Friday, August 29, 2008

Korean Garage Sale-ing

In the USA, when we have old junk that we don't want, we slap price tags on it and have a garage sale. People come from all over and give us money for it, which makes both parties happy. In addition to the financial gain, we also get to enjoy sitting outdoors in a plastic chair and meeting some of our frequently-amusing fellow Americans.

Koreans have a different method for cleaning things out. They just haul them out to the curb and let them sit amongst the special colored trash bags (read an earlier post for the trash bag story). You can find all sorts of treasures, from rabbit cages, to chairs, to bookcases, to full-size sofas, to baskets, to battered books. Normally I am not enticed by the junk amongst the trash, but yesterday was a different matter. Yesterday I went "Korean garage sale-ing."

I noticed that a neighbor had thrown out a perfectly good TV cabinet with only one small dent. Since the price was right (free!) I decided to claim it. It isn't a big cabinet; it's one of the ones that sits under a television set, but boy was that thing a bear to lug up four flights of steps! I thought for sure I was going to drop it at one point. Resisting the urge to practice some of the marvelous swearing I've heard from some of the other foreigners, I took a rest on the third floor and somehow made it to my front door. Getting it in the door was pretty easy.

Then, I learned that there was another problem. There is no way on God's green earth that I can lift my TV and move it from its current dinky cabinet to this nicer cabinet. So, after a few fruitless attempts and the tragic smashing of my left index finger, I decided to stick my new cabinet next to my nightstand and just use it as a storage cabinet. It may look weird, but it'll sure be convenient.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Three Suggestions for Korea

Recently, I've come up with three suggestions for things that I believe Korea needs. These improvements would make Korea an even better place (and for the record, I think it's a pretty terrific place already):

1. Parking lots. It would be just lovely if cars did not have to drive and park on the sidewalks.
2. Street names. Just think how much easier it would be to find things or to give people directions.
3. Standardized spelling. Korea is apparently still in the experimental stage with letters, since many words and place names can be spelled two or more different ways. Most writing is still in Hangeul. That's fine; after all, Hangeul is a very logical system for writing that really isn't too hard to learn, but it would sure be nice if they could stick to just one spelling for place names and words when they take the trouble to use letters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fun with Taxi Drivers

Yesterday (Monday), I took Jasper back to the vet to get his first round of vaccinations and to get another check-up. The vet said his health is better, but the ear mites are still a problem that needs to be dealt with. So, on Thursday we'll be starting a three-week round of treatment that will eradicate them. Then there will be more vaccines, and in about three months, neutering. I'm glad I'm in Korea, where vets are so much cheaper.

On the way to the vet, I rode in a taxi with a very cheerful driver. He chattered away to me in Korean, half of which I somehow understood, and even sang as we drove along! When we got to the vet's office, the driver enjoyed a good laugh about the fate awaiting Jasper. Clearly, this was one of the drivers who gets a kick out of foreigners.

On the way back from the vet, I wasn't so fortunate. The driver appeared to be a nice old man at first. I told him to take me to Hi-Mart, since there's no way I can direct a driver to my house (they don't name roads in Korea, so addresses seem pretty pointless). When we got near Hi-Mart, I directed him to drop me off just before the store, like I always do with drivers. For some reason, this really bothered the driver. He started violently yelling at me in Korean - I actually thought he might hit me! He really wanted to go to Hi-Mart, but I insisted on him stopping, trying to explain that I wasn't going to the store, but to my home. He finally figured out what I meant, but certainly didn't get any friendlier. I paid and got far from that car as quickly as I could!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Here's a few shots of my baby boy:

Long-Awaited Photos from the River

Sorry, sorry, sorry! I didn't mean to tarry so long on posting the pictures from my rafting trip. Here there are, lovely as ever:

Gotta love the helmet!

Guess What I Ate, Dad!

My dad will probably be tempted to vomit when he hears what I ate today!

Cate asked me to go on a picnic today with the kindergartners and their parents (the picnic was today; she asked me last week). We went to a picturesque valley, with a fetching river running through it and glorious tree-covered mountains all around it. The kindies had a ball swimming in the river, even though it was cool today, and I had fun getting to see the parents of these kids that I spend each day with. For our meal, the men barbecued beef strips, which we then ate the delicious Korean way - wrapped in lettuce leaves with chili paste and a bit of kimchi. Obviously, there was also rice. For dessert, we had slices of luscious watermelon.

There also was a rather interesting side dish - seasoned raw beef. Cate offered me some and I decided to go ahead and taste it, despite my initial revulsion. It was delicious, albeit quite creepy. I ate a nice portion of the raw meat, feeling like I should now be a recruit in the Lyconthrop Society!

I also tried white kinchi, which I found tasted a bit better than the type I'm used to. I'm really not a big kimchi fan, since I fail to understand why anyone wants to bury something, wait until it rots, and then dig it up and eat it, but I do usually eat a little when I'm out with Koreans. There's something oddly addicting about the stuff. Plus, it's an important aspect of their culture.

Six Months. . . WOW!!!

