I have been in Korea the length of time equivalent to a full-term pregnancy; thus, I am ‘terming’ this blog post: My Korean Baby. This post is a review of the last 3/4 of a year and a preview of what is to come. Like expectant mothers, I have read and visited people and places to learn about my growing Korean ‘baby’ over these 9 months. In the beginning, I experienced the bliss of new experiences and expectations. Every new food, custom, Korean word or phrase learned, and sight was exciting. I formed a new expat family, like that of mothers-to-be. I too have experienced many sicknesses (morning and otherwise) while being abroad to my chagrin, and found the middle apex to be the part with the most ease. Toward the end, I had had to let go of some fantasies (that Carly could stay here forever) and look forward to the horror of birth. The pain I experienced was/is financial and health-related, sleepless nights included. Now lets forget this ‘labored’ analogy and talk about plans… always my favorite part.
This blog post will cover Chris and my current two-year plan, 9 positives and 9 negatives of the last 9 months, a review of some recent reads and finally a warm shout out and thank you to those who have stayed in contact, in whatever petite or grand way, since I have been away.
“Sooo…. When are you coming home?” asks the inquiring voice on the other side of the computer screen at the now cloyingly familiar beginning to my skype dates. The answer is… drum roll please… the first week of AUGUST 2014. This is final, no backsies. I have signed a 6-month extension to my contract. I promised Papa Bear that I would be home in no longer than 1.5 years and I will not break that promise. I decided to extend for three major reasons. 1) I LOVE my job. 2) I am broke. 3) I still have so much of Korea to see and experience!
December 2013: Five-day trip to Vietnam with my best friends, Laura and Chris. Upon return, Laura will spend 2 weeks with me in Seoul and will be staying for Christmas!!
March 2014: Chris returns home to Omaha to spend quality time with family.
April 2014: Chris returns to Minneapolis for work and to finish culinary school at the Arts Institute in downtown Minneapolis.
April-August 2014: Robyn will be impossibly lonely without Chris, but also joyously content to have the 10 X 10 ft apartment back to herself. I hope to have a visit from my friend Caroline and her husband Damon, my friend Ashly, and a possible return of my mother during this time frame! We shall see 🙂
August 2014: Fly home to Minneapolis and spend entire month reconnecting with Minneapolis roots while living in Hopkins. I will plan a trip down to Omaha (to visit Creighton family and shop at Be Yourself) and, fingers crossed, a trip to visit Carly in Taiwan or British Columbia- wherever she may be.
September-October 2014: Retake GRE, apply to PhD programs, be Mom and Dad’s servant (cooking, cleaning, yard work, groceries- whatever I can do to pay for my keep).
November 2014: Search for and hopefully get a job in Minneapolis. I wouldn’t mind working in mental health or education. Ironically, I am not fully qualified for either at this point. I HATE corporate America, but it may be my only option to find a suitably paid position. My ideal job would be to become an academic advisor on campus. I also hope to move out of my parents’ place, back to Minneapolis, in this month before too much snow falls.
November-March 2015: Anxiously await the reply from graduate programs.
August 2015: Either move to new state for a graduate program or pathetically wallow in a failed second attempt at a PhD and have a legitimate mental breakdown accompanied by a full-on quarter life crisis.
9 Pros & 9 Cons of Korean Life
1) The job- the Kiddos
I have really enjoyed being a teacher here. I feel fulfilled. If I learned anything from my previous anxiety-filled job as a mental health advocate at a corporate insurance agency, it is that my job is the single MOST adequate gauge of happiness for me. I was SO unhappy before and now I am blissfully pleased with what I do every day. Even if the home front is rocky, I can count on work to lift my spirits. If I hadn’t promised Papa Bear that I would be home in 1.5 years and also needed to support Chris’s dream to finish culinary school, then I probably would travel the globe being an English teacher for about 5 years. I love learning and I get a chance to do that everyday at work from the children and the challenging curriculum that I teach. My counseling background definitely helps when communicating with management and trying to read the lil ones in class.
I am the teacher with really high expectations that no one wants to disappoint. I also have really fun motivational rewards for the kids as individuals and as a class. Teaching is a creative release for me because I am always trying to come up with a new educational game, a new way to explain a concept that seems so innate to me but foreign to the students, ways to decorate the class, and other kinds of motivators for unique learners. I have always been a ‘favorites’ person, so I this is a little challenging for me. I also prefer the high-achieving students who think critically. I get to teach debate classes which is SO AWESOME! We discuss everything from plastic gyers in the Pacific to being a weekday vegetarian, globalization to ethnic cleansing, adoption to economic philosophies (ie. communism v. capitalism), etc. These kids are so brilliant and discuss topics that I only learned about in college. It doesn’t hurt that I work with splendid human beings who have mature conversations about learning pedagogy, but who can also party after work.
