<![CDATA[Trek-Kin With Melanin - Blog]]>Mon, 29 May 2017 23:46:32 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[How Politics Affect the World]]>Mon, 15 May 2017 06:20:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/how-politics-affect-the-world
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2017 Korean Presidential Election

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On May 9th, Koreans flocked to the polls to vote for their next President. With 13,000,000 votes (41%), Moon Jae-in won the presidency. The election was originally scheduled for this upcoming December, but due to the impeachment of their previous president, Park Geun-hye, Korea had to implement the election much earlier.

Political Corruption

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​Park Geun-hye was elected in 2013 and became Korea’s first woman president. This past October, it was discovered that her aide had received bribes from multiple corporations. When Koreans learned about the corruption scandal, they became furious. Various protests were held demanding that the President step down. Watching the news, I was truly inspired by the millions of Koreans that came together and made their voice heard. Due to the mounting pressure from the protests, Park Geun-hye was eventually impeached.
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The Korean
​Presidential Campaign

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During the election period, I would see campaigns held at many of the major intersections. There were 13 candidates running for the Korean presidency. Each presidential candidate had a specific number and color. At the intersections, you’d see a group of people campaigning, each wearing the color and number of the candidate that they were supporting. In an effort to gain the votes of each passerby, you'd see people campaigning, holding signs, and dancing to the music being played in the background. 
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On election night, one TV station announced the results of the poll using clips from The Game of Thrones. 
They even provided a clip where the candidates showed everyone how to DAB! Koreans definitely know how to make elections a lot more entertaining. 

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election


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​The Korean presidential campaign brought back memories from the previous U.S. election. People think that since we live abroad that we don’t care about what happens to our country. Nothing could be furthest from the truth. Living abroad has taught me that decisions made in the U.S. not only affect Americans, but these actions also affect the world.

I live thousands of miles away, and I still vote. All I have to do is submit my ballot in the mail a few weeks before the election. As an African-American, I am a huge advocate when it comes to the issue of voting. Too many of our people struggled and died fighting for the right to vote. To honor those that allowed me this opportunity, I always exercise my right to vote.

The night of the 2016 Presidential Election, it was Wednesday morning here in Korea. I was at work, and my Korean co-teachers were also following the election. Americans weren't the only ones anticipating the outcome; people around the world were watching and waiting for the results. Hearts were racing the entire night. When the polls closed, and the winner was revealed, millions of people around the world were devastated, including myself. How could Trump, someone so dishonest, hateful, and misogynistic become the leader of the free world. I kept thinking, what kind of example are we setting for the world and for our children. 

When I told Anaya that Trump had won the election, she didn't believe me. After hearing about all the craziness that occurred during the election, she laughed and said, "You're lying right?"

I turned to her and woefully replied, "Anaya, I wish I was."

The next morning, as Anaya was eating her cereal, she uttered, "I can't believe Trump is president. I don't want to be a citizen anymore."

I belted out a light chuckle, but then I thought about it. Even though she was 9 years old, her words were so strong. Kids are smarter than we make them out to be. They pay attention even when we think they aren't. In 2008, Obama became a symbol of hope and inspiration for our children, but now take a look at what it has come to. We tell our kids do right and things will prevail, but many times it only applies to a select few. It doesn't apply to OUR children, and that's why it hurts.

Our children are affected by this. They are innocent and defenseless. You want to protect your children from the hate that exists in this world and you can't. You always want better for your children. The reality of America's hidden truths really infuriates me, and this only furthers the notion that I may never move back. 

Fear and ignorance are the key ingredients to Trump's success, and this fear was the fuel that enacted the recent travel ban. The ban even included U.S. citizens and green card holders from each of the banned countries. So many people around the world were not able to return home. I saw videos of Syrian Americans who voted for Trump and how their family members were affected by the ban. People are clueless about how these decisions affect the world until they are the ones affected. 

North Korean Threat


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One of the reasons Korea's new president is so popular is because he wants to make an attempt at unifying both North and South Korea. Korean President, Moon Jae-in is seeking peace while Trump is trying to use strong-arm tactics. There are over 28,000 U.S. troops stationed here in South Korea, so the U.S. has vested interests in protecting it. Because of the U.S. presence here in South Korea, both the U.S. and South Korea must come to an agreement on how to approach talks with North Korea. North Korea has always been a danger to South Korea, but Trump’s callous rhetoric could spark a war between the two countries. His actions could ultimately affect our way of life and so many of my Korean friends here.

