaid, but whatever. During the first five minutes, we were stopped for a long time at an intersection. But so was everyone else - traffic had stopped for some reason. We found out why a few minutes later when we saw the King being driven down the street surrounded by security cars and guards.

    Tuk-tuk-Bangkok-Thailand

    We got dinner on the food street near our hostel, and then slept our final night in Bangkok. Anne was ready to go back to Korea the next day, but I wrote in my journal that "I could stay here for years, I don't want to go back to the cold and darkness".
    • • •

    Friday, June 13, 2014

    The week in review: 6/9/14 - 6/13/14

    Monday, June 9
    I was surprisingly eased back into the full school week after having last Wednesday and Friday off when my co-teacher told me our first three periods wouldn't meet today. Wahoo! I worked on summer camps hardcore. Later I found out my Thursday/Friday co-teacher would be gone on a business trip tomorrow, but he normally teaches fourth grade English on Tuesdays (while I teach sixth grade English with the other co-teacher). So it was decided that we'll swap my Tuesday and Thursday classes, so tomorrow I've got fourth grade on my own (maybe the homeroom teachers will sit in) in the English class. This is good though, because our big Open Class next week is with fourth grade, so they can't get any farther behind!

    I was extra exhausted when I got home from school after brief trips to the post office and grocery store. It felt like a headache was on its way - must have been the heat. I was sure to do my stretching and post my Give it 100 video (Day 51!) before collapsing on the bed and being less productive later in the evening.

    Tuesday, June 10
    My co-teacher YJ told me this morning to make sure fourth grade homeroom teachers stayed in the room when I taught alone today. The classes all went fine, except for the fact that I had followed Thursday's class schedule, when the class order is actually different on Tuesdays. Since one class was ahead one period, this did make a difference. So essentially, without realizing it until it was too late, I taught the lesson's fourth period (with an extra worksheet my co-t had printed) to a class that hadn't done the third period yet. Later I started teaching third period to the class that was ahead - who had already had third period last week. This is when I realized my mistake. I didn't have any worksheets to give them, since I'd done them with the wrong class earlier in the day, so I improvised a bit and added a whiteboard writing activity on the spot.

    My afternoon was filled with much progress on my summer camp plans. I'm making lots of materials and getting excited about the detective handbooks my kids will make! Here's a preview:



    Wednesday, June 11
    Another nice surprise today, one of my third grade classes had some special activity and did not meet for English. At some point in the afternoon another teacher came in and talked with my co-teacher. When the woman left, my co-teacher told me that I'd be teaching the new 1st/2nd after school class today instead of my usual second grade. Okay, at least I could reuse first grade lesson plans, so I wasn't in a time crunch to pull a lesson out of thin air. Four minutes before class I walked down to their room. Eight students were sitting in the room, all spread out among the desks. The room is quite bare, not even a clock on the wall, and as I continue to look around I notice to my horror that there is no TV. Let me say that again: There is no TV! I rely heavily on youtube songs (Dream English) to sing and play games with the kids, and had planned the entire lesson around the songs. Oh my.

    So it was a very scrappy class. Halfway through I noticed that there were speakers hooked up to the computer, so maybe I could at least play the audio of a youtube song and do some of the activities I had planned. But the Internet Explorer (blah, Korea!) wouldn't let youtube work, and everything was in Korean! The Korean teacher came back in and tried to get it up, but ultimately it didn't work. Also, she was up at the computer working most of the time anyway, so I'll have to figure out something else for all future classes.

    I'll only have this class once a week, which means I'll teach them just six more times before summer vacation starts (but who's counting... heh). It'll be okay, but not having a TV is a huge inconvenience because I can't just reuse old lessons (and it's harder to keep attention when it's just you).

    Thursday, June 12
    It was nice to have the sixth graders with YJ today (normally I teach fourth grade on Thursdays). They're the only grade that I see twice a week, so I know the students much better and they're hard workers. A pleasure to teach. At lunch YJ asked how my daycare class went yesterday. I told her about there not being a TV, and how I was caught off guard. She said she'll ask the after school coordinators if we could have class in a different room (with a TV). Crossing my fingers... We had English Club in the afternoon after about a month without meeting. It was nice to talk with other adults about something other than lesson plans, even if the conversation was very basic.

    I bought my plane ticket to Hong Kong today, where I'll go with my sister and grandma in August during summer break!