2) Access to Asia
So far we have traversed Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Some highlights were our luxury accommodations and the Angkorwat temples in Cambodia, the white water rafting through the jungle and adopting an elephant for a day in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and trekking to remote water falls in the Philippines. Please refer to my former blogs if you missed any of these details.
2) My Espirit Family & Friends
John is a soldier for education. Andra is a ferocious hockey player and strong disciplinarian. Ellie is sweet as pudding and open to almost any activity. Cbear is my knight in chocolate armor. Aleim is my Korean goddess who tells me how “it really is” in Korea. Carly is my tan cookie, my humanitarian soul mate and one to always look up to for her compassionate teaching. Bri is the laid back chick who can be as badass at baking as at pool playing. Yuni is the rambunctious Latina ready to party. Ben is a leader. Lee is calm and collected. Jenny is from the Down Under and has the best laugh! Noel is our actress. Christine is our mama who takes care of us when we get sick and is always out to support everyone in any way she can. Steve is a Cali man who lays down the law in class and has an excellent sense of humor. Could you imagine a better bunch? I can’t, not as a family or as coworkers. I am blessed!
3) Public Transportation
Planes, trains and automobiles… more like subways, buses and taxis! I love not having the responsibility of a car here. I also enjoy being part of the crawling, heaving, bustling city of Seoul by walking in it every day, although it can get exhausting. No car insurance. No fear of speeding tickets or accidents. No need to parallel park on a snow bank. Yes please!! … by the way, thank you Papa Bear for caring for Heuvo while I have been away!
4) Growing our Relationship
My friends have all said at one point during this crazy, beautiful, tragic, hilarious, fun, and perilous journey, “if you can make it through your time abroad, the two of you can make it through anything.” I am starting to believe them! We have had some of our highest highs and our lowest lows this year. As you read on you will find out about our financial and health woes, and you have already read (if you follow my blogs) about our amazingly spectacular travel opportunities and belly laughs with friends. We both love our jobs here and feel that we are building a foundation for our relational and career pursuits. Because we are living in a 10 X 10 ft room, we have had to be very communicative and raw with one another. We admit to being each other’s best friend, confidant, enabler, source of stress, and motivator. Being broke hasn’t broken us. Health concerns unveil the depth of love for one another and the challenges associated with dealing with the stress differently. I have an unwavering partner for better or for worse.
5) Korean Food
6) Opportunities for Things to do are Endless
Since our return from the Philippines towards the end of September, I have been hunkered down in the apartment reading, recouping and saving money. Even with my limited budget and lack of eagerness to “get out more,” I still have had some pretty fun experiences including: going to a 10-minute play competition, wing night with friends, Halloween costume party, Chris’s birthday BBQ and noraebang singing, Indian food feast, 3D posh movie theatre experience, International Fireworks Festival, street art performances, King Sejong museum, and working out with a friend. And yet, I could fill up the whole blog with things I did NOT do that WERE going on! The choices are endless.
7) Acquiring Cultural Competency
Whether I wind up as a professor, counselor, psychologist, human development specialist, or social scientist, understanding more of the world’s culture and history is always an asset. Being here has been a priceless experience to travel, learn from other expat’s experiences, talk to locals, watch human development in my students, read a plethora of books and articles, and learn from the complex issues in my debate class that I teach. The better I can empathize, understand and relate to others, the more suited I am for my profession, whatever that may turn out to be. I feel more connected to the human race, to different humanitarian issues, and to women’s rights than I ever have before. I hope to return home with an even broader perspective on the world, knowledge that I can impart and discuss with others, and with a renewed passion to further my career with my acquired cultural competence.
I never knew how scared I was until I wasn’t. Have you ever, especially as a woman unfortunately, looked behind your shoulder to see if someone was following you? Have you ever been wary of jogging at night? Have you looked at someone entering an establishment and wondered if he or she has a weapon? Are you concerned that if you leave something on your front yard, that someone might take it? Do the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you cross an almost deserted parking lot late at night? Do you fear that you may be the victim of violence (sexual or otherwise) when you least expect it? Do you wonder if you should let the man offering to carry your groceries to your car do so? If you have, you are not alone; however, I have news. This is not true all over the world.