Healthcare Issues


It's easy to spew hate and create policies that are detrimental to others when you will never suffer the repercussions of your actions. Upon hearing the news of how Trump plans to change the Affordable Care Act, I couldn’t believe the provisions. How is it possible that rape and pregnancy would even be considered pre-existing conditions? How is that even legal? It's so blatant how these policies disproportionately affect women and people of color. 
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​One of the reasons I came to Korea in 2009 was because I knew Korean employers would provide health insurance for my whole family. In 2008, my husband was laid off from his job, and I had just graduated college. We did not have an employer that offered health insurance, and since we were both unemployed, we could not afford it. When we arrived in Korea, we found out that healthcare in the U.S. is substantially more expensive than it is in Korea. When we returned to the U.S. in 2014, we were unemployed once again. As a result of Obamacare, we were able to get medicaid until we found jobs that provided healthcare. Finally, there were affordable options for those who could not afford it before. Currently, Trump and his administration are trying to take that away.

Here in Korea, anyone that is employed here has access to healthcare, regardless of citizenship.  The amount you pay is based on your income. Each month 4% of your salary is put towards your health insurance and your employer contributes another 4%. When my husband had pneumonia in 2015, he had to be hospitalized for 5 days. With the Korean National Health Insurance we only had to pay $500. Can you imagine the cost of a 5 day hospital stay in the U.S.? When Anaya was younger, she had a fever and an ear infection. Including both the doctor’s visit and medicine, I only paid $15. Here, healthcare is affordable and everyone has access to it. So many countries have implemented a similar healthcare system that works for it’s citizens and not the corporations. If it can work in these other countries, I am positive that it can work in the U.S. For the U.S. to be a nation based on Christian principles, I cannot understand why there are so many people who are against the idea of providing EVERYONE with affordable insurance. It is a right that we all deserve. 

It's only been 4 months since Trump was elected into office and so many executive orders have been signed that are destructive to so many people. People who voted for Trump are beginning to voice their regrets, but in the end, they got what they asked for. In just a period of 4 months, there has been a series of chaotic events that Trump has created. Within the span of 4 years, imagine how much more anarchy we will have to endure. I began to think, if Trump were elected for a 2nd term, Anaya would be almost 18 when he leaves office. That is entirely way too long! We have no time to "wait and see" what he'll destroy next. After witnessing the success of  how Koreans banded together to impeach their last president and how massive protests helped reverse the travel ban, I pray Americans will use that as inspiration to challenge the Trump administration and develop strategies to dismantle their fascist regime.
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<![CDATA[School Life in Korea]]>Tue, 02 May 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/school-life-in-korea
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In Korea, school life can be substantially different from the U.S. Although, Anaya has spent most of her life in Korea, she did spend the first half of her 2nd grade year in the U.S. This brief experience allowed  her to witness the differences that exist between the schools in the U.S. and Korea
Anaya noticed immediately that one of biggest differences between American and Korean schools was the school lunches. When she went to school in the U.S., she was surprised by the variety of choices. In Korea, most of the school lunches consist of rice, soup, kimchi, a vegetable, and a meat, with many food selections being spicy. Kimchi, which is fermented cabbage, is a Korean staple. Koreans eat it with every meal. The food served in Korean schools is healthy, but often, there is a lack of variety.
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Typical Korean School Lunches

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The lunch period in Korea is an hour long. The students eat their lunches and have recess afterwards. At some elementary schools, the students are required to show their lunch trays to their teachers. The students must show that they ate a majority of their food before they can participate in recess. 
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​While Anaya was in school in the U.S., I would put a set amount of money into her school lunch account. In the first two weeks of school, I received a notification that I needed to deposit more money. I was confused because it was supposed to last her for at least a month. When I asked her about it, she told me she had been buying snacks every day. She was so excited that she was able to buy ice cream and other snacks with her lunch, something she hadn't been able to do in Korea. 
Last year, my 6th graders were studying opinions. I showed them videos and pictures of school lunches from around the world. I asked them to observe the pictures and determine the pros and cons of each lunch tray. After they analyzed it, they had to form an opinion based on the advantages and disadvantages. When the students saw the school lunches from the U.S., they were salivating. They were surprised that they could get anything from pizza to fried chicken and burgers. Many of my students stated that they wished their school lunches were more like the U.S. When I asked them to list the disadvantages, they stated that although American school lunches looked delicious, they thought that these lunches were unhealthy. One group mentioned that the lunches appeared to be high in calories. At the end of the lesson, I asked them to choose one school lunch from around the world that they'd prefer to eat. A majority of the students chose the Korean school lunch. I know their decision was based on the fact that these lunches are the most familiar to them, but it illustrated the mindsets of the children due to an early exposure to healthy foods.

The Korean School Schedule

The Korean school year begins in March and ends in February. The first semester ends mid-late July and the students have one month off for summer break. The second semester begins in late August and ends in late December. The students have one month off for winter vacation and then come back for the first two weeks in February. At the end of the 2 weeks, the schools prepare for their graduation ceremonies. After the graduation ceremonies have been completed, the students have a 2 week holiday before starting the next school year in March.  

