Vietnam Vaca = Favorite Photos of Korea

Note: To get more updates or read more about adoption or life in South Korea follow Breaking Lo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BreakingLo. Thank you for your support!

Well, my loyal readers...If you are reading this I am currently on my much anticipated two week journey through Vietnam with my hubby. I didn't want to leave you high and dry while I was away so I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos I've taken since moving to Korea. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea. This was a rare occasion where the beach wasn't packed on this glorious day on one of the most popular beaches in Korea. I snapped away at this little girl playing in the sand.

Haeundae Beach, Busan, South Korea. This was a rare occasion where the beach wasn't packed on this glorious day on one of the most popular beaches in Korea. I snapped away at this little girl playing in the sand.

Bogyeongsa Temple, Pohang. I wrote an article about Swastikas in Korea which you can read by clicking HERE.

Bogyeongsa Temple, Pohang. I wrote an article about Swastikas in Korea which you can read by clicking HERE.

I mean...what's not to love about this adorable picture?

I mean...what's not to love about this adorable picture?

Because you can never have too many Buddhas!

Because you can never have too many Buddhas!

After a long, wet, gorgeous hike!

After a long, wet, gorgeous hike!

Soccer fans on the field waiting for their favorite Korean player.

Soccer fans on the field waiting for their favorite Korean player.

Seoul, Seoul wonderful Seoul!

Seoul, Seoul wonderful Seoul!

We were put up in a hotel the first night in Pohang and this is the view we woke up to. Perfect!

We were put up in a hotel the first night in Pohang and this is the view we woke up to. Perfect!

Fishing boat. I love the contrast of the old fishing boat to the modern building behind it.

Fishing boat. I love the contrast of the old fishing boat to the modern building behind it.

His big sister dressed him like this and he loved it!

His big sister dressed him like this and he loved it!

Pohang is known for it's huge steel mill and has beautiful steel art all around this city. This is one representing the fishermen.

Pohang is known for it's huge steel mill and has beautiful steel art all around this city. This is one representing the fishermen.

Might be my number 1! The perfect picture to describe me and my hubby...We took the road less traveled. Click HERE to read the 11 Reasons I Love The ROK...

Might be my number 1! The perfect picture to describe me and my hubby...We took the road less traveled.

Click HERE to read the 11 Reasons I Love The ROK...

Note: To get more updates or read more about adoption or life in South Korea follow Breaking Lo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BreakingLo. Thank you for your support!

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Abandoned Babies May Soon Have Nowhere To Go In Korea...Again

Note: To get more updates or read more about adoption or life in South Korea follow Breaking Lo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BreakingLo. Thank you for your support!

 An orphan born in South Korea.

 An orphan born in South Korea.

 

Frigid and cold doesn't quite embody this night. It is, after all, December, just one year ago. Christmas time…the music, the lights, Santa Claus. So much holiday cheer around Pohang, South Korea. But in the still of the night a child was born. This usually joyful occasion is not on this night as the baby was born to a young, unwed mother. An unwed mother that could not face the miserable life that would unfold if she kept her sweet infant boy. She hid her pregnancy from everyone, even though she lived under the same roof as her mother and father. Maybe she didn't really hide it but rather it was a problem that was ignored in the hopes of it going away. 

 And go away it did. Desperate and out of options, for being a single mother in this Confucian land means a life of exile and hardship, even in 2012. This mother wrapped her child in the warmest blanket she could find and sprinted down the street in search of a sanctuary for her little one. Not finding one she left her son in the wee hours of the morning in a darkened alley, the street so cold droplets of water froze on contact, and fled, praying for her son to survive the night.

 Soon after his mother left a passerby heard his cries and called the police. Knowing that looking for his mother would be fruitless, they sent him to an orphanage a few kilometers from the alley where he was found. He still lives there where he will likely stay until the age of 20 when he will, in all probability, join the Korean military for at least two years of service. 

This baby is not just a statistic to me. I see him each time I volunteer at the orphanage, teaching English to his “brothers” and “sisters.” He is too young to partake in the activities but runs around the room, playing hide and seek with my husband and me, shrieking with delight each time we catch him. When he falls and gets a boo-boo he cries for his “Umah!” a lovely woman that devotes her life to orphans.

 This story happens all around this country, a proud and conservative nation that masks this dark side of its underbelly. Single mothers are virtually non-existent here although unplanned pregnancies happen often. Abortion is illegal despite still being performed regularly, and sending a daughter away in shame to give birth and put her child up for adoption is neither rare nor socially unacceptable.