In Korea, the most dangerous location is in Itaewon, the foreigner district. Korean people are calm and collected, focused on the bigger picture and their role in society, not always self-interest. Qualities of value are the community and harmony. They are extremely passive aggressive, think Minnesota Nice, but without access to guns and without the cultural instillation of individual entitlement. Violence and agrgression are nearly unheard of, at least in public. To be fair, domestic violence is an issue here as well, but is not seen outdoors. I can walk down any dark ally at any time of day or night anywhere in Seoul, a city larger than New York City mind you, and feel 99% safe. I would say I felt 75% safe in Minneapolis and 85% in Hopkins, if you want a comparison to the Minnesota.
9) Planning Trips
Next on the docket is Hanoi, Vietnam December 13-17. We plan to visit a UNESCO world heritage site- Ha Long Bay, markets, a community center for victims of Agent Orange, citadels, lakes, and more.
1) Treatment of Women
In the United States, many women complain about chivalry being dead. In South Korea, to my knowledge, it never existed. The norm in the USA of opening and closing doors for women, pulling out a chair or stepping aside on a crowded subway just does not occur here. In this Confusion-based power structure, age, gender, and job status let people know how one should be treated. As a women… ehem, aka a second-class citizen, no one steps aside for me. Men and anyone older than me can budge in line at any time. Women first in USA, men first in Korea. I can handle that West and East have opposite norms, but I get a little tired of men walking straight into me expecting me to step aside.
So one rainy night, I didn’t. I held my ground. I didn’t care if he was thinking, “Step aside you overly-fluffy white foreigner bitch.” I just couldn’t take it anymore. Well, he walked right into me. I tackled him like a first rate offensive lineman and by complete accident my umbrella caught and probably painfully snagged his ear. He yelled at me in some Korean profanities that I thankfully didn’t understand and I simply, yet confidently, continued on my walk, not giving him the time of day. I am glad I did it and I would do it again. I am not asking for chivalry, no. I daren’t dream of it. I know I can’t change the system, but I want some men out there to even CONSIDER the idea of equality, that we both have a right to the same amount of pavement. I shouldn’t have to jump into a street of oncoming cars to sidestep a gaggle of drunk and inappropriate businessmen because they lack common human decency. I haven’t even scratched the surface of Korean misogyny or patriarchic bullshit here. I could honestly take up an entire blog about my confrontations with male power in Korea, but I will not waste your time; however, I will give you a few more examples to let you know how ingrained it is in the culture and so prevalent in every day encounters.
My girl students are by far harder working than their male counterparts. I find this so inspirational as a strong female teacher and yet so heart wrenching because both they and I know that 90% of them will wind up as housewives, whether they want to or not- think 1950s America. Women have to work just as hard as men to get good grades to get into an amazing college to perform well to… meet a fantastic man. WAIT, What!?!? Yes, and even if they do find the sweetheart of their dreams in college, he does not have to be ‘committed’ until they walk down the isle.
Take the example of a Korean friend of mine who shall remain nameless. She has been dating the same man for 4 years. She went out on a date to catch up with one of her exes. When I asked her what would happen if her current boyfriend found out, she simply stated that he would dump her. I was shocked! Four years down the drain because of one innocent meeting? I asked her if she would do dump him if she caught him with an ex and she said no, “because men do not have to be exclusive until they are married, but women do.” WAIT, What!??! And then even when they do become married, all this does for the woman is secure her financially. Men are still allowed to visit prostitutes. Some happy hours, exclusively for men after work (Washi), even promote getting prostitutes. Where is the power for the woman at any point in her life? I will tell you: non-existent. The pressure doesn’t end there. After marriage, the woman is expected to stay at home, pop out a child and raise it perfectly to get it into the best schools so that she gets a superb grade as a mother. I am not just observing this, I have had Korean women tell me that this is so. You may ask, why don’t the women just get a divorce and leave him? In the words of one of my friends, “I don’t want to wind up as a cashier at a grocery store.” Of course there are exceptions to this norm and many progressive Koreans out there, but I’m struggling to find this hopeful for my current female comrades in relationships.
