Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Party starts at noon. You coming?

The party this year skews slightly vampirish because I'm asking all my friends to bring their blood. It's a social media adventure started by  @SWBlood on Twitter. They sent me a direct message asking if I would spearhead a drive. I gave them an enthusiastic yes and started pressing friends and strangers into service.

The online appointment scheduler has a couple of open spots, so get yourself signed up! We want to fill the day to keep the Puget Sound Blood Center-Vancouver busy. And while you're laying there saving lives you can think about all the presents you gave someone that they never used.

I realize this gift costs you something—your gas, your time to get to the center, maybe a little anxiety, but what does it cost if we do nothing? It costs someone their life.

And if you can't come to my party, I promise there'll be another one. The Blood-Mobile shows up at some of the finest places with juice and cookies, rockin' music and friendly, encouraging smiles. But today, you'll get to party with me, and that doesn't happen very often.

Please come!
Carol's Save a Life Birthday Party

Puget Sound Blood Center - Vancouver
9320 NE Vancouver Mall Blvd
Suite 100, Vancouver, WA 98662

Follow the Schmap to the Blood Center
Follow Google map to the Blood Center

Make your appointment online:

Want to, but can’t on the 31st?
Call 360-567-4800 for an alternate date.

EACH DAY our community needs 900 people to donate blood.

1. Eligibility:

2. First Time Donors:

3. Donation FAQs:

If you would like to see the lives that are touched by blood donation visit the Puget Sound Blood Center patient videos page.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Husband Hunting Part IV

Chye nudged me and whispered, “Stand.”

The sermon had ended, a song had concluded, the offering had come and gone, and a prayer uttered over the full, bounty of gifts.

I realized we were at that part of the service. The minister had announced us as guests, not that I’d recognized my name, but apparently it was our job to stand and present ourselves to the Korean Presbyterian congregation. Our covert position in the back  insured that the entire gathering had to twist themselves around to gawk at us. I popped up, gazed at their upturned faces, nodded acknowledgement, and plopped back down in the pew. A gasp of horror from the onlookers told me I had made a mistake. Chye flapped her hand at me, frantically motioning at me to stand back up.

I rose.

The organ burst into a full, bright chord and I jumped. I patted my hair back into place, and hung on to the pew back as the gathering opened their mouths wide and sang, “Welcome, dear guest,” or something to that effect. I’m likely making it up at this point, if only due to the complete, unnerving experience. That and I don’t speak Korean, so honestly, they could have sang anything, for example, “No sweet girls, there are no husbands here.... at least none as old as you, unless you want to consider... Never mind.”

They sang a full verse. They sang a chorus.

They sang a second verse.

They repeated the dang chorus.

I pulled my face into a wide, sloppy grin. My knees began to creak and bend toward the pew, but straightened suddenly at the start of the third verse. I felt trapped behind the smile plastered on my face and my lips began to dry on my teeth. At the final stanza, their arms rose in unison, palms open, then pointed our direction as the final chorus catapulted out.

My knees were a little weak but I lowered myself and settled softly into the upholstered pew. I pulled my head down and prayed for the announcements to end so we could scoot out of there. The minister joined me in prayer, except his wasn’t silent.

“Ah-min,” the congregation heaved loudly.

His robe flapped in a self-created breeze as he strode past. 

Chye and I rushed for the aisle, taking huge mother-may-I steps toward the exit.

She made it before me, but the minister’s stance guarding the door slowed us down. Chye did as she'd been taught: she bowed low. I automatically reached out to catch her thinking she would fall over, but she had it under control. The minister caste his gaze on me. Just behind him stood the open door. Freedom. I bobbed my head his direction and turned to bolt, but my inept head jerk gave the Korean women time to set their trap. The babbling began. Their voices rose along with the volume and I yelled at Chye as they closed in on us, “What? What?”

A couple of women  in front of us motioned us toward their dining hall. Another women positioned herself behind us, placed one hand on Chye’s back and one hand firmly on mine. She braced herself, dug her feet into the carpet and began to push.

She. Pushed. Us. Down. The. Hall. Literally.

When I saw what was on the table it was too good to miss. I ran the last few steps, a goofy grin gaping across my lips.
Krispy Kremes and Kimchi.

Klearly Korean.

Oh, by the way, we went back the next week.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Husband Hunting Part III

Adventure embraces every moment of our lives. We have no idea what is coming next. I had no idea Chye (a co-worker and Korean woman) would ask me about the Korean Presbyterian Church I had attended some months back. Crashing their service was a personal dare to further my book research.