The school day starts at 8:30 a.m. and depending on the grade level and the day of the week, school typically ends between 1 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.  The school days are shorter in Korea, but the school vacations are shorter as well. 

Grade Levels

In Korean elementary schools, the grade levels range from 1st-6th grade. There isn't a kindergarten grade level in elementary school. Kindergartens do exist, but they are separate from the elementary school, and it's regarded more like a preschool. Kindergartens are geared for students aged 3-6.

When students enter middle school, their grade level reverts back to 1st grade. According to western grade levels, Korean middle school is 7th-9th grade, but in Korea, it is regarded as 1st-3rd grade. The same concept applies to high school. High school is 10th-12th grade, but in Korea it's 1st-3rd grade. They do not use terms 7th-12th grade in Korea.

Since Anaya receives all of her schooling in Korean, we also home school her in English. If we ever decide to return home, we want to ensure that she can perform at the same level as her peers. Because of the way the school year begins, her grade level in Korea can be different than her grade level in the U.S. For example, when she starts the 5th grade in August (U.S. grade level), she will still be in the 4th  grade in Korea. In Korea, she won't be in the 5th grade until March of next year. 

Student Responsibilities

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Here in Korea, the students clean the schools. It's a drastic difference when compared to the schools in the U.S. I recently asked my students, "Who do they think cleans the schools in the U.S?" They all assumed that the students did. When I informed them that janitors clean the schools, they were shocked.

Personally, I think students cleaning schools is a great idea. I believe it teaches the students responsibility. They each play a role in the upkeep of their school. Students are required to sweep their classrooms, vacuum, dust, and take out the trash and recyclables. They clean the desks, black boards, hallways, and they even scrub the stairs. Every student has an assigned cleaning duty, and there are specific times during the day where they have to partake in that chore. Periodically, there is a cleaning lady that comes to clean the bathrooms, but the other areas of the school are the students' responsibility. 

School Rules

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Before anyone can enter the school (this includes teachers, students, and visitors), they are required to take off their shoes and put on slippers. No one is not allowed to wear street shoes in the school. The students and teachers are required to purchase their own slippers to use at school. 
Koreans do not wear shoes in their home. The reason for this practice is that they want to keep the floors clean. In many Korean households, they eat and sleep on the floor, so it makes sense in why they don't wear shoes in the house. This idea is also applied in school. Taking your shoes off before entering the school is a sign of respect. Most schools have shoe storage boxes at the entrance for teachers and visitors, and students have shoe storage containers in or near their classroom. If students forget their school shoes, they must walk around in their socks or go barefoot!
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Most back packs in Korea are sold with a shoe bag. 
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Even if parents visit, there are shoe boxes where parents can borrow slippers before they enter. If there is a school event where a lot of parents are invited, the school will provide them with blue shoe covers.
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It's always interesting to see the differences that exists between two cultures, but for Anaya, she can actually live it. 

Check out our latest video of Anaya at school.

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<![CDATA[The Sound of Money Being Flushed Down the Toilet]]>Thu, 27 Apr 2017 06:51:15 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/the-sound-of-money-being-flushed-down-the-toilet
“Oh, Sorry, Daddy! Sorry!” Naima shouted. Those words sounded so innocent; they might even melt the most frigid person’s heart.  But in reality, that was the sound of money being flushed down the toilet.
Korea has the fastest internet in the world, but they are so far behind in regards to plumbing. The Korean toilet system seems to be a little more delicate and volatile compared to other plumbing systems. In fact, most establishments have a waste basket beside the toilet to discard used toilet paper. They post signs telling you to not to throw toilet paper in the toilet. If you refuse to use that basket in some places, it is  literally like playing a game of 3 card monte. Toilet paper can clog up the system, and it may require extensive work to get it back to normal. If the system can barely handle toilet paper, can you imagine how it would react to foreign objects?”
Due to our toddler's curiosity, we were fortunate to experience the wrath of our toilet...twice. The first time it was angry because it was fed a bunch of stationary.  After plunging it, it regurgitated a few items that we were able to fish out.  However, there was still an issue. There was only one toilet in the house. It remained completely full and temporarily out of order. After purchasing a plumber’s auger, I tried again. I got the object to come back to the surface, only for it to be accidentally flushed again. I kept trying for several days with no luck.
With the help of a co-worker, a plumber, aka lavatory surgeon, came to our house. He came equipped with his trusty surgical equipment. He brought a wet vac, an auger, a wire hanger, and a camera.  He stuck the camera down the toilet's canal and spotted the culprit. It was a ballpoint pen! With the assistance of his camera and a wire hanger, he retrieved it without breaking a sweat!  He quickly cleaned up his mess and walked towards the door. 
I gave the plumber 70,000 won (around $70 U.S. dollars). He took a look at Naima and said in Korean, “How cute!!!!!” He reached into the 70,000 won profit and gave her a cut! 10,000 won ($10)  to be exact! I said to myself, “Huh?!  Why is he rewarding bad behavior!!?” She gushed, danced, and smiled over her new found fortune. When we told the story to a friend, she advised that the 10,000 won was her referral fee!
Fast forward a few months later. We had just moved into our new apartment. My senses were triggered by the sound of flushing and then I heard those infamous words, “Sorry daddy! Sorry!” It’s Naima's registered trademark for when she's done something wrong.  When I entered the bathroom, the water rose like an active aquatic volcano.  I was fortunate that it didn’t release any debris! This time, the auger wouldn’t even go down the drain.