I can't believe it has been six months since I came to Korea! I was reflecting last night on all that I have seen and experienced in the past six months, and it feels almost like a second lifetime has been crammed into this relatively short space of time. I mean, I've seen more of Korea than many Koreans have, I've been to the Philippines, I've had an exotic illness, I've been on TV three or four times, I've been in a bus accident, I've made incredible new friends from six different continents, I've eaten things that should not be spoken of in polite conversation, I've learned a ton, and I've discovered things about myself that I never knew, and changed in so many ways. To call the past six months an adventure is an understatement. It's been more like an epic.

In honor of my six month anniversary here in Korea, I've decided to make two top-ten lists: a list of the ten things I miss the most about the USA and a list of the ten things I don't miss the most. I'm not listing people on the list of things I miss, only because it kind of goes without saying that it would be people that I miss the most (and two very special little dogs). I figured my readers would be more interested in the other things I miss. But, obviously, the real top ten list of things I miss has nothing but people on it, with my parents sharing the number one spot. So, without further ado:

Ten Things I Miss Most about Life in the USA (Besides People)
1. Books written in English, which are readily available
2. Turner Classic Movies
3. Quaker Oatmeal Squares
4. Having an oven
5. My old movie collection
6. Canned green beans
7. My rollerblades
8. My assortment of spices and herbs (oh, how I miss cilantro especially!)
9. Old Peninsula (restaurant in Kalamazoo that my best friend and I love)
10. The bathrooms (nice sit-down toilets instead of squaters, people flush the used toilet paper instead of sticking it in the trash, there's almost always toilet paper in the stalls...)

Ten Things I Really Don't Miss about Life in the USA
1. Driving a car
2. The Michigan economy
3. The 2008 Presidential election
4. Doctors' offices (so much nicer and more efficient here)
5. The job I left
6. Stupid people (they're here too, I'm sure, but I can't understand what they're saying)
7. The ridiculous overabundance of choices at stores (the cereal aisle alone used to overwhelm me - it's so much easier when you only have two or three brands to choose from)
8. The yearly ladybug invasion
9. Understanding the commercials on TV (I like imagining what they're saying here)
10. Walmart

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Puppy Formerly Known as Zoey

I took my puppy to the vet for a check-up today (poor little thing had a few rounds of mild diarrhea, which, considering what happened to my last puppy, scared the life out of me). This time, I went with a different vet, since I still think the last one misdiagnosed my dog. The new vet is much nicer, speaks passable English, and is actually cheaper.

I thought that I had purchased a perfect little female Shih Tzu. Turns out I bought a MALE Shih Tzu with a slightly weak pelvis and ear mites. He's going to be a bit more work than I planned, but I decided that he's worth it. I love him too much already to trade him for another dog or return him. I've decided that this little guy's new name is Jasper.

The vet said that if I keep blankets and towels down on the floor for him to walk on, my little boy's pelvis will get stronger eventually. As for the ear mites and diarrhea, the puppy-formerly-known-as-Zoey is on medication and had his ears cleaned out today. In addition, I bathed him and thoroughly disinfected his area of the apartment. He's very lively and active, his eyes are clear and alert, and he eats extremely well, so the vet said he should be better in about three days.

I'm actually already seeing an improvement after the treatment he received at the animal hospital. He ate all the food I left for him while I was at work, had a good dinner, and hasn't had any diarrhea since early this morning (about thirteen hours ago). He played a lot for about an hour after I got home (he was happily running around, chasing anything he could find), and is just now settling down for a nap on my foot.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Splendid Sunday in Busan

Since today was Sunday, I headed to Busan for church, which required taking a bus. I was surprisingly nervous, owing to the accident I was in on Friday, but the ride was blissfully uneventful. Accompanying me were my friends Diane and Beau. Owing to my inability to catch a taxi in time, we ended up taking a later bus than we had planned, so we got to church about five minutes late (it takes us an hour by bus to get to Nopo-dong station in Busan, then another hour by subway to get to the church).

The sermon was fantastic, as it usually is. Esther Berg is a great missionary pastor. I really enjoy my church here, despite the distance, because it is so awesome to worship God with such a diverse group. There are people there from the USA, Canada, South Africa, England, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and, of course, Korea. It really is a special, powerful experience every time I am able to go.

After church, Diane, Beau, and I, along with our friend Rebecca, went out to dinner at T.G.I. Fridays (we were all craving some good Western food). It was ridiculously expensive, but so worth it. Then we stopped by a grocery store where I was delighted to find such rare treats as oatmeal, maraschino cherries, feta, and chocolate pancake mix. After that, it was back on the Subway, and then onto a bus for Gyeongju. I love riding on buses here - they are clean and comfortable, and it's a great time for napping, reading, or conversing with friends.

Tomorrow should be nearly as fantastic as today. Some friends and I started a cell group last week and are meeting for the second time tomorrow. The way we have things set up, each week someone different will host the group, and the host will be in charge of either preparing a devotional or moderating a discussion on the topic of their choice. Last week's meeting was stimulating and refreshing, so I am looking forward to more of the same.