It had not been a comfortable experience.

I am not Korean.

Chye had embarked on a personal quest, to secure a Korean husband, and had completed preliminary research--general fact finding about Korean places of worship in the larger metro area, plus she had joined and joined a Korean dating site.

At mid-thirty the time was now. Marriage and baby were her goals.

As an an artist/designer, Chye recognized and was appalled by the Korean dating sight and the lengths single women went to in order to photoshop a model-perfect profile photo. Chye would rather you know her as she is. I peered over and wondered what it would take to convince her to remove her beret, comb out her long, dark hair, and dab on light makeup--if only lipstick.

Oh, and a little weight wouldn't hurt, either. By government standards she was probably five lbs. underweight, but that underweight was valued by Korean men. In fact, it might impress her latest long-distance interest, an architect in Korea who engaged in intriguing, online conversations. He sounded like a stunning prospect, so I had demanded, "Why is he not married now?"

"I wonder same thing," she noted.

Korean men are not easy to please. Last year on her annual visit home, a high-school classmate had convinced Chye to meet up with him. He was a doctor, who as a teen, had been smitten with her and waddled behind her like an imprinted duckling. Apparently, Chye had become too Americanized. Their first in-person conversation in years ended abruptly when he cancelled their dinner date and explained, "You're too fat."

There's something about that bone thin Asian women that is hard to shake from some men's fantasies. "Keep eating at Burgerville-USA," I advised. "It saved your ass."

The music played, someone uttered a prayer, and programs shuffled as eyes reviewed what was next in the service. We sat in the back row. I felt slightly self-consious, if not borderline unacceptable (church behaviour-wise), as I pulled out my Droid and snapped a few pictures.

I had no clue if tweeting from church was practiced by Presbyterians, but what could it hurt, I wondered and scribed a couple of 140's.

The music drifted away. The minister began to speak. Instinctively, we both felt the spirit at the same time. We spontanesouly reached out for deeper communication. We were, after all in God's house. Things should be said, things should be shared.

I wrote the first note. "There were more people when I was here before." She glanced at my notepad and shrugged as the minister's voice rose in dramatic fashion. "I LOVE the sound of the language. Beautiful," I wrote and added a smiley face to underscore my appreciation.

Chye slipped the small, spiral notepad from my hands and plucked the pen from my fingers. "He has nice voice!" Her head tilted away as if listening, then wrote, "They are too serious make me very uncomfortable."

I nodded.

"Do you go to church?" Her script on the notepad asked.

I answered, "I used to—this past year, no." Then I drew a little arrow in case she didn't know to turn the page. "And I'm Presbyterian!" I wrote, as if that should allow me entrance to the Korean church mysteries.

"Ah, I don't have religion," she answered in her crisp printing. This makes very strange." She listened and translated the current theme of the sermon then crossed it out, but it was still readible: "Talking about donating and offering money to god." Then she repeated, "I'm very uncomfortable."

She passed the pad and pen my way. "I felt the same way the first time I came here," I wrote, although my reasons had more to do with feeling like I didn't belong than about what I did or did not believe. "Better this time," I finished.

"Hahaha. I'll feel same way if I go to American church." Her next sentenced betrayed that she had spent too many years away from home. "There are too many Korean here." Then she got right down to it. "I don't see any available men. I feel real guilty here. I'll stick with"

Guilt belongs a lot of places, but not in church.

Okay, guilt is created in church, but I encouraged, "Don't feel guilty—it's an adventure. Not all are successful, but the stories we will tell!" I finished with a larger smiley face.

Chye nudged me and pointed to the notation in both Korean and English in the church bulletin that said, "Welcome."

This is going to be good, I thought, and imagined them asking us to share a little about ourselves as way of introduction. Yes, I'm here with my friend Chye. We are looking for a husband for her. Who is single?

That's when my prayers began in earnest. Yes, Lord, please let us find Chye a husband and get this over. Please, please, please.

To be continued...


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Manhunt Part II

I wonder sometimes why I do some of the crazy things I do. I think it’s because I don’t want to miss out, I don’t like there to be places where I don’t belong, and I like to know what’s behind closed doors. I will be the one who—after everyone has gone home—pokes her head in the men’s bathroom. Just to see what it looks like.

Uh, yeah.