According to a study published by the UN this year, one in four Asian (Asia is a HUGE continent) men admit to having sex with a woman without consent, in other words, rape. One in five Korean men visit prostitutes at least twice a month. In Korea, these rapes are not usually the violent rapes we think of on TV in the West. Often, women are obligated to go out drinking with their boss and colleagues after work, or even for fun with their friends on the weekends. The 90 lbs women are expected to keep up with the men. If they can’t and they get too drunk, someone has to take them home. Guess who gets free sex from someone who can’t consent?! So you may ask, is there hope for the future of women in Korea? Yes! I see things changing, slowly, like molasses slow. Women are clawing their way up in the workplace. Women are seeing Western culture and becoming more opinionated, but things will not change as fast as they do in the flighty young USA. Korea as 6,000 plus years of history and men have been in charge for a lllooonnnggg time.
After we returned from our honeymoon trip through Thailand and Cambodia, Chris’s psoriasis spread like a slashed bag of rice upon a slopped ground. Within a week, 90% of his body was covered. He said he felt like his skin was hardening into an iron casing around his strong and able body. When he moved his arms, they would crack and bleed. He was in extreme agony. Not only was I concerned for his health and increasingly likely susceptibility to infection, but also I was concerned that this could impact his job status. Contamination and food preparation do not go well together. During this time, his confidence was plummeting along with the rise of tenseness and stress in the relationship. My anxiety shot through the roof because any time I wasn’t at work or grading, I was cleaning our tiny compact apartment littered with brown snow which was everywhere from his flaking skin. We tried EVERY product possible and were rapidly loosing money to eat in the process.
Chris went to the doctor here and was prescribed some topical and oral medications that worked, that but this only lasted a few days. In Korea they have no recurring prescriptions. That means that he would have to pay for a $50 doctor appointment (no insurance) and then pay $50 for medication more than once a week. We just couldn’t cut it. When we went to the Philippines, away from the pollution and into the humidity again, his skin got significantly better; however, upon return, we were devastated again. So, we waited and waited and waited for a package to come to Korea from my parents that contained the topical remedy needed. His condition has since subsided but is by no means cured. The two major factors of his condition are stress and pollution- two of which can be very high in Seoul and while working in a fast paced kitchen. We are now counting down the days till our trip to Vietnam! 7 weeks!
3) Health Concerns
Before coming to Korea, I considered myself to have a rock solid immune system and an iron clad stomach. Plain and simple, I was wrong. In the past 9 months, I have had multiple colds, a sinus infection, laryngitis, multiple yeast infections, constipation, diarrhea, weight gain, and have started smoking cigarettes occasionally. Taking public transportation daily and the fact that every Korean sneezes into his/her hands may cause some of the former issues. Don’t even get me started on how gross it is when I watch someone sneeze into his hand and then place it and the gooey remnants on the handle of a subway train. It seems that no one here has EVER learned to sneeze into a handkerchief or his/her elbow to avoid the SPREAD of germs. I also work with little germ mongers. I love them to death, but kids are walking parasite collectors. The weight gain is from not working out enough and eating late at night. This I can fix. The cigarettes are inexcusable acts that I mostly do while drinking, but it’s been happening and I admit it. I am concerned about this because I know I that I have an addictive personality. Because I have health insurance and awesome coworkers, most of my illnesses have had cheap and effective solutions, but it still doesn’t take away from the annoyingness of being sick.
4) Materialism & Vanity
Midwesterners are a hearty bunch. We value style, but we also care about comfort and I believe that we tend to care more about spending time together than spending money on looking great every time we spend time together. Korean women love all looking the same and carrying the same Louis Vuitton or Channel handbag. I informed my Korean friends that back in the States, it is an admired trait for women and men to have their own sense of individual style. This information falls on confused minds in this collectivistic culture. Being different is definitely not “in.”
The occasional obsession with looks may be present in the Midwest, but being vain is generally looked down upon. Checking one’s makeup in the middle of a group cocktail hour would be considered a faux pas. Not so in Seoul. Every single afternoon when I get on the elevator in my building there is at least one man or woman checking themselves out in the mirror, adjusting makeup or just plain staring at themselves, true to their Greek role model Narcissis, captivated by their own image. The all-popular “selfies” are taken all the time. No one feels ashamed to be staring and adjusting himself or herself on a packed subway so that they can take pictures. This is not a gendered behavior- it goes both ways.