The Hazards of Not Speaking Korean

Those who know me well know that I have a bit of a germ phobia. I'm no Adrian Monk, but I don't touch bathroom doors or elevator buttons, I hate using coin money, and I dislike shaking hands. I probably wash my hands about fifty times a day at least. Since all that washing chaps my skin, I like to use hand sanitizer or wet wipes to keep my skin relatively soft. So, earlier last week I went to Lotte and bought what I assumed was a package of wet wipes. It was in the baby aisle, so it seemed a reasonable guess.

On Thursday of last week, I decided to open my package of wet wipes and use one after a class. When I opened the package, however, I soon discovered that what I had purchased was clearly not wet wipes. Thoroughly perplexed, I handed the package to Jackie, one of the Korean teachers, and asked her what on earth I had purchased. Jackie laughed, and announced to me that my "wet wipes" were actually white clay!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Excitement on a Friday

Yesterday I was in a bus accident. Relax, Mom and Dad, obviously I'm okay if I'm writing a blog entry. I had the day off because August 15th is Korea's Independence Day (independence from Japan), so I went to Busan to get a new puppy. I found an adorable little Shih Tzu who immediately won my heart, and it seemed like my Friday was turning out to be pretty terrific. I navigated the Busan subway with no problems, and was thrilled to get a window seat on the bus (in Korea, they usually assign seats on buses, on trains, at movie theaters, etc.).

It started to rain quite hard as we pulled out of the Busan bus terminal. My puppy was happily snuggled down for a nap in her carrier, so I got out my book and enjoyed some pleasant reading. After awhile I decided to nap for a bit. I was awakened from my restful slumber by a loud BOOM and a sudden lurching forward of the bus, which sent me toppling to the floor (and a few other people as well). I thought at first that we had run over something with the back tires, since it felt like the back of the bus was briefly airborne. It turned out that a semi had smacked into the back of the bus.

The bus and the semi pulled over to the side of the road, where we waited for the police to arrive. They came surprisingly quickly; whether this was owing to Korean efficiency or just being in the area at the time, I don't know. While the police looked everything over, the driver reassured everyone in Korean (from the looks on their faces, I gathered that everything was okay). When the driver went to start the bus again, however, he couldn't get it to start. So, we sat for another several minutes, then he tried again. No luck. More minutes ticked away, the puppy got restless, and I noticed that I was getting a head and neck ache. Finally, the bus started and we made it back to Gyeongju.

By this time, the rain was even stronger, so I bought an overpriced umbrella from an adjuma at the bus terminal and headed out to hail a taxi. I got one pretty quickly, but still managed to get soaked. I had originally planned to buy groceries after I got back, but having just survived a bus accident, I decided to take the puppy home and stay in for the night watching episodes of "Monk." What a Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Olympics in a Different Light

It's a very unique experience watching the Olympics while living in a foreign country. Yesterday, Cate decided to let the kindergartners watch for awhile, so we went into the TV room at school to see some swimming. I'm not used to cheering for one country while everyone else is cheering on another! Our splendid Michael Phelps was in top form, but the Korean swimmer was also excellent, so it was an exciting race. My little kindies were jumping up and down, screaming for their athlete! They were about as much fun to watch as the race was! I tried not to brag too much when the USA took gold (and bronze).

The Olympics have been a great teaching aid for me. I've played Olympic-themed games in classes, and been able to have numerous conversations with the kids about the games. Even the kids that aren't into sports get excited about the Olympics.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rafting Trip

On Sunday, I went rafting up north with my boss Cate, her husband Mark, her daughter Rosie, and my co-worker Matt. We left Gyeongju at 7:30 AM and got back at about 11:00 PM. It was a full, exhausting, fun day.

The river was about a three-hour bus ride from here, which wasn't at all unpleasant (even though that sounds like it should be). Cate and I chatted quite a bit, I had a chance to enjoy reading a book, and we watched a little of the Olympics on the television at the front of the bus. You should have seen the way that entire bus erupted into cheers as the Korean swimmer earned his gold medal! I've never seen such an enthusiastic crowd! I got rather caught up in it myself.

The actual rafting took about three hours. It was loads of fun, since we not only went through rapids, but also had the opportunity to swim in the beautiful, cool river (in our clothes, of course, since this is Korea). I never imagined that I would one day have the kind of boss that one rafts with and swims in a river with!

On the way back, I had a chance to talk with my co-worker and get to know him better, which was nice. We don't hang out outside of work, so even though I see him every day, I barely know the guy. By the time we got back, I was exhausted! I had left my bicycle at the library, so I had to walk back there to get it, and then ride home. I almost fell asleep while riding!

I took some great pictures (Cate loaned me a waterproof bag to carry my camera in), so I will try to get them posted by tomorrow.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kiddie Quotes from this Week

Apparently, the week off recharged the random funniness of my students. Here are a few of my favorite things I've heard from them this week:

Me: "What is your dream for the future?"
Anne: "I want to be Angelina Jolie!"
Patrick: "I want to be Steven Spielberg!"

