Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I don't know why you say 'goodbye'...

Hello everyone!
I just want to thank those people who followed this blog during our adventure in Korea. I now have a new blog as my new adventure of being an author unfolds, you can follow me at http://www.sarinaziv.com/Blog.aspx.

My first sci-fi novel, Generation A.R.M., can now be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ANHYT34.

Thanks again for all your support!

So long, farewell Korea!

Well, as is evident in the long space of time between this post and my last, life caught up with me and my family in Korea. We lived in Korea for almost 2 years and faced many hardships during our stay. But, we also came to know incredible people, both Korean and international, and we were able to do university work that was fulfilling and possibly 'good-looking' on our resume.

But, now that both my husband and I have completed our masters and research, we have decided to relocate to Seattle... which we are really hoping to make our new home. For anyone who is moving to Korea and/or living in Korea and is in search of kosher food, the options have come a LONG WAY since the day we got off our airport bus into Seoul (existing for a week on pringles, snicker bars and fruit/veggies)!

Chabad has grown roots in Seoul and offers kosher meat and cheeses for reasonable prices. You can learn more about Chabad of Korea's services here, http://jewishkorea.com/. Also, "veggie hill" in Itaewon near the Grand Hyatt Hotel offers kosher options in the black-market shooks along the mountain street. Finally, Shinsegae and Emart both inconsistently offer foreign food product sections, which sometimes contains kosher goods.

Keeping kosher is a very personal, spiritual undertaking. Having grown up in America's Midwest, I was accustomed to having limited kosher food options. But, if you are coming from Israel or the East Coast be prepared to become a food adventurist!! You will find yourself diving into obscure Asian markets in the hope of finding a Kosher item. Certainly, keeping kosher is completely possible in Korea, more so now than ever before, but be prepared to consider food choices like that of gold!

Please feel free to contact me if you are a serious kosher-shopper in need of some extra advice. I'd be happy to help! Best of luck!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Bodly Go...

The Question: If the future is now and a special mission required you to travel into deep space would you do it? Could you leave behind your family and friends and all other things familiar? Could you venture into the vast unknown for a purpose greater than yourself?

Since I was a child my brother and I often asked this question of each other. In our minds we imagined that this scenario necessitated the likes of Star Trek or Star Wars. It wasn't until last night as I was helping my daughter fall asleep that I realized I finally had the Answer...

It was a memory that flashed in my mind that evening - my first memory of Asia that I have thought of since arriving here. My husband and I were sitting for many hours in Beijing's international airport awaiting our flight to Korea. The place was huge, white, with very foreign architecture and also happened to be weirdly fully staffed but yet completely devoid of passengers. We found rows of benches near our gate and situated ourselves there. Both Nir and I were exhausted from our previous flight though little Ayalah was wide awake and full of energy having slept in our arms beforehand. A Hagen Daz kiosk offered our only kosher food option. And literally SWARMS of employees continually approached us to ask if they could photograph Ayalah with their cell phones. The whiteness of the building, the emptiness of the place, Ayalah's paparazzi and our immense fatigue were all a bit surreal for me at the time. During our travels to Korea and our first days in Seoul I was just so determined. Determined to make it to Korea. Determined to find a home. Determined to get kosher food. Determined to survive and thrive really.

Back in bed with Ayalah, cuddling her to sleep, the aftershock overwhelmed me. I thought of everything that had happened since those first few days and how vulnerable I now know that we had been. We were all alone in a totally foreign place and we had to make it in order to turn our dream for Nir to study robotics into a reality. Until this memory flash I had been really proud of us, how we navigated the job market, the real estate agents, the subway... all the research and prep and planning we had done alone in advance and how hard we worked even once we arrived. Schlepping our new stuff by foot and walking miles everyday with our baby in toe just to find the Costco or the Immigration Office, etc. But, after this memory flash I wept and thanked H-shem over and over again because at any point our plans could have been unravelled. We had simply been so fragile.

For this reason I find it is sometimes more frightening to look back than to look forward. Yet today we received confirmation that our efforts were not for not. Nir called me on my cell at work and told me that the President of Hebrew University in Israel happened to be visiting his university and had been told about the one Israeli student studying there. Nir was unexpectedly escorted into a private luncheon with the President and top notch profs. Before departing the President told Nir to come to Hebrew University when he finishes in Korea. Maybe we will. Maybe we will help Israel some day with the knowledge Nir gains here. Either way, meeting the President today was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Korea is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.

So, yes, I would go into deep space... I would depart the familiar and venture into the unknown for a special mission.

I know that I would because I already have.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

No strings attached?

Despite dreading the High Holy days for the last few weeks, fearing that I would feel terribly homesick, just before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) entered I found myself unexpectantly excited. We decided to video Skype Ayalah's savta (grandma) in Israel so that she could see her granddaughter dressed up for synagogue. Hundreds of years ago, before even the telegraph was invented, Skype might have been considered to be witchcraft. But, despite all the modernity around us today that we take for granted, the Internet really is a miracle. Chatting with loved ones, hearing and seeing them in real time despite being separated by thousands and thousands of miles... And, yet, as we ended our video chat our excitement had morphed into sadness for we had been visually reminded that we were not REALLY with our family for the holiday. And, at the same time, we were not really in Korea either.