I asked Naima, “WHAT DID YOU PUT IN THERE?”

She responded, “It’s a ball!  It’s a ball!!”

“A BALL?!” I said. 

Remembering the number of hours I spent trying to get the ballpoint pen, my wife looked and me and said, “Don’t even waste your time. Just pay the 70,000 won!” Once again, Naima flushed our money, and it was retrieved by our trusty lavatory technician. Unfortunately for Naima, there wasn't a referral fee this time.
Hopefully, she has learned her lesson. If not, I know who to call. Before our lavatory technician left, he handed me his business card with his company name. In Korean it read 아빠손. Translation: “Daddy’s Hands.” How ironic!
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<![CDATA[India]]>Wed, 19 Apr 2017 06:37:33 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/india
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If I had to sum up India in one word, it would be: COLORFUL. There are so many adjectives that describe color. Enriched color, enhanced color, vivid color, radiant color….. That color is infused in the festivals, the attire, the music, the food, the landscape, and the personalities of the people.
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India is home to one of the 7 wonders of the world. It’s also the birth and resting place of Gandhi.  It’s the epicenter and mecca for yoga enthusiasts and it’s the 2nd largest grossing movie industry in the world (Bollywood).  India is in a stratosphere of its own.  One can experience and see things in India that you will never see in any other part of the world. No sunrise or sunset is truly the same. India will definitely provide you with a unique experience.
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India is full of life, culture, scenery, and it has some of the best food of any country I have ever experienced. Only in India will you have the pleasure of watching a man on a pedal bike cutting off a bus on a busy street. Only in India, within one setting, will you see a camel, cow, monkey, elephant, cobra, chicken, goat, and dog walking the streets. In India, be prepared to live life on the fly. Bottle it, package it and cherish it because you won’t be able to capture it again. 
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A World Wonder

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The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful structures that I have ever gazed eyes upon.  From its marble structure to the intricate designs inscribed on its marble blocks, the Taj Mahal has a majestic glow. I literally had goose bumps before I witnessed it with my own eyes.

We almost didn’t have any documented proof of our visit. The night before we went to the Taj Mahal, my wife put the camera on the charger. She woke up early and decided to check the status of the battery. She realized that the camera hadn’t charged at all. We were thankful that she was able to catch it in time before we left the hotel.

Outside of the gates, there were several people taking in the experience, while others were working on their daily hustle. We even heard some Indian vendors engaging in Spanish dialogue with some of the tourists. There were other vendors standing outside offering their services as a guide. (The Taj Mahal doesn’t have any official guides.) I had to keep a keen eye for con artists, but it was difficult because I was caught up in the moment. Once we walked through the gates, we were able to see the Taj Mahal in all of its glory. The sky was a smoky grey, but the Taj Mahal was still illuminated. I viewed a flock of birds soar past, suspended. As they sailed through the air, I wondered if they were flying by to marvel at its grandeur. 
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Our driver informed us that dawn was the best time to take in the Taj Mahal, so we visited in the morning. When we arrived, it wasn’t overly crowded. People from all over the world congregated there, posing for photos, and gawking at its beauty.