Amy: "Harry, be quiet!"
Me: "Thank you, Amy."
Amy: "You are most welcome, Teacher."
(Amy is a four-year-old kindergartner)

Me: "What do you never eat?"
Steve: "I never eat onions, cheese, or Ray!"

Me: "So what do you think is scary?"
Lucy: "Teacher, elephant is scary. You sleeping and elephant sit and ouch!"

Me: "Do you think a dragon is scary?"
Kevin: "No, teacher."
Me: "What about a fire-dragon?"
Kevin: (considering it) "No....I throw water."

Me: "What is your hobby, Minnie?"
Minnie: "My hobby is hitting my sister."

Patrick: "Teacher, what is 'special talent'?
Me: "A talent is something you are good at, like maybe dancing, or singing, or playing soccer. They want to know what you can do best."
Angie: "Jamie's special talent is making Stephanie-Teacher say 'Jamie, sit down!'"

Me: "How are you today?"
Jamie: "I am extremely sizzling today!"

(I had E3-C write new lyrics to one of their songs - one of my best ideas, as the kids were practicing grammer and vocab, but having a blast at the same time.)
Me: "Okay, so what does she always do?"
Steve: "She always plays computer games in the ghost-house!"
Toby: "She always eats small rabbits!"

Me: "How do you feel today, Robin?"
Robin: "I am crazy muggy today, Teacher."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Something to Remember the Philippines by

It turns out I brought back more than I thought with me when I returned from the Philippines. I picked up some nice bacillary dysentery among my souvenirs. I'm still pretty weak from it, but at least I managed to eat actual food today (I've been living on popsicles and juice since Sunday).

One of the really lousy things about dysentery is that it apparently causes and worsens lactose intolerance, so right now I can't have any dairy products. I tried some before the "popsicle diet" and it made for a pretty ugly evening. I have next to no energy, so I'm really having to push myself when I'm with my students. By the end of each day, I'm so worn out that I come home, take a nap, and then have my liquid dinner while watching "Monk" (one of my favorite TV shows, and one of the few things I can enjoy right now).

Tip for people planning to travel to the Philippines: DON'T DRINK THE WATER!!!! I can't believe that I'm such an idiot to have forgotten that cardinal rule of travel. I know better than to drink the water here in Korea, yet I was stupid enough to drink it in Manila.

Aside from trying to get over dysentery, not much else is going on this week, which is a good thing. Cate decided to change my schedule, so now I start classes an hour later and get a two-hour gap instead of a three-hour gap in the afternoon. I'm delighted, since I now have the most agreeable working hours ever. I love having that extra hour in the morning. Also, one of my "behavior-problem" students is going to be on a trip with his mother for another three weeks, so my most rambunctious class is now behaving a lot better. I appreciate that now more than ever, considering my significant drop in energy.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Journey's End

Well, here I am, safely back in my dear Korea. I actually got rather homesick for Korea during my last few days in the Philippines, which I found rather amusing. In particular, I missed having everyone else speak a different language from me. That may sound odd, so let me explain. Here in Korea, since I don't speak Korean, my mind usually automatically tunes it out when I hear people talking around me. In the Philippines, however, everyone speaks English so there were all these English conversations going on around me that I couldn't mentally tune out. It was a bit taxing on my mind after more than five months of peacefully tuning out the world whenever I felt the desire.

In summary, my trip to the Philippines was definitely a unique experience. Half of the vacation was great and half of it was.....well, you'll find out when you read the next several posts. I had a few ultra-special once-in-a-lifetime experiences, a few oh-my-gosh-this-sort-of-thing-only-happens-to-me experiences, and, yes, I managed to smuggle an illness past customs coming back (more on that later). I was even harassed by a chicken! (More on that later, also.)

The next several posts will detail for you my amazing trip to the Philippines, complete with photographs. I've decided to break it down into one post per day that I was there. To make things more coherent, I'm going to alter the times on the posts so that they will be in chronological order, rather than the most recent being first, as is usually the case. I sincerely hope that you all enjoy reading about my experiences.

To truly sum up my opinion of the Philippines, I would like to borrow the famous words of a well-known individual who also journeyed there (and if you can't figure out who this person is, you should consider going back to school for remedial history):

"I shall return."

Day 1: The Journey Begins (Sat, 7/26)

Getting to the airport was not quite as simple as it has always been for me back in the States. First I had to lug my stubborn, ornery suitcase and carry-on bag to the busy eight-lane road by my apartment (only about a block away, but it wasn't fun) to catch a taxi. The taxi driver took me first to the wrong bus terminal, then, after I repeated myself about six times, he caught on and took me to the correct terminal. There, I waited to catch the airport bus, which was to depart at 6:00 (half an hour later than I had figured on, thus causing me a bit of concern). I grew more and more concerned as the minutes ticked away, with no sign of my bus. My flight was departing at 9:00 pm, and the airport is an hour away from Gyeongju. Finally, much to my relief, the bus showed up - at 5:59 pm! And, I am still rather impressed that we actually departed at 6:00 on the nose.