 But through this pain and suffering a box was born. A Baby Box to be precise. A place where mothers could drop off their newborns anonymously, knowing the children would be safe and looked after for the foreseeable future. There is but one of these precious wooden boxes in the entire country, in Seoul, the most forward thinking of the Korean communities. When the box was opened at Jusarang Church eighteen newborns were left in the first twenty days. In 2012 alone, 235 babies were dropped off by their ill-equipped parents in the hopes of a better life. That’s almost five babies a week.

 A newborn discovered in the Baby Box.

 A newborn discovered in the Baby Box.

 

 A woman and her two children walk down the street that houses the Baby Box.

 A woman and her two children walk down the street that houses the Baby Box.

The mother that left her baby in an alley here in Pohang, didn’t have a place like the Baby Box to drop her son.  And would quite possibly have used it had it been available and accessible to her. However, over the last few years the government, due to public pressure, has been trying to shut down this humanitarian endeavor. The government believes the box encourages parents to have sex out of wedlock and then abandon their babies, a logic that makes about as much sense as teaching abstinence only sex education. They believe closing the box will inspire the sad and hopeless mothers to raise their children where they will most likely live in poverty after being disowned by their families. In addition, the government offers very little support to unwed mothers, a paltry 70,000 won (about $68) a month in support.

 But, instead of simple forcing the Baby Box to be shut down the government is, instead, passive aggressively leaving the church no other option BUT to close the box. Here is a letter, which was posted on the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea blog from Ms. Young Ran Jeong from the Jusarang Community Church, which houses the Baby Box:

 This morning we received a call from the person in charge of the Baby Box at the Kwanak-Ku office.  I was told that the city of Seoul and the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Welfare Center (서울시아동복지센터) and the Seoul City Children’s Hospital (서울시립어린이병원) had a discussion and they have decided they will no longer accept the babies abandoned through the Baby Box.

They have concluded that other than in emergency situations, they cannot accept additional babies as there is no spaces available in the institutions in the Seoul areas.  They told the Jusarang Church (where the Baby Box is) that it would be up to them to take care of the abandoned babies from now on.  The city was scheduled to come on Thursday to pick up the children, but they will not do that now.  They also stated that the best solution is for them to move to another area region other than Seoul.  The other regions have enough rooms to accommodate the children, so it would be good for the Baby Box to move there. 

I asked whether it would be possible for the city of Seoul to contact the regional areas and arrange to have the children be transported to those regions.  But their excuse was that this would not be possible without changing the administrative related laws.

I also asked the city employee to help the Jusarang to host a children’s center, but was told that if the condition was ideal for Jusarang this would be no problem (stipulation that Jusarang does not qualify under the current facility regulation as they are not legally approved to take care of children as the facility is too small).    

They were clearly aware of our limitations, and I could not believe the city was telling me these things. The room at our facility for the newborn babies barely can hold seven babies…and what are we suppose to do for all the children that continue to come to our care…and we can’t even help with the birth registration matters.

I think the bottom line message from Seoul is that they want us to close the Baby Box.  Because there have been lots of pressures in the past to close the Baby Box, now the government is using this devious scheme to shut us down.   Why can’t they understand that closing the Baby Box is not the solution?

Outside the weather is very cold, and how can they think in this way when just a few days ago there was another news article where a baby was discovered abandoned somewhere and the baby was in a critical condition!!!!

We are at a loss as to what to do as they didn’t even give us how much time we have, but they just dropped the news on us.   We can only pray.

I ask for your prayers that this sticky situation will be resolved soon.

 Here is the link to the original blog post: http://mpakusa.blogspot.kr/2013/11/a-tragic-decision-by-city-of-seoul-on.html

 The central government of Korea also does virtually nothing financially or otherwise to care for the orphans and instead leaves it to private nurseries to bear the burden of raising the children unlucky enough to be passed up for adoption. Premarital sex is greatly ignored as is sex education. This is a country raised by Confucius and going outside the norm to address issues such as unwanted pregnancies or single mothers is an extremely touchy subject.

 Two other baby boys were born. They were left in the care of others for the first months of their lives. They weren’t abandoned on the side of the road but were born in a place where unwed mothers could go to find support during their pregnancies and given the peace to make the best decision for their unborn children. There is very little anyone knows about either one of their biological mother’s and father’s other than they chose to give their sons the best life possible. The boys were able to make it through the first months of their lives by the kindness and care of others and because their mothers had a place to leave them besides an alleyway or a dumpster. These boys turned out to be two of the most important people in my life. Two boys who grew up to be men the world can be proud of. The two boys are my brothers. Save the Baby Box. Save Babies.  

 Me and my brothers, Sam and Alex this year at my wedding.

 Me and my brothers, Sam and Alex this year at my wedding.