As we were trying to take a photo, there was an overzealous man who said he’d be happy to take a picture of us as a family. We thought, isn’t that kind, so we allowed him to take a photo of us. After he took the picture, he uttered, “Tip, give me tip.” I started to stiff him and hit him with the Heisman pose, but I simply chose not to fight that battle and gave him some change. After giving him the tip, we took a look at the picture, we realized that he would never win a Pulitzer Prize in photography.  He didn't even get a full view of the Taj Mahal! We should've asked for our money back. 
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There is an extreme amount of poverty in India and you will be asked repeatedly for money. In India, we had to constantly question people’s motives. We always wondered if people were simply being nice to us, or if they wanted something in return. Often times it was the latter.
Before walking into the mausoleum, you are required to cover your shoes with paper slippers or simply take off your shoes.  This precaution is taken to make sure that no one contaminates the marble exterior. I always wondered why there weren’t any photos of the inside of the main mausoleum. There was a sign posted that said, “No photos allowed.” Inside all of that beauty, there were some things that disturbed me. When I observed the surface of those marble slabs, there were severe acts of vandalism. Precious stones were removed and etching spoiled some of its beauty. I also saw disturbing phrases such as, “I love America” “J'aime la France” or sentences that expressed love for specific human beings.  There were many languages represented: English, Spanish, Hindi, French, and I even saw Korean tattooed on the walls. I will never understand the mentality of some people. They wouldn’t dare write on the walls of their home, but they would gladly write on a world wonder. People think it’s acceptable to defile ancient history that was built with love, sweat, and tears. Because of these acts from certain rogue individuals, only parts of the Taj Mahal are open to the public.
I really enjoyed my experience at the Taj Mahal. It was the highlight of the four country trip we took that year. It was more memorable than dipping into the turquoise waters of Thailand’s Phi Phi Island. More memorable than the savage monkeys that lurk, ambush, and pillage peoples bags on the rails of the Malaysian Bantu caves. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  I never imagined in all my days of living that I would be able to experience something that I had only previously encountered in my 6th grade social studies book. ​​
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A Funny India Story and an Important Travel Tip

During our time in India, we were traveling to another city a few hours away. During that ride, Anaya expressed that she had to use the bathroom. Our driver had been trying to find a bathroom and found one twenty minutes later. Anaya was 4 years old at the time and couldn’t hold it any longer. When we stopped at the service station, I literally bolted to the bathroom, carrying her as if I was rushing her to the ER. There was a sink, a squat toilet, and a huge hole in the door. As soon as we returned to the car, Anaya shouts to her mother, “Daddy put a sock in my butt!”

When I was in that situation, I had to think fast. Anaya yelled out the details, before I could explain to my wife what had happened. I thought all she had to do was pee, but as I hoovered her over the squat toilet, she mentioned that she had to poop. I was in such a rush to get her to the toilet that I didn’t make sure I had the most essential item...toilet paper.

Our phones didn’t work in India, so I couldn’t call my wife and advise her to bring us some spare toilet paper. I couldn’t leave Anaya in the bathroom by herself, so I did the only thing I could do to alleviate the situation: use my sock. I exited the bathroom sock less, sweating, exhausted, but smiling. Nana was bewildered, shocked, and relieved. Unfortunately, I had to leave my socks behind in India; they were no longer needed or wanted. Some words of advice when traveling in Asia, BE PREPARED! Always carry toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer everywhere you go! 
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Our Experience On 
Being Black in India

Being Black in East Asia, we get a lot of attention. We often get a lot of stares and requests to take photos, but none of the reactions we’ve received in Korea or China compare to the reactions we’ve received in India. It’s crazy how much attention we received due to the fact that there are so many Indians that have darker complexions than we do. Once we noticed the vast amount of reactions we were receiving, we started to observe their reactions towards the Caucasian tourists. There was no reaction at all. During our 5 day trip to India, we rarely encountered other black people. Everywhere we visited, people would do double takes and stare for long periods.

​When we went to the Gandhi Museum in Delhi, one brave person kindly asked if we would take a photo with them. We agreed. After taking the picture, we were bum rushed and surrounded by thirty or more Indians. We weren’t sure what was happening. They all wanted to take a picture with us. It was awe-inspiring and frightening at the same time. 
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Here is a video of how people were surrounding us at the Gandhi museum.
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In the U.S., black people always feel devalued, so it’s always amazing to see how people around the world are intrigued by our presence.
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<![CDATA[Children's Day & Mother's Day  Weekend 2016]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/childrens-day-mothers-day-weekend-2016
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May 5th is Children’s Day in Korea. Children’s Day is a national holiday that celebrates children. Parents use this time to do something special with their children and buy them gifts. For Children’s Day weekend, we decided to meet up with a friend who was visiting from Mongolia. We were meeting that Sunday at Seoul Grand Children’s Park, which also happened to be Mother’s Day. Seoul Grand Children's Park has a free zoo and a large playground so I figured it would be the perfect place for our kids to play.  It was such a beautiful day; the skies were a clear blue and the temperature was a warm 80 degrees. 

As we entered the park, Naima started complaining because she didn’t want to stay in her stroller. She hates to be confined. To keep her calm, I allowed her to hold onto the stroller and walk beside me. As we strolled past a balloon cart, Naima pointed at the balloons flying in the breeze. She kept shouting, “Mommy, Frozen! It’s Frozen!” I wasn't planning on buying any balloons, so I quietly ignored her and kept walking. As Anaya and Leonard were walking ahead of me, I proceeded to take out my phone and call my friend to see where she was. As I’m talking to my friend and trying to figure out if we were in the same area, Leonard turns around and gives me this frantic look. He yells, “Where’s Naima?” I look down and she was no where to be found! Mind you, this is was a holiday weekend and the park was packed. At that moment, we had just entered the zoo area and there was a baboon enclosure to our right. I started to panic, and I immediately headed in that direction. I told Leonard that I remembered her pointing at the balloons and to check near there. I asked Anaya to find someone that worked at the park to help translate.