Check-in at the airport went slowly, but smoothly. I was flying on Asiana Airlines for the first time, so I had no idea what to expect. I was happy to discover that Asiana is almost as good as Korean Air (which is the best airline I have ever flown on). We had a pleasant, drama-free flight which wound up being half an hour shorter than scheduled. The airlines back in the US skimp wherever possible on service; you're lucky to get a small beverage and a minuscule bag of pretzels anymore (Southwest and Spirit being the two exceptions). Not so on Asiana! Our three-hour flight included a very pleasant in-flight meal. Since I didn't have time for dinner, I was quite grateful.

I was shocked and delighted to learn that my luggage had successfully made it to Manila without damage. Customs was a breeze, although the sight of all the soldiers and guards bearing ominous-looking weapons was a bit unsettling. I found a taxi, and we were off! Then came a problem: apparently, the hotel I picked was located in the middle of nowhere, resulting in the taxi driver getting lost at 1:00 am. When we finally made it to the Garden Plaza Hotel, I was dismayed to learn that their photographs online were a bit deceptive.

The hotel was located in a scary-looking part of town where I knew for certain I would not be taking any walks. Inside, it was much older and more run-down than I had expected from the photographs. The staff and the cockroaches were both very friendly, and the room was huge, but it was also more than a little bit creepy. In the photographs I took, it looks nicer than it really was. Overall, for the price, it was perfectly adequate, but I don't think I would stay there again.

Among the amenities of the room were a thoroughly confusing shower, an AC unit that shuddered worse than Katharine Hepburn in her older years, a refrigerator that didn't work, and an odd kitchen-area featuring numerous cupboards and another refrigerator that didn't work. The entire room smelled eerily like anesthetic, as though it were a hospital room. Still, at least it was quiet.

Day 2: The Rock (Sun, 7/27)

My main purpose in choosing to go to the Philippines was to see the places described in the many books I have read about the American nurses who were captured from Bataan and Corregidor in WWII. Number one among the places I wanted to see was the tiny island of Corregidor, known during the was as "the Rock."

Corregidor is shaped exactly like a little tadpole, and is a rocky, mountainous island that is also heavily covered in trees. Several years prior to the Second World War, the US Army dug a well-constructed main tunnel, named Malinta Tunnel, as well as numerous lateral tunnels. The island was heavily fortified against invasion from the enemy. Since it is in Manila Bay, just across from the Bataan Peninsula, it was in a strategic location when the Japanese attacked the Philippines.

The nurses, whom I have studied so intently that I feel as though I know them personally, started out working at Sternberg Hospital in Manila, but with the Japanese onslaught coming, they were evacuated to Bataan. When it became clear that the starving American soldiers in the Bataan Peninsula could no longer hold up against the intense, well-supplied attacking force of the Japanese, the decision was made to evacuate the nurses to Corregidor, largely out of fear that the Japanese soldiers would brutally rape the nurses the way they had all of the women in Nanking, China.

The nurses were literally ordered to abandon their patients, which went against everything they had been taught and believed in. None of them wanted to leave, but they had to obey orders. Despite an intense Japanese bombing raid, all eighty-eight American nurses, as well as a few civilian women and twenty Filipino nurses, were successfully evacuated by boat to Corregidor. There, having already endured near-starvation in the jungles of Bataan, the nurses went through even greater hell.

Every day the Japanese planes dropped bombs on Corregidor, shaking but not crumbling the well-constructed tunnels. The nurses did the best they could, maintaining a 1,000 bed hospital in the tunnels, knowing that no relief convoy could come to their aid. One plane and one submarine managed to evacuate a few of the nurses to Australia, but in the end, most of them were captured by the Japanese when General Wainwright made the agonizing decision to surrender Corregidor on the morning of May 6, 1942 (Bataan fell on April 9). The nurses spent the next three years in a concentration camp (more on that in a later post).

I consider the experience of the nurses to be one of the most fascinating aspects of WWII (terrible, but fascinating). So, on Sunday morning, despite having only gotten to bed at two that same morning, I arose at 6:00 in order to be at the port to check-in at 7:00 for my tour of Corregidor. I cannot stress enough how long I have had the dream of getting to see Corregidor for myself and actually getting to walk through Malinta Tunnel. I even brought along my favorite book on the nurses and their experiences, Elizabeth M. Norman's We Band of Angels, just to keep the facts fresher in my mind.

The weather was bad on Sunday, and Manila Bay had large waves and looked treacherous. As soon as I saw the water, my heart sank. Sure enough, an announcement was soon made that the original boat would be unable to cross the bay under the present conditions. A smaller craft would be able to make the crossing, but it could only carry 60 people, and it was strongly encouraged that people reschedule (the next available date was not until after I left Manila for Boracay). By the time I got to the window, the woman informed me that I wouldn't be able to go.