My brother Alex as a baby.

My brother Alex as a baby.

My brother Sam as a baby.

My brother Sam as a baby.

Note: To get more updates or read more about adoption or life in South Korea follow Breaking Lo on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BreakingLo. Thank you for your support!

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To apply to adopt a child from Korea or find out more information here are two adoptions agencies in the U.S. to help you:

1. Dillon Southwest - http://www.dillonsouthwest.org/ - 3014 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, United States +1 480-945-2221.  I can personal vouch for this agency as this is who my parents went through when adopting my brothers. The owner, Marsha, is one of the most amazing people you'll meet.

2. Holt International - http://www.holtinternational.org/korea/

 

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Inspiration of the Week: Last Sunrise of the Year

Earlier this week my hubby went on an overnight trip for work. It wasn't a typical business trip but was instead, a leisure business trip. The teachers and administration officials visited two temples and ended up at a Korean bathhouse, an interesting story for another day, where they slept for the night. I was left to fend for myself in this foreign country (Wow! I'm so dramatic.) and the next morning I woke up to pictures of the last sunrise of 2013 on my phone. My romantic husband got up early to watch the new day emerge and wanted to include me. And now I want to include you. Here are some shots of the sun rising over Oncheon, South Korea.

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Share your pics of the new year with me! Send them in to HOELL711@gmail.com and I will post your pics on the blog!

5 Major Life Lessons of 2013

As this year comes to a close I am reflecting on the past twelve months or as I like to call it “The Year of Upheaval.” As I look back on this magnificent year I get a bit teary when I think of the stark contrast between my life last year and how it looks today. Like a grain of rice sprouting in my new land I, too, have blossomed into a different woman. I don’t want to tire you out with everything I’ve learned so here are the top five:

1. Don’t listen to the naysayers about marriage. Growing up I hated the references to marriage. Statements such as calling the wife the “old ball and chain” or the jokes about a woman “being barefoot and pregnant.” These not so subtle innuendos left a scaring and permanent mark on my psyche and I was terrified of getting married. Not because I questioned the relationship with my soon-to-be husband but because deep down I had this irrational fear that the moment the “I do’s” were spoken my loving and supportive boyfriend would suddenly turn into this sullen, distant, wife-beater shirt wearing husband that walked around complaining to all his friends about his wife and I would turn into a slave to my uterus and kitchen…a maid who apparently can’t afford shoes. (Seriously, where does the “barefoot” part of the reference come from?) And notice I said “irrational” fear. Anyone who knows Rich and me understands the hilarity of the comparison but to me the fears were terrifyingly real leading up to the big day.

But, still, I thought, this is the man I love and want to spend my life with. The only man with which I have ever seriously entertained the IDEA of marriage and children. He is the man who made me believe in fate and eternal love. So I “took the plunge,” another unfortunate marriage plug. And I found that, not only did none of those fears come to fruition but the only thing that changed was I had a deeper love and respect for Rich and our relationship. I don’t expect every day for the rest of our lives to be a walk in the park but what I have discovered is that the days when I am frustrated with him or annoyed at every little thing I don’t question our commitment or desire to be together.  I know he is the person that makes me laugh harder than anyone else, takes care of me when I am sick and ugly and sings karaoke with me for four hours straight just to make me happy even though his voice sounds more like a basset hound howl than Bruno Mars.

2. Don’t listen to the sales pitch on weddings. Wedding magazines, television shows and bridal expos are a disgusting ploy to capitalize on a sacred and special day in two people’s lives. I don’t fault anyone for wanting a large and expensive wedding if they have the means and opportunity but it is easy to get caught up in the day that is being planned rather than the life being created, a point many people have referenced in these shallow, Kardashian-filled days. Maybe this is why the statements from above exist in the first place and the divorce rate is holding steady at fifty percent. By these wedding companies putting it out in the world that a wedding must have an ice swan with chocolate fondue seeping out of its orifices in order for my special day to be complete is cheapening marriages and setting an example so skewed weddings have now become just a day to throw the most elaborate party of people’s lives.

I felt the pressure to live up to this societal expectation until one day I took a look at myself and said, “This isn’t me.” I don’t need every person I’ve ever met at my wedding. I don’t need a fancy hotel or ice sculptures or bankruptcy. I wanted my closest friends and family surrounding me on the day I married Rich and that’s it. So we found a small bed and breakfast in Orange, CA, invited fifty of the most special people in our lives and planned a day that was us…a mosh pile of cultures, tears and laughter.