Skype. AIM. The Internet. Cell phones. This very blog. All of these mediums allow us to extend our hand beyond that which is immediately before us. If not for the Internet, Nir would never have learned about his graduate program here and I would be unemployed. We'd be living totally different lives, probably buying a house in Kansas and settling down. Technology makes the world smaller and more connected and this is truly amazing, but at what point does all this modernity -

*buying goods and services online instead of in local shops;
*chatting online with friends thousands of miles away but not conversing with our neighbors;
*and don't even get me started on emails where we spend hours every week trying to stay on top of our virtual inbox!

- At what point does all of this prevent us from living our lives in the here and now? At what point do these "wireless" technologies tie us up from simply living?

So, my New Years resolution (one of many!) is not so extreme as to go without my laptop or cell, but to make a special effort to try and experience the real Korea as much as possible whenever I can. For this reason, I have penned this blog old-school style on a napkin in a Korean coffee house, an hour from our home, from our computers and from other English speakers. As I sip my tea now Ayalah naps beside me and Nir is playing chess closeby. Some business matriarchs are in front of me, behind me sit love birds and a few Korean students studying - all of them friendly and trying to connect to me despite the language barrier. Koreans are the most friendly strangers I have ever known.

And even though at this moment I cannot reach them electronically, I am thinking of my family and friends the traditional way, and I am wishing them all a Shanah Tovah (Good Year). May you be inscribed in the Book of Life. May your year be filled with great health, much happiness, love and success and countless 'full of life' moments in the here and now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

If We Can Keep Kosher Here...

"Just think, if we can keep kosher here we can keep kosher anywhere..." my husband (Nir) said this to me during our first week in Korea. We were living in a hotel without a kitchen while we searched for our new apartment and eating only kosher snicker bars and pringles. This may sound like a great excuse to indulge on junk but, trust me, it has been nearly 2 months since that first rough week and I still cannot bring myself to eat another snickers.

Before we arrived here Nir and I had romanticized the idea of keeping kosher in Korea. We'd buy only fresh veggies and fruit and would make food from scratch... and this is exactly what we are doing. But, romantic? No, it is work! The end result though is delicious and very rewarding to be sure. On Thursday night Nir and I didn't sleep as we worked in the kitchen side by side preparing food for our anticipated first Shabbat guests. The flour for the challah needed to be sifted beforehand and our little convection oven could only fit one loaf at a time. In Korea, people use gas burners and rarely have ovens in their home. Despite the prep time it was the best challah we had ever made. [Mom, take a look at our challot in the pic above and rest assured that we are NOT starving!]

But keeping kosher here reaches beyond just prep-time. Sometimes to find essential kosher ingredients we need to go to several different places - including the black market. Currently we have no meat but are able to find kosher milk at around $6 for half a gallon. Yikes! But what can we do, we must have milk for our daughter. Jokingly I told Nir that this experience here is making me rethink the value of food; I feel my life is some weird combination of Survivor (the tv series) and the experiences of those from the Great Depression. If you've ever cried from happiness because you've found Philadelphia cream cheese ($4 each package) you know what I'm talking about! Overall, it is hard to be kosher here but we are making it happen everyday and learning a lot from the experience.

Even so... the next time you chow down on a turkey sandwich or cheese pizza think of us and know that someone, far away, wishes they were eating your food :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

We're Not in Kansas Anymore...

I'm 25 years old and until now I have never lived outside of Kansas. Sure, I did a study abroad trip in college and I have tried to travel abroad as often as I could... but these activities never actually amounted to me living somewhere "exciting" for more than several weeks. And by "exciting" I mean somewhere OUTSIDE of Kansas! [FYI mom, I love that I could grow up in Kansas and I miss it already...] But today my husband Nir, our little daughter Ayalah and I are officially residents of Seoul, South Korea. We have now lived in our Korean apartment for 30 days and will be hanging our Mezuzot scrolls tomorrow. These scrolls will hang on every doorpost of our home and indicate to all who passby that we are a Jewish family.

Before sundown tonight Ayalah and I went out to get some Coca-Cola from a local vendor. As she and I left our house we saw the sun setting against an amazing view of the city's sky scrapers. This image is what you see when you walk out the door of our apartment; the glass globe structure is a main train station called Noksapyeong. Suddenly as we walked up the street all the sights that had seemed foreign to me for the past month felt different. There was the man on the sidewalk handling glass with white workman gloves stained with red paint; workman gloves are actually manufactured in Korea with ready-made red paint stain splotches on the fabric (I know, somewhat odd but kinda cool so long as you aren't a perfectionist.) A large wagon of fresh fruit was being carted down the street by a man on foot - a powerful flashback to a scene that might have happened in the U.S. in the 1920's. Yet modern cars passed by busily, nearly each one with LCD TVs and GPS systems gleaming from their windows.

All these and other sights of Korea that my senses seemed to rebel for the past few weeks seemed to change in a single moment. Suddenly they felt familiar to me. I wonder if this is why Mezuzot should be hung only after 30 days, is this how long it takes for someone to feel comfortable enough in a place to call it their home?