I was stunned. Here I had come so close to a dream, only to be denied. I couldn't help myself; I started crying. It meant so much to me to get to go. A couple saw me and asked why I was so upset. I explained as best as I could my passion for the history involved, and turned to beg again, even offering to stand for the entire hour-plus crossing. The next thing I knew, someone traded in their tickets, and there was a seat available for me. I teared up again out of sheer joy.

The crossing was ominous. The waves kicked our small ferry around, making it feel like we were trapped in a bewitched pinball machine. Over half the people on the boat got sick (we had to endure this for almost an hour and a half). They played hymns over the loudspeaker, which several of us joked were meant to be our last rites. At last, we landed at Corregidor.

I had my choice of which tour group to join. Upon learning that a Cardinal had come on the tour, and knowing how strong the Catholic faith is in the Philippines, I figured that the Cardinal would be assigned to the group with the best guide, so I picked his group. I was right! Following a fantastic guided tour of part of the island and a wonderful walk through Malinta Tunnel, we had a delicious lunch at the Corregidor Inn. Then, it started to rain. As in, pouring rain. We filed back into the tour buses, which previously had had open sides. Now the sides were covered in plastic, in a futile attempt to keep us dry. The tour of the remainder of the island was hurried, and we didn't get to walk around any more owing to the downpour, but I didn't mind. I got to see what I came for, and I was more than satisfied.

Crossing Manila Bay for the second time, we were lucky to have an easier crossing. When we got back to the port, we were almost an hour ahead of schedule, so the taxi I had arranged to have pick me up was not due for awhile yet. I settled myself in a corner with my book, and was soon captivated reading again about the American nurses. The guide from my tour group saw me and came over to chat. He was an adorable, lovable old man, who soon revealed something fantastic: he had met over twenty of the nurses I've been studying! A group of them came back to take a tour of Corregidor in the eighties, and he was their guide! So, I got to spend to spend the next half hour being treated to first-hand stories about several of the most amazing, inspiring women I have ever had the privilege to study. I was very sorry to leave when my taxi showed up.

In short, visiting Corregidor was one of the most powerful, meaningful experiences of my life. I plan to come back some day and spend a night on the island so that I can take the night tour of the tunnels. Seeing Corregidor and actually getting to walk through and view the very places that I have dedicated so much time to studying was a magical experience for me, unlike any I have ever had. I had to keep reminding myself to take pictures, as I was so thoroughly engrossed in the experience. This is the way history was meant to be studied.

Day 2: Pictures of Corregidor

Lorcha Dock, the point from which General Douglas MacArthur finally departed for Australia under repeated orders from President Roosevelt. His abandonment of his troops earned MacArthur the nickname "Dugout Doug." It was here that he made the promise "I shall return," words which are inscribed at the base of the statue of MacArthur shown here.

Aside from its rich history, Corregidor is also a beautiful little island.

Monument honoring the bravery and fortitude of Filipino women.

A map of Malinta Tunnel.

One of the entrances to Malinta Tunnel. Note how deeply buried in the rock it is.

Below are some pictures I took inside the tunnel. The first is the main tunnel, which is 826 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 15 feet high. The other two photos are of two of the many laterals. The tunnels had their own power and water supply, but they were far from pleasant. It was a cool day outside, yet I found the tunnel to be quite stuffy and humid. Imagine having to live in a stuffy tunnel for a month with planes bombarding the outside multiple times each day. Our American nurses went through all that and more, yet today they are largely forgotten.

Once upon a time, this was an enormous barracks. Then the bombs fells on it, leaving it as it is today.

This derelict building was once a beautiful, elegant cinema, where such films as Gone with the Wind were screened. The cinema was hit by Japanese artillery, and was never rebuilt.

This flagpole was made from the mast of an old ship. When Corregidor was retaken and General MacArthur returned to the island, it was here that he gave the famous order, "I see the old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak and let no enemy ever haul them down."

Day 3: Fort Santiago and Santo Tomas (Mon, 7/28)

The weather was halfway decent on Monday, so I decided to take advantage of it by cramming in as much sight-seeing as possible. In the interests of my own safety, I decided to be extravagant and pay a taxi driver to chauffeur me around for the entire day. It came out costing more than I planned, but it was worth it to avoid getting lost, mugged, raped, kidnapped, or murdered.

To start my day, I went to Fort Santiago, which was actually a bit of a disappointment, since you can't go in most of the areas of the actual fort. Still, I did find one dark tunnel that wasn't completely roped off...and curiosity got the better of me. No one was looking, so I sneaked down and had a bit of a look around. Bad, I know, but I can't help it. History does things to me!

Fort Santiago, originally built in 1571 (it's been destroyed and rebuilt a few times since then), is where the Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was held prior to his execution. Dr. Rizal was a proponent of reforms during the Spanish colonial period. He was arrested on trumped-up charges and shot by a firing squad in 1896. His death is considered by many to be the catalyst for the Philippine Revolution. There's a small but interesting museum dedicated to him, as well as footprints marking the path he walked to his execution. During WWII, the Japanese tortured and killed at least 600 Filipinos and Americans at Fort Santiago.