When Leonard and Anaya got to the balloon cart, he asked the seller if she saw Naima. The lady said that she saw Naima go into the burger restaurant across from her. Naima loves to eat, especially burgers, so we knew it wouldn’t be too far off.  Right after Leonard spoke to the lady, Naima walked out of the restaurant. She appeared to look all nonchalant as if she wasn’t even the least bit concerned that we were looking for her. Then Naima tried to walk off as if she didn’t even see Leonard. He grabbed her and brought her back to where I was.   Here’s a picture of her right after we found her - After that, I made sure she was STRAPPED AND LOCKED IN!
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This event occurred a few weeks before the Harambe incident. As I heard the news and how so many people were condemning the boy’s mother, I truly empathized with her. Things happen to even the best mothers. I thank God that nothing happened to her, but seeing what happened to that woman’s child, I knew it could have easily happened to us. Toddlers are known to quickly stray in a matter of seconds. Only those with children can truly understand that these things happen. Parents have lost their children in stores and crowded amusement parks. This does not make them a terrible or unfit parent. I consider myself a great mother, but I could have easily been in her shoes and been labeled as such. No one can judge, because these types of things happen to the best of us. The only difference is that most of us have been fortunate that nothing horrible has ever happened.

Being in a crowded place and not knowing the whereabouts of your child is such a frightening feeling! Kidnappings do happen in Korea but not at the rate it happens in the U.S. If I had been in the U.S., I think I would’ve gone crazy! The scary part of all of this is that Naima is such an adventurer that she isn’t afraid to venture on her own. The good thing is that we live in Korea so her being one of the only black children in the park made it much easier for her to spot.

After finding Naima, Anaya shook her head in disappointment and said,
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 How Ironic! Haha!

Here are more pictures of this memorable day! lol
Children's Day Weekend 2016
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<![CDATA[Photos from 2016]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/photos-from-2016
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Naima's Year in Korean Daycare (2016)
2016 Photo Shoots
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<![CDATA[Losing Loved Ones While Abroad]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/losing-loved-ones-while-abroadPicture
Image by Charles Rice via ArtByRice

​2016 was a hard year for a lot of us. We've lost some extraordinary individuals, and two of them we hold dear to our hearts. Leonard and I lost two of our aunts in 2016. This is the toughest part about living abroad. You receive this type of news and because of distance and high airfare costs, you can’t always make it to the funeral.

Aunt Connie Mack

Big Money Connie aka Aunt Connie Mac transitioned this past April. She passed away on her birthday, sunrise and sunset. We will celebrate her beginning and end on the same day. She was a comedian, a matriarchal figure, and a master of culinary arts. She has even been an inspiration to Anaya’s art.
Anaya would sometimes substitute Aunt Connie Mac’s name in the childhood clapping song, Ms. Mary Mack. She’d sing, “Aunt Connie Mack, Mack, Mack!” Everyone always looked forward to her home cooked meals. She literally put her soul into the food. The last time we went home, she made sure to make Anaya some of her infamous caramel cake because she knew how much Anaya loved it. The cake was huge, it was moist and it was at least two feet long!

The day after she passed on, it was very strange. Her birthday is 2 days before Leonard and Anaya's birthday. On their birthday, I ordered from pizza from Pizza Hut. The delivery man knocked on my door and handed me the pizza. When I tried to pay for the pizza, the delivery man bowed and then tried to walk off. I kept trying to give him the money, and he kept declining my offer as he backpedaled and walked away. We figured that it was some kind of mistake, so we left the money on the counter for 3 days, thinking he would return. We got free pizza that day, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it was a parting gift from Big Money Connie, one of the matriarchs of the family, Aunt Connie Mack.

Aunt Beverly

I remember visiting my Aunt Beverly in the hospital in January 2016. I didn’t think that would be the last time I would see her. My aunt Beverly passed in June of last year. It saddened me that I couldn’t be there to wish her farewell. Since I couldn't physically be there, I stayed up until 3 am and had my mother Skype me during the funeral. My mother also held her phone up to the microphone so I could recite a poem that I wrote for her. Although it wasn’t the same as actually being there, I could still be a part of it and pay my respects. It's extremely difficult not having family around to support you and help you grieve, but the good thing is that me, Leonard, and the girls have each other.