3. Living in a new country still means dealing with the tedious parts of life. I have a problem. I hate being bored. I just can’t stand it. I’m pretty good at entertaining myself and am quite the homebody but I want everyday to be unstructured and exciting. I crave variety and prefer to live on my own timetable. So when I moved to Korea I was hoping it would provide the adventure I so desperately wanted. And it does to a certain extent but it still means living with all the boring stuff in between. I still have to get up in the morning and go to work at a specific time and follow ridiculous rules and pretend to be interested in things I’m not, etc…
    
Through this transition I am slowly learning to accept that, although life can’t and won’t be lived like a Michael Bay movie, learning to love the mundane is more than half the battle at a happy life. It is something I still struggle with on a regular basis but slowly I am teaching myself that I can find excitement in the monotony.

4. A degree is an important piece of paper but it still is just a piece of paper. Twelve years after graduating high school I earned my college degree. I flip-flopped for many years about the importance of the degree, whether getting it was just another way to conform to a society that would rather strap graduates with exuberant amount of debt after college than figure out a way for education to be more, well, educational. I have always found the journey to a college degree to be more about the Benjamins for greedy universities than a way to cultivate the minds of the future. But this was one battle I wasn’t going to win. So I bit the bullet and got an “education.”
    
I busted my butt for that piece of paper and I give credence that having it opens many more doors that were closed before; I wouldn’t be in South Korea right now if it wasn’t for my degree. But I am drowning in a sea of student loans and can’t help but laugh at the contradiction of it all. We are told, “Go to college to get a better job and earn more money.” But the extra money that is being made is going to pay off the loans we were forced to take out because of the high cost of getting that important degree. However, despite all of this I am proud of that piece of paper and to top it off I got to graduate with one of my best friends and my husband who finished his master’s degree! And it is true...the one thing no one can take from you is an education.

5. A different perspective gives the opportunity to grow.  As one can imagine, everything in Korea is different than what I am accustomed. From grocery shopping, to public transportation, to holiday traditions to cultural values, the changes in my life have opened me up even more than I ever thought possible. The simplest things in life have now become difficult. In my relationship I am usually the one to organize what we are doing and where to go and how to get there but since moving to Korea I have had to let that part of myself go and let Rich take the reigns in most matters since, let’s face it, I don’t have the upper hand here. I can’t speak Korean and wasn’t raised with the culture. This turn of events has given me the opportunity to release control and learn to go with the flow more. It also allows Rich to teach me about Korean culture while also learning to have a greater appreciation of the country his parents grew up in.

This year was probably the single most important one of my life thus far in terms of change and self-reflection. I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and learning to let go and listen to life has had an impact that was unexpected but welcome. I just wonder what’s in store in:

I'd love to hear your lessons or goals from 2013. Leave them in the comments below. I want to hear from my readers!

If you want to read more lessons, goals or aspirations from the past year you can visit The Nectar Collective:

The Nectar Collective
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Early Christmas Present - Self-Actualization

It took moving 6,000 miles away from home to find my domestic side... or any side actually, but for this post I'll stick with the domestic. It's one of the strangest discoveries that I didn't think existed, just like Santa Claus. Instead I found out it was simply dormant for the past thirty years, awakened only when the distractions of living in Los Angeles and America in general were taken away. It is an interesting thing...when I removed the ability to understand the language around me, magazines that subconsciously let me know I'm not living up to the world's expectations and reality television I find myself beginning to flourish into the person I have always craved. 

So on Friday night, as I was dancing away to Christmas music, baking cookie batch after cookie batch and trying my hand at homemade eggnog the world suddenly stopped. I hopped out of my beat-boxing body and observed the person before me. Who was this woman?  The normally angst ridden, self-loathing, relentless critic of myself was now the carefree, happy, excited about life woman moon-walking to Michael Buble's version of Santa Baby. Yippy! And what do you do when you discover happiness within yourself? You throw a Kristmas in Korea party for your few closest English speaking friends! Here are some highlights of the night:

My hubby cut this "Merry Christmas" sign out a wrapping paper and taped it to the door... I wonder what our Korean neighbors think!

Our White Elephant load before we opened them...Plus our traditional Korean phallus that seems to show up everywhere...

The gifts included a Psy face-mask... I've dreamed of having my face moisturized by a pop star...

All our guests got a Santa hat when they arrived... This is Jen and I modeling them for you.

And of course my homemade Eggnog to top off the night! 

The party was such a success my hubby hopped out of bed the next morning to play with all of our weird White Elephant gifts! Love Him!

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope wherever you are you are happy, healthy and able to spend this holiday season with people you love. And if you aren't happy, healthy or able to spend this holiday season with people you love this year one day you, too, might find yourself moon-walking to Christmas music and enjoying parts of life you never thought you would or could...

 

Love,

Lo

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