One thing I look forward to very much going back home is seeing other curvy, voluptuous, fat, fluffy, full-figured humans. I have questioned my hotness over the last 9 months. Self-confidence, for the first time in my LIFE, has been an issue. While on the subway, one commercial for liposuction plays everyday. It is a beautiful skinny, pathetically thin girl (maybe size 4 at the largest) trying to hula-hoop but can’t because she has a fat blob with a face like a gremlin stuck to her leg. This add is a slap in the face. At least in the USA, they would have a size 8 or above person advertising for weight loss instead of a size 4. To put the cherry on top of the sundae, I have begun tutoring a Korean housewife. My only job is to speak with her in English and exchange information on culture. We have talked about weight and how she thinks she is fat (she is NOT), but that she does not care about it as much as other Korean women because her husband is very large. So at the end of the day, it is the appearance of the man in her life that gives her permission to not feel so bad? Oh god, this is twisted in too many ways! Her opinion of me, you ask? Beautiful face, captivating eyes and overall, cute. Being called cute here is like calling the retarded child ‘special.’ Sigh.
5) Being Broke
Travel comes at an expense. We spent $1000 over budget on our first trip and have had subsequent bills to book the Philippines and Vietnam since. With Chris’s skin condition on top of it, we have barely had our head above water for the past 4 months. At one point we were on a $3 a day per person budget! Things are slightly better now, but it will not be until February that we are on the comfortable plus side again.
6) Living in a Jail Cell
Our room is 10 x 10 ft studio with a 4-foot hallway that has the 2-burner kitchen and a washing machine across from the tiny bathroom. The bed (which is a futon taped to a single bed) takes up 60% of the space. Chris is 6’8’’ and neither of us are petite persons. Basically, we have been on living top of each other for the past six months. Chris and I never fight because we do not want to say things that we cannot take back- no name calling, generally no swearing, and the intention to keep perspective on where the other person is coming from. This has been our methodology since the beginning of our relationship and mostly, with only two exceptions, this has worked.
Here, if either of us wants to escape tense energy, we either go to our own corner, in the bathroom, or out of the apartment. I tend to stay in, but Chris’s inclination is to always “let you <me> cool down” and leave the apartment for a while. There have been a few pitiable instances where I have shouted, “Well fuck you then, just leave,” as he was already leaving of course… straight out of a TV show, but much less hysterical.
7) Missing Cabin Season & Nature
While boating on Lake Minnetonka the summer of 2012, Steven Melcher (lawyer and acclaimed ski competitor) announced, “Whose going to jump into the lake second? Because I know who is going first!” He was undoubtedly referring to me being the first one in. I have been called a human fish many a time in my life. Teaching swim lessons for 10 years, swimming the 5-mile Minnetonka Challenge multiple times, being raised at the cabin, and feeling the cool scrub of the sand beneath my toes as the fishes lend their kisses are all ingrained in who I am. Being away from the lakes, nature, and most of all summer in Minnesota was heart breaking. This was the first summer in 26 years that I didn’t spend it at the cabin. I hope to NEVER ever repeat this in my life.
8) Missing American Food Options
I miss fruit that costs under $10. I miss: Granola bars, blueberries, Greek yogurt, steak, baked potatoes, grandmas mashed potatoes, grilled anything (especially bell peppers), BBQ chicken, spicy Doritos, Chipotle, glazed apple fritters, pizza, cinnamon scones, sushi, Arby’s market fresh turkey sandwich, Wilde Roast’s sugar free almond skim latte with extra foam, cheap ice cream, dark chocolate, beet salad, Gorkah’s Palace, Reuben sandwiches, quality CHEESE (goat cheese, blue cheese, gruyere, gouda, cheddar), good red wine, spinach, salmon, popcorn, fudgecicles, ice cream sandwiches, French onion soup, Laura’s chicken tortilla soup, the list goes on and on and on and on.
9) Sensory Overload
I live in the third largest city in the world. There are 12 million people in the city proper, 23 million including the suburbs that commute. As you can imagine, walking outside everyday is an explosion of sensory information. The constant traffic sound is the backdrop to both waking and sleeping hours. While walking on the street, one moment a delicious waft of Korean BBQ catches one’s nose, the next a sewer smell, and the following a sweet pastry scent from a street vendor. People surge through the streets to get to their destination, bumping and nudging along the way. I view mobs of black-hair-covered heads shopping, working, walking, giggling, shouting, milling and eating. Don’t get me wrong. I am a city girl at heart. I love taking public transportation. I connect to subsisting in an already living and breathing cement organism, the city. I enjoy my energetic children, but by the end of the day or the weekend, I often want to crawl into my little apartment cocoon, rest, and read.