    Friday, June 13
    A schedule change and special event left me with only two fifth grade classes to teach in the morning, followed by my two regular daycare classes in the afternoon. I was still drained by the end of the day, so I took it easy tonight and didn't do any work after posting my Give it 100 video.
    • • •

    Thursday, June 12, 2014

    Thankful Thursday: 6/12/14 - An ode to my parents

    [Thankful Thursday is a weekly segment that began 1/10/13 - read why here.  I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude!]

    To celebrate Father's Day this weekend and my mother's recent birthday, today I'll share a selection of thoughts about why I'm so thankful for my parents. 

    My parents have both instilled in me a desire to help others, which I learned from watching their acts of generosity as I grew up. They are always willing to help others - whether it be snow blowing the neighbor's sidewalk, staying behind to stack chairs after a concert, or putting so much energy and care into nurturing and teaching a class full of energetic second graders day after day, year after year (okay, that last one is my mom!). This selflessness is a major reason why I take the time to blog about what I'm up to wherever I live, hoping my tips and advice will help someone else down the line.

    My parents have also taught me to be frugal, which I like. I remember the first time that my dad took us kids to a Goodwill when some of us had outgrown our clothes - I can still picture bits of that trip in my mind. My feelings at the time are hazy now though, so I'm not sure if I was pleased or wished I were at a store with new clothes instead. But today I love shopping secondhand, and would proudly take something from the side of the road if it fit a need. Material goods are low on my scale of importance; it's experiences, relationships, and knowledge that I value.

    Another trait I possess courtesy of my parents is internal motivation. Us four kids were always expected to do well in school, which must have something to do with it. My parents' expectations, being the child of a teacher, plus my older siblings' school habits combined to create a desire to do my best. That drive is why I now speak another language, am a UW-Madison graduate, have spent three years as an expat, and write so many blog posts in my free time.

    I can also thank my mother and father for my musical knowledge. I took piano lessons from second grade through eighth grade (which my parents clearly paid for). As many times as I may have wanted to quit during those years, they made me stick it out. Cello was added to the mix from fourth through ninth grade, including four years in Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra, and finally some voice lessons and singing in various choirs. Money was never plentiful when we were young, but my parents made it a priority to fund music lessons, instruments, music books, and WYSO for my siblings and I. They gave up their time to drive us to and from lessons and rehearsals, and have attended so many concerts over the years (the ones after which we'd stay back and help stack chairs!).

    Not only did I benefit from the musical knowledge, which made my mind more fit to understand math and foreign languages, but I also learned how to commit to something longterm. You don't see results immediately when learning a musical instrument, and daily practice for 7+ years is an irreplaceable life experience - especially when you're young. The ability to put in continual effort for delayed results (if any results) has helped me over and over in life (again: learning a language, doing well in college, blogging, etc). From music lessons (thanks to my parents), I have learned persistence and patience, and I know when musicians are out of tune! ; )

    There really is so much more - I haven't even mentioned how they let me be independent and move across the globe at age 20, and two more times since then - but that's where I'll leave it today. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being amazing parents and raising me (and the siblings) so well! I love you!

    With my parents on graduation day, May 2011
    • • •

    Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    Health Checkpoint: Rebecca, June 2014

    This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a past blog of mine active from 2013-14.


    I resolved to focus on my digestive health this year, and this blog was created to help me make improvements. We're just over the halfway through 2014, so it's as good a time as any for a health checkpoint to see where I'm at, using the "good health" categories I wrote about in March.

    1. Food

    • I've stopped buying convenience store snacks/chocolate as well as bread, and I no longer go to the pizza place in town.
    • I now eat a banana every morning, and another when I get home from work in the afternoon.
    • Since reading about the Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet, I consciously try to finish all of my vegetable side dishes at lunch at school, while not being concerned about finishing the meat sides.
    • Learning about prebiotics last month prompted me to start eating sweet potatoes, skin and all, hoping to introduce some new strains of bacteria into my gut.
    • I stopped using a microwave.
    I could still eat less chocolate, though I give into my cravings much less than at the start of the year. I have hopes of eating even healthier once I'm back in a country where I can read the ingredient lists on packages, shop at Whole Foods/Trader Joe's, and have a boyfriend with a juicer.

    2. Water

    • I have a water bottle at school that I try to finish and re-fill every day at work.
    • I started boiling tap water to refill my water supply, so that the inconvenience of buying and carrying home 2 liter bottles of water at the grocery store won't prevent me from drinking water at home.
    The summer heat has me drinking more water lately, though I could/should still drink more.