Aunt Connie Mac and Aunt Beverly, we want you to know that we love you and that we are truly going to miss both of you. Our visits home will never be the same without you. 

Here is the poem I wrote for my Aunt Beverly:

Aunt Beverly

On June 9th, 2016, our Creator decided it was time to call you home.
Our hearts are full of sorrow, but we find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. 


The Brown family is mourning a beautiful woman whose essence can never be replaced.
From now on, none of us can pass by Delhi St. without visions of your lovely face.

We will miss all the special moments and your thoughtful phone calls.
No one can ever substitute who you were and what you meant to us all.

If any of us needed anything, we could always depend on you.
No matter the ups and downs, for family, you always came through.

A warm, loving, nurturing, and selfless woman is the definition of who you are.
I am disappointed that we cannot be there to bid you farewell, but we send our love from afar.

Aunt Beverly, you are the branch that breathes the soul and life into our family tree.
We will miss you immensely as your children and grandchildren continue your legacy.

As you enter the heavenly world, you have been granted the opportunity to join with family you have lost along the way.
Please give Aunt Sunny and Grandma Doris a great big hug from all of us and tell them we love them and miss them every day.

Today we remember and give honor to a great woman who we love and trust.
Let us reminisce and laugh at the moments we’ve had with Beverly Brown, for these are some of the most valuable gifts she has left us. 


Soon we will meet again, but until then spread your wings and be free.
Aunt Beverly, thank you for your love, but most of all, thank you for the memories.

By: Khiana Brown-Robinson


June 15, 2016
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<![CDATA[2016 Highlights]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/2016-highlights
2016 was a year full of ups and downs. We’ve been MIA for the past year, but WE’RE BACK! To catch up on what we’ve been up to, I’ve put together some highlights from the past year.
March 2016

​Started the Process in Acquiring My Teaching License

​I started a 9 month online teacher certification program called Teach-Now. This program has been the major reason for my absence. The coursework was pretty demanding and required a lot of my time. I just finished the program in December. I feel like I can breathe now! Once I find out the results of my certification test this week, I can apply for my D.C. teaching license. This will open up so many more teaching opportunities for me. I can go back the U.S. and teach full time or work at an international school anywhere in the world. I’ll be certified to teach Elementary and ESL. The benefits and pay will increase, and I will have a lot more job security. If you have a bachelors degree and want to get licensed to teach, here’s a link to their website.  http://teach-now.com/refer/?p=robinsons&w=referral
Leonard became Anaya’s English teacher. 

​At first, we were concerned that Anaya would get bored or that she'd want to take over the class by trying to answer every single question, but she’s been doing much better than we expected. Koreans begin English classes in the 3rd grade. The English skills required for this level is very basic. Some students are more advanced because they go to English hagwons (after-school academies), but in public school, most students begin learning English at the same time. 
Volunteered at a Daejeon Orphanage

​We volunteered at a local orphanage and helped conduct an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. 

April 2016

Anaya and Leonard's Birthday 

Leonard and Anaya share the same birthday. We celebrated their birthdays by going bowling and having dinner at our house.

August 2016

Seoul Soul Music Festival

We went to the Seoul Soul Music Festival. It was awesome. We got to see Maxwell, Musiq Soulchild, the Stylistics, Eric Benet, BJ the Chicago Kid, Robert Glasper, and so many more talented artists. Our friend Anthony is the radio host of The 22nd Hour at TBS eFM 101.3 and he was able to get us backstage to meet Musiq Soulchild! I got to show Musiq some Philly love! I was so geeked! I wish I could’ve gone backstage to meet Maxwell too! They all put on a spectacular show. 

September 2016

Anaya’s Taekwondo Performance

Anaya’s class participated in a Taekwondo dance competition. Despite being the youngest team in the competition, they won 2nd place! We were so proud!

October 2016

Halloween
Laser Tag with Friends

November 2016
​Surprise Visit

My best friend, Nicole, came to Korea and surprised me! In August, she told me she was planning to travel to SE Asia in November. She informed me that she didn’t have enough funds to make a stop in Korea. After hearing this, I was a little disappointed. Although I had my inclinations that she might come, I didn’t think too much about it. I think I would’ve figured it out had I not been so busy. She was in cahoots with Leonard.

The day she arrived, I decided to stay at work late. I was trying to finish up an assignment for my program. I kept getting phone calls from Leonard asking when I was coming home. I was annoyed because he kept interrupting me. I decided to wrap up and head home. When I came in the house, I heard Naima fussing with her sister in the room. Leonard said, Go and check on your daughters." Playing like I was a police officer, I kicked in the door. When the door swung opened, I heard, “Surprise!” I look and I see Nicole sitting on the bed. At that point, I had no clue! They totally got me! Even though her time here was very short, I truly enjoyed my time with her. Here’s a video of my surprise.