Following my tour of Fort Santiago, I briefly toured the historic area of Intramuros, and forgot to take photos. Stupid Stephanie! I'm mentally kicking myself for that now. I wanted to see the National Museum next, but found to my dismay that it was closed. So, I decided it was time to fulfill another dream and visit the University of Santo Tomas.

The University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic university founded in 1611, is the oldest university in Manila. Some of its more notable alumni include Dr. Jose Rizal (remember him?) and four Filipino presidents. That, however, is not why I wanted to go there.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945, the University of Santo Tomas was transformed into a concentration camp for American and other foreigners deemed enemies by the Japanese. At least ten thousand people were held prisoner on the sixty acre campus. Among those held at Santo Tomas were the American nurses captured from Corregidor and the twelve Navy nurses who were abandoned in Manila and captured. A number of war crimes were committed against those held here - for instance, the daily diet of the prisoners was so meager that near the end, there were approximately five deaths each day from malnutrition alone.

The building in the pictures, known as Main Building, was where the hospital and nurses quarters were located. Later, the Navy nurses voluntarily transfered to another camp, Los Banos, which did not get liberated until three weeks after Santo Tomas's liberation.

I had to get a special pass in order to walk around the campus and take pictures, but it was worth it. Once again I had the amazing opportunity to be in a place I had spent years studying. Having never before seen the campus, I already knew my way around!

Day 4: A Most Marvelous Surprise (Tues, 7/29)

Following my sight-seeing on Monday, I decided to go shopping at Glorietta, a ginormous mall in Makati. While I was there, I just happened to see a banner announcing that Lea Salonga would be performing in the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella at the Philippine Cultural Center in Manila. I was ecstatic, and immediately set out to do whatever it took to get a ticket for that show. I am a huge fan of Lea Salonga.

For those who think you aren't familiar with the lovely and talented Lea Salonga, believe me, you've more than likely heard her sing. She provided the singing voices for both Princess Jasmine and Mulan in the Disney films. She is also a Tony Award-winning performer, having attained that honor through her role in Miss Saigon on Broadway. She has a stunningly beautiful singing voice.

Luck was with me, and I was able to procure a fantastic ticket: orchestra right, on opening night (Tuesday). I was so excited that I had trouble sleeping on Monday night! I love musicals, and it has long been a dream to get to see one of my favorite performers on stage. Let's see...that makes three dreams that became reality in as many days in Manila!

The show was fantastic. Miss Salonga is absolutely adorable. She's so tiny you could just about carry her in your pocket! And she gave a fantastic performance that kept the entire audience enchanted. When the cast took their bows, everyone got cheers as well as applause. But when the carriage door opened and Lea Salonga stepped out to take her bow, the entire audience leaped to their feet for a thundering standing ovation. Everyone loved her!

Day 5: The Best Laid Plans....Thwarted! (Wed, 7/30)

The Manila part of my Philippine vacation, as you have no doubt noticed, was amazing, fantastic, magical, and beyond what I imagined it would be. This was not quite the case for the Boracay half...

My decision to go to Boracay was similar to President Lincoln's decision to see the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater - it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, at eight-thirty in the morning, I went to the airport to catch my ten-thirty flight aboard Asian Spirit to Boracay. I was armed with my passport and the receipt from my online ticket purchase - what could possibly go wrong? Plenty!

For close to thirty minutes I stood idly by while they "attempted" to check me in (the woman checking me in was clearing doing her best - she found time to glance at the computer every few minutes in between flirting and chatting with two co-workers). I saw no need to rush her, so I just pretended not to be annoyed. Then the bombshell dropped. The woman at the counter informed me that even though I had a receipt, my payment had somehow not gone through. Since I reserved my flight over two months ago, I was a bit ticked that they never bothered to inform me of this, but I didn't want to take it out on an innocent employee, so I went out to the Asian Spirit office to buy another ticket.

Lo and behold, my flight was sold out. They couldn't get me out until that evening. Rather than wait around Manila, I told them I would rather do business with a different airline. So, I walked over to the Southeast Asian Airlines office, having never heard of that airline, and was able to book flights for the exact times of my Asian Spirit tickets. I got checked in, went to the gate, and found out that I had to pay to leave the island of Luzon. This posed a problem, since I had brought travelor's checks instead of cash to change over to Philippine currency (thinking it would be safer). When my initial Philippine currency ran out (I only changed a little bit of money at first, since I didn't plan to spend much money on Manila and didn't want to carry lots of cash), I couldn't find anywhere that would change my travelor's checks. So, by the time I left Manila, I barely had any cash left.

Our plane was the tiniest puddle-jumper I have ever flown on, and it was leaking water on me from just above my window (it was raining that day). As we lurched and bounced our way off the runway, I murmured a lot of silent prayers. Once in the air, the tiny plane bobbed about like a toy in a swimming pool full of kindergartners. I almost got airsick, which never happens! When we finally landed on Cataclan (a small island), all of the passengers made audible sounds of relief.