The people who know me would not be surprised by that disclosure. They might, however, be surprised that some of my antics require me to get my nerve up. But Sunday, entering the Korean Church felt quite comfortable now that I was in the company of a Korean, my co-worker Chye.

The time I came without her, the Korean greeters had taken one look at my auburn hair and round eyes and waved the Korean bulletins in their hands as if to ward off smoke from a campfire gone awry, shouting “This is not the right church.” Of course, they said it in Korean, but it was quite clear they believed I had made a wrong turn and ended up in their midst by mistake.

I smiled.

They gaped.

I neared.

They took a step back.

I took another step, reached out, and my smile tensed as I tugged a bulletin out of the tight grip of one of them. I gave it a cursory glance, nodded and entered the sanctuary. I sat as close to the back as I could, certain I was a distraction, but hoped I wouldn’t ruin the service for the people who worshipped there regularly.

This morning they had the same set-up. Two Korean guards women greeted the oncoming with smiles and bowing heads, handing out church bulletins. Their eyes glowed when they saw Chye and the Korean words rushed and swirled as the introduction conversation ensued. With grand hand gestures, one of them handed Chye a blank piece of paper and a pen. Chye wrote something down, turned to me and told me to write my name down.

“Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“They want to introduce you. They say your name and you stand.” She pointed at a spot in the bulletin, ‘Welcome’ it said in bold letters followed by circles and hash marks I recognized as Korean.

“No. No, way,” I answered, taking a step back.

“Just do it,” she said, then the smile tightened on her lips as if to say don’t embarrass me.

I glanced at the women. They smiled encouragingly and waved the bulletins as if to fan the fire of invitation. I grasped the pen, narrowed my eyes on Chye and scratched my name on the paper under hers. Just you wait, I thought, if they make us speak I’ll announce we’re on a man hunt.

We stepped into the carpeted sanctuary and eased into the back row as soft music lilted from the small orchestra at the front of the church: violin, viola, cello and keyboards. We stared at our bulletins. One of us could read it.

A congregational hymn began, a few hands clapped in rhythm. My head jerked up.


I understood Korean. At least one word...


More to come...


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Husband shopping

I went to church on Sunday and understood exactly two words. It's not because I don't get God. I do. I totally get God. It's simple. He's in charge. I am not.

No, I only understood two words because the service was conducted in a language I do not speak. Korean to be precise. Yes. On Sunday I visited the Vancouver Korean Presbyterian Church (밴쿠버 한인 장로 교회(미국장로회 PCA). It was my second time. The first was a personal dare. Book research. And was likely one of the most uncomfortable church experiences I've ever had. Mostly because the tables were turned. Suddenly, I was the sole auburn-haired maiden in a sea of dark, bowing heads.

I was the minority.

Afterwards, I discussed the experience with my friends telling them that I felt every white American should do exactly as I had done, attend an Asian church service and discover what it must feel like to someone who is not culturally in sync, to enter our white bread places of worship, to sense how out of place one feels, how difficult it is to understand or communicate, how happy you are to flee.

One of the people I shared this with, Chye, was not necessarily a close friend, but a supportive co-worker, a Korean woman who happily answered questions that arose as I created a Korean family in my first manuscript. She thought I was odd to go to church, she doesn't have faith, and even odder to thrust myself into a cultural morass, but she evidently stored the 'spiritual visit' away, allowed it to percolate then surface when her stage of life changed.

She nabbed me in the hall, referenced the Korean church, and noted she needed to find out where they were located. Why do you seek out church if you are ambivalent at best about heavenly matters? My curiosity piqued and after a few questions I learned, she wasn't shopping for a good God experience. She was shopping for a good husband.

Where does a nice, divorced Korean girl meet a nice, single Korean man? With approximately less than 0.6% of the local population Korean, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Unless you go to church.

While my Korean church experience had been excruciating I was still drawn to to the little building on 18th Street and possessed some longing to go again, but could not muster the courage. Accompanying Chye would be my ticket back in so I volunteered to go with her. "Really?!" she said astounded. I nodded.

Worry clouded her dark eyes as they swung back and forth between mine. She was particularly stressed about connecting with the local Korean community. She feared they might latch onto her and not let go. Set some sort of Korean-cultural trap from which one doesn't escape, pursue her, push her into a relationship with someone she didn't like. Ridiculous I thought and countered, "I'll be the matchmaker. They'll have to be approved by me, and if they bother you, I'll handle it."

I thought I was invincible. I had not met The Koreans.

To be continued...


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