I LOVED this book and highly recommend it! Set in Vancouver’s Chinatown, the novel takes place during the 1930s and 1940s. It explores the ways in which the Chinese and majority of Canadians once viewed the Japanese, especially during Japan’s occupation of China during the Second World War and in the events following Pearl Harbor. Other issues dealt with in this novel include the sense of belonging to a nation, and how young children of immigrants felt at this time, trying to find their identity when they were alien residents, and not born in the same country as their parents were. They are working to find their identity as Chinese Canadians, and find either embrace being Canadian, or keep the Old China ways alive. Death, sexuality, and the afterlife are some major themes.
If one loves cats, this is 4 stars!! Vicki Myron was a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm and an alcoholic husband. But her biggest challenge as the new head librarian in Spencer, Iowa, was to raise the spirits of a small, out-of-the-way town mired deep in the farm crisis of the 1980s. Then, on the coldest morning of the year, Vicki found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the night drop box, and her life—and the town of Spencer—was never the same. Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, grew into a strutting, affable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches, and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships. As his fame grew, people drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and he even ended up in a hit television documentary…in Japan! Through it all, Dewey remained a loyal companion, a beacon of hope not just for Vicki Myron, but for the entire town of Spencer as it slowly, steadily pulled itself up from the worst financial crisis in its long history.
This book is too dry and filled with too many statistics instead of focusing the personal stories and legacy of the mass killings. The horrific torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge during the 1970s is one of the century’s major human disasters. David Chandler, a world-renowned historian of Cambodia, examines the Khmer Rouge phenomenon by focusing on one of its key institutions, the secret prison outside Phnom Penh known by the code name “S-21.” The facility was an interrogation center where more than 14,000 “enemies” were questioned, tortured, and made to confess to counterrevolutionary crimes. Fewer than a dozen prisoners left S-21 alive. More than a chronicle of Khmer Rouge barbarism, Voices from S-21 is also a judicious examination of the psychological dimensions of state-sponsored terrorism that conditions human beings to commit acts of unspeakable brutality.
A classic mystery tale told again about the cold, yet scrupulous, Mr. Holmes and his companion Watson.
The Tale of Despereaux is a 2004 Newbery Medal winning fantasy book written by Kate DiCamillo. The main plot follows the adventures of a mouse named Despereaux Tilling, as he sets out on his quest to rescue a beautiful human princess. The novel is divided into four chapters and a coda. Each chapter tells the story from the perspective of a different character: Despereaux, Roscuro, Miggery Sow, and all together.
Joseph Calderaro is unsure of himself, nervous around girls, and sometimes awkward. Unlike most kids his age, he has some different issues on his plate- he is a Korean adoptee being raised by a proud Italian New Jersey family. Joseph goes on a journey to find out who he really is and tries to embrace two cultures into his life. The story is fairly predictable, but it is geared towards the younger crowd who I’m sure will like this book. Readers can relate to the friends and peers Joseph has at school, as well as the anxiety Joseph has about asking a girl out, and the fear he has when confronting a teacher and his parents about a lie he’s told about his heritage.
Sasha Zaichik is eager to become one of Stalin’s Young Soviet Pioneers. He is particularly excited that his dad, who works in State Security, has agreed to preside over the ceremony at his school. But the night before the ceremony, Sasha’s father is arrested. This is the first hint Sasha gets that that Stalin’s regime might not be as wonderful as he’s always believed it to be. At school the next day Sasha is horrified when he accidentally breaks the nose off a statue of Comrade Stalin. Readers might think he’s exaggerating when he says that the authorities will see this as an act of terrorism, but he’s not: The State Security is called in. He and his classmates are encouraged to turn the culprit in, because surely only an enemy of the state could do such a thing. Sasha is also informed that the only way he can be a Young Soviet Pioneer is to denounce his father publicly. The choice Sasha is forced to make will change his life forever.
Thank you to all of those who have kept in communication while I have been gone with extra likes, comments, messages or posts on facebook, weekly skype dates, occasional skype dates, packages, texts, emails, following my blog, etc. It really makes the difference between being homesick or feeling connected. I love you and carry you in my heart every day!
Mom, Papa bear, Grandma, Laura, Caroline, Caitlin, Maria, Ashly, Megan Manning, Kyra, Shan, Kate, Tara, Katarina, Stacy, Jen, Cassi, Jill, and Mingzhi.