For some reason, I temporarily lost most of my hearing during the landing (I was chewing gum, so I should have been okay). This made it hard to focus on where to go next, but somehow I made it all right to the shuttle, which took me to the jetty port. From there, I boarded an outrigger that did not appear sea-worthy, and was transported to Boracay.

The crossing to Boracay was lovely, although the boat was creaky and leaky. I'm at home on the water, so I didn't really worry too much. I was more concerned with trying to get a photgraph of the paradise I was headed toward (or so I thought).

To get to my hotel (Microtel Inn and Suites), I had to use the local method of transportation - a tricycle. These critters are basically the equivalent of a motorcycle with a sidecar, driven at rapid speeds, with no seatbelts. My mother would never have been able to handle it. I found it rather fun, especially since the last part of the way was unpaved, so we got to do some off-roading on very bumpy terrain.

When I checked into my hotel, I was delighted with the room. Unlike my hotel in Manila, this one was new and quite nice. I still can't believe the low rate I got!

After unpacking, I headed out to explore the private beach, which I found to be quite satisfactory. Aside from my dangerously low cash and the fact that I hadn't eaten an actual meal since dinner at the theater on Tuesday evening (partly due to oversight, partly due to a need to conserve my money until I could get more), things were looking up. Then Thursday came...

Day 6: The Chicken, the Toilet, and the Spider (Thur, 7/31)

On Thursday, I spent my morning reading on the beach. Although my book was fascinating (I was still re-reading about the nurses), the gentle sound of the waves was too good of a lullaby and I would up having a very pleasant nap. At least, it was pleasant until something tickled my nose and I woke up eyeball-to-eyeball with a very impertinant chicken! It's too bad I didn't vacation in Beijing; my jump might have set a new world record for distance.

The chicken wasn't all all startled by my abrupt awakening; on the contrary, he seemed rather bored with me and decided to examine my beach bag. I grabbed my thick book and shooed him away, but it was clear that he was not at all intimidated. As soon as I sat down he was back over, stretching his neck as if to get a better look at me (although at least this time he was about two feet away, as opposed to about an inch away like he was when I woke up). He kept trying to get closer to me and I kept pretending to swat at him with the book. I've never thought of chickens as something to be scared of before, but I was nervous that he might peck. Finally, I declared him king of the beach and retired to the pool.

A second problem (aside from the money issue) was weighing heavily on my mind on Thursday: I couldn't figure out how to flush the toilet in my room. It had a flush unlike any I've seen. Out of desperation, I actually prayed that I would figure out the secret to flushing the toilet. And of all the prayers I have ever prayed, God saw fit to answer that one...immediately! Go figure!

Later I went to town and was able to track down a bank, where I cashed some traveler's checks. At last I was able to stop fretting about money and enjoy myself. I went to D'mall, an outdoor shopping center, where I had a delicious lunch and sent shopping for souvineers for some of the important people in my life. My niece and my best friend Steph are going to be very happy girls when I get back to the USA with their gifts (next year)! I searched in vain for hours for gifts for my dad and brother-in-law, but I couldn't find anything suitable. Near the end of my shopping trip, my stomach started to feel queasy. I figured it was just the heat and headed back to my room.

Figuring a cool shower would make me feel better, I hopped in. That's when trauma number three struck: as I was getting out of the shower, I grabbed a towel. A HUGE Filipino spider LEAPED out of the towel, just as I was preparing to use it. I think Fay Wray showed less distress than me when King Kong picked her up!

Days 7 and 8: Stephanie's Last Stand (Fri, 8/1 and Sat, 8/2)

The queasy stomach turned into full-fledged ickiness. I'll spare you the details; let's just say that I spent all day Friday either in bed or close to the toilet (good thing I learned to flush it!). Reading about infectious diseases of the Second World War in my book filled my head with all sorts of ideas as to what it could be.

By Saturday, I was absolutely miserable - and I needed to check out of the hotel. I went back to D'mall to kill some time before catching my boat back to Caticlan. I knew I needed to get my blood sugar up, so I had a dainty sandwich and a coconut and pineapple crush at an adorable little restaurant. It didn't make things any worse.

To help kill a bit more time, I did some more shopping and managed to find a great gift for my mother. Then I treated myself to a forty minute foot and leg massage, which helped relax me a bit. By the time I got to the airport, though, I was miserable again.

I'm wondering if maybe I caught something from drinking the water. I made the mistake of taking some pills with tap water the night before I got sick, so maybe that brought this on.

I got back into Manila at 6:30 (aboard an even smaller puddle-jumper than before, which I didn't think was possible). Since my flight from Manila to Busan didn't leave until 3:35 am, I had to kill a lot of time. So, I went back to Glorietta mall, where I had a nice dinner and wandered around, lugging my obstinant suitcase (they wouldn't let me check it in early at the airport). Finally, in desperation to pass the time, I went to the cinema and watched the #1 film that I had absolutely no interest in ever seeing: The Dark Knight. It was okay; certainly not worthy of all the hype it's been getting (of course, I'm really not into superhero films anyway). At least it helped distract me from feeling sick for a little while.
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"