    3. Sleep

    • Sleep has always been a priority for me; my body is wired for 8+ hours every night and I make sure to get it.
    To improve sleep even more, I could try adapting a "no technology a half-hour before bed" type of rule.

    4. Exercise

    I only ran three times this spring, and now it always feels too hot to run (also it simply hasn't been a priority during my free time). In recent years I've played on an ultimate frisbee team and had either practices or games 2+ times a week, so I'm not getting nearly as much exercise as I'd like. I'm glad I've started stretching though, as that movement is better than nothing. I should take advantage of any future cool days we may have and go for a run in my town, do a short workout at home, or some dancing!

    5. Mental Health

    • I've been writing a Thankful Thursday post on my personal blog nearly every week, which helps me focus on gratitude.
    • I write letters to my friends and family, which often gets me thinking about how much I appreciate them.
    • I walk to school every day, taking a street with walls of green on both sides instead of the main street on a busy road. I love walking through the plants and soaking it in every morning and afternoon.
    Even though my closest friends are continents away and I spend almost all of my time alone when I'm not at work, my mind has been great this year! I did have a low slump in February, but since then I've been using the alone time to read, stretch, learn about food, write, send snail mail, blog, etc. I'm taking advantage of the time to better myself, rather than feel lonely or sorry for myself. Glad that as people, we can choose how to respond to our situations!

    6. Supplements

    I just have two boxes of probiotic packs that I'll gradually finish up before I move from Korea come September.

    7. Digestion

    Finally, I'll talk a bit about where I'm at with my IBS-D, the main focus of my health year. Unfortunately I haven't seen any change or improvement (for nearly the past three years!), even though my diet has changed since living in Korea. I would like to have a stool sample analyzed to figure out what strains of bacteria are and aren't in my gut, and how many of each. I'd also like to see if I have any fungus overgrowth, like John's Candida overgrowth. I'm looking into having this done in Korea, but the language barrier and other hurdles of navigating a medical system in a foreign culture might force me to wait until I'm stateside in the fall.
    • • •

    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Oatmeal banana toaster oven cookies

    Inspired by Lee Hersh's vegan peanut butter breakfast cookies (@ Fit Foodie Finds) earlier in May, I made come cookie creations one night while John was here last week, and again yesterday.

    My ingredients and supplies are limited here in Korea, so I modified the recipe quite a bit, but the result was still tasty.  These are the ingredients I had, and therefore used, to make some cookies (or "oatmeal blobs", as John liked to call them):
    • Bananas
    • Instant oats
    • Peanut butter
    • Almond butter
    • 1/2 dark chocolate bar (chopped)
    The first time I used two bananas and ended up with six cookies. Yesterday I used three ripe bananas and made 11 cookies. I didn't measure anything, just kept pouring in more oats and then added just a scoop each of peanut and almond butter. 

    The other week I added a touch of honey and sprinkle of brown sugar, but couldn't taste a difference when I didn't add them yesterday. I also cut up some pieces of chocolate to have a few chocolate chips in there.


    I only have a toaster oven in my kitchen, so I baked six cookies first, and then the last five. I'm not sure if there will be any left come Monday...


    Nom nom nom.

    Oatmeal banana toaster oven cookies

    Have you baked cookies in a toaster oven before? How about making cookies without your usual baking ingredients?
    • • •

    The week in review: 6/2/14 - 6/6/14

    Monday 6/2/14
    Happy birthday T.J.! (Today is my brother's 27th birthday.) Sixth grade classes went well today. My co-teacher told me that my landlady had called her this weekend. She'd wanted to get into my apartment to hook up the new internet, so maybe that will happen after school today.

    After lunch my co-teachers started emptying those new cupboards from the art room that had to be put here last week, so we'd filled them with stuff. Some of it went on the shelf behind my desk (that we'd emptied into the art cupboards last week), and the rest went on the shelves in the classroom that we had also emptied last week. I just don't understand. A highlight today was getting my May timesheet completely signed off in one afternoon by my co-teacher, head teacher, Vice Principal, and Principal, which is always a huge inconvenience. A triumph!

    John went into Seoul while I was at work and walked around the Dongdaemun shopping district. We got Korean barbecue dinner at a place near my home that I'd never been to before, and it was a success!


    The owners/waiters were so kind and helpful, doing lots of gestures to make sure we didn't eat the super hot green peppers, and that we did eat the melon she'd brought us. John enjoyed grilling the meat ourselves right there at our table, which is how Korean barbecue is done.