December 2016
Naima's 3rd Birthday!
Naima celebrated her 3rd birthday with her best friend, Hannah! Their birthdays are 3 days apart.
Moving Day!
We moved to a bigger apartment! We weren’t actually supposed to move in until the end of February, but our landlord allowed us to move in early. They informed us about it in December, so it was like an early Christmas/Birthday gift for me! We were living in a 2 bedroom apartment and now we have four. The girls have their own room and we have so much space! We absolutely love it!

Despite the ups and downs of 2016, we are fortunate to have our health and still be here!

​Here’s to 2017, and we look forward to creating more blog posts and videos! 
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<![CDATA[I Have a Dream]]>Wed, 24 Feb 2016 11:56:02 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/i-have-a-dream
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“I have a dream, we shall overcome.” Ideas, visions, illusions not based on fantasy, beat through her heart like a djembe drum. She’s curious and tuned in, as the events from the past continue to impact her future. Her wish is to have wings that could fly, above and beyond anyone that deems her a loser. She’s positive and upbeat, but with a few drops of melancholy in her eyes. She is persistent to read every single detail with her chocolate amber eyes on the prize. The event happened over 60 years ago, but yet she asks questions like it happened yesterday. She strives to paint rainbows on dark clouds and highlight the sun with golden rays. That’s just who she is; no one can change her. Focused on a moment in time, her eyes can’t mask the anger and grief; absent are the sentiments of anger. She is the oldest child, God’s daughter, a present from and to mother earth. Her one wish is to give love to the ailing souls that impact the heart of the universe.
 
God bless the child.

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Back story:

Anaya had been looking forward to visiting the MLK center. What better time than to take her during MLK weekend. In order for us to see everything, we had to travel to Atlanta the night before and wake up early in the morning. We went to the civil rights museum, visited his tomb, and took a trip into the house where he was brought into the world.
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This visit was inspired by our gifted dreamer, Anaya. She really enjoyed the experience, but I think she fell in love with the museum. How do I know? She asked 8 million and one questions.  (I stopped counting after 31).  She was curious about the word “colored” and about the outcome of James Earl Ray. She couldn’t wrap her mind around all of the injustices that happened under Jim Crow. Her favorite question was the simplest one of them all. “Why?” Why does such a simple question warrant such a complex answer?  I couldn’t give her a definite or perfect answer. If it were a perfect world, I would have her interview Governor George Wallace or James Earl Ray. Their lives have expired, but yet the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. still lives on… Happy MLK Day.

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Trip to Atlanta (MLK Weekend) Jan 2016
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<![CDATA[7 Cities, 10 Flights, and a Toddler Later]]>Wed, 24 Feb 2016 11:55:13 GMThttp://trekkinwithmelanin.com/blog/7-cities-10-flights-and-a-toddler-later
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Our journey to the U.S. began Friday evening, January 8th. Our flight was set to depart at 8.a.m. the next morning, so we decided to stay overnight near the airport. When I purchased our tickets 5 months ago, I was trying to decide whether to leave from Incheon Airport or Gimpo Airport, but I couldn’t remember which one I had picked. I hadn’t looked at our itinerary since I bought the tickets, and it was in my suitcase under the bus, so I decided to wait until I got to the hotel to look at it. When we got there, I realized we went to the wrong airport! Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere and the earliest airport shuttle didn’t leave until 6 a.m. The next morning, we rushed to catch the bus to Gimpo airport. It took about 40 minutes and once we got there, we had to wait in line to check in, and then another long line to get through security. Thank God our prayers were answered, and we made our flight! What a way to start off our trip!

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On our first leg we flew from Korea to Osaka, Japan. We had a 7 hour layover, so we decided to do a quick transit tour. A few months before our trip, I booked an amazing guide named Hiroko through www.toursbylocals.com. I highly recommend her if you’re ever in Osaka or Kyoto. First, Hiroko took us by train to see the Shinto Shrine, and then took us to a restaurant where we ate a nice Japanese lunch. After lunch, we visited the beautiful Kishiwada Castle.

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At the Shinto Shrine, there is a water fountain at the entrance where you must clean your hands and mouth. It symbolizes cleaning your body and mind. The next step is to pray. First, you throw a coin into the offering box, ring the bell (it calls God to the shrine), make two deep bows, make a wish, clap twice, and then make one more deep bow. Anaya and I both participated in the prayer. She went first and then instructed me how to do it. It was really interesting.
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 On the day we visited, there was a festival at the shrine, and there happened to be two men serving homemade sake. I attempted to get Leonard to try it, but he refused. I decided I would try the sake, and soon after Leonard saw me drink it, he gave in. The men gave both of us a very generous serving. I’ve had Korean soju (Korean vodka) many times, but this was actually my