    Tuesday 6/3/14
    Today the VP and Principal came in during one of our classes again and walked around back where the "office" part of the classroom now is. They were only there for a minute or two, talking with my co-teacher while I was with the class, and then they left. That afternoon two men came and took out those two big cabinets that had been moved in last week from the art room. Lots of wasted time, I don't understand. My co-teacher and I discussed our Open Class some more in the afternoon. I think we're trying to squeeze way too much into the 40 minutes, but maybe we'll be able to test it out on the other three classes first that day.

    John went into Bundang today, and then came and met me at school at the end of the day to take a quick peek around there. We spent the evening playing a competitive game of Spit (the card game), during which an internet service guy came to my apartment to change my internet. Later my Korean friend picked us up for dinner: shabu shabu round three! John wanted to have the shabu shabu from my town again, since it's so delicious, so we suggested it and went there.



    Wednesday 6/4/14
    Today is Election Day here in the province, so I didn't have school. John and I spent the day at Everland (Korean attraction park), which I wrote about more in depth in this separate post (with photos of cute foxes!)

    After packing up some, we went out and brought back a late dinner of ddeokbokki and a spicy beef soup with rice. John's last night in my apartment.


    Thursday 6/5/14
    What a strange start to my day. My co-teacher had to unlock the English room for me because my other co-t YH wasn't here yet, and I don't have a key. The classroom computer was doing these automatic updates when I turned it on ten minutes before class, so I couldn't use it. My co-teacher YH was nowhere in sight when the bell rang. I started class without him, thinking he'd be a few minutes late. The computer was out of commission the whole class period, so I had to improvise while trying to keep these younger kids focused on my own.

    It was very weird that he hadn't messaged or that no one had told me anything, as a co-teacher has never been absent before. I texted him "Are you coming late today?" during the break, and he responded a brief "No, not coming today. On Monday." Hmm, okay. The bell rang for second period to start, but I didn't have any kids in the room. Maybe something happened and the next classes wouldn't come because he wasn't here. Then my other co-teacher came in and said YH had to take his wife to the doctor, so he wouldn't be here today. She apologized that I didn't know ahead of time. She also told me the kids had something special for Earth Day during second and third periods, so I wouldn't have a class again until fourth period. Fourth period is our best class (they'll be our Open Class in two weeks), so I wasn't worried at all.

    I prepared for fourth period, the bell rang, and no students were there. I waited a few more minutes before messaging that class's homeroom teacher (because I knew he speaks English). He messaged back that since my co-teacher was gone today, he was confused and thought we didn't have class. After a few more messages he told me just to rest this period, which was already 15 minutes over by now. My other co-teacher came in, inquired about where my fourth period class was, and then told me some sad news about my other co-teacher, which explained his absence today.

    While I was at work John went into Seoul with my big suitcase, packed with my winter things, and checked into our hostel. We'd decided it would be best to go into Seoul at separate times, since John had a few last errands to do in Seoul, and there just isn't space on the bus for those big suitcases. I realized after lunch that I'd be finished teaching my daycare class by 3:15, so I requested to leave an hour early, at 3:30. And that meant signatures. Man, why hadn't I realized this on Monday -- I could have gotten all of the signatures the same time that I got May signed off! Long story short I got the required signatures on time and left school at 3:30, but it wasn't easy. Stopped home to get my backpack and John's carry on luggage. Caught a bus into Seoul, only had to stand in the aisle with the luggage for 45 minutes, then was able to sit the rest of the way. John and I met up back at the hostel and had a delicious last dinner together, cooked at our table in typical Korean fashion:


    Dinner was followed by delicious Voila ice cream across the street (same stuff we had last weekend after shabu shabu, made fresh in front of you when you order):


    Friday 6/6/14
    We were up at 7am for John to get to the airport on time for his 11:40 flight. I went along to the airport railway, and then headed back to the hostel for a little more sleep as John made his way to the airport. At noon I met up with Abby and Anne in Hongdae and checked into a different hostel for the night. We then spent the afternoon waiting in line to get LG Twins baseball tickets, which started at 17:00. It's been a long time since I've been to a baseball game, so I didn't have much to compare it to, but I guess the outfield was much shorter than the Brewer's stadium. (We got outfield tickets for ~$8 each, all other seats were sold out).


    Oh, I should mention that today was Veteran's Day, a national holiday, which is why I didn't have school. (This is the last day off before summer break in August.)

    We walked around Hongdae for a bit after the game (22:00?), but I was wiped and there was no second wind in me, so off to bed I soon went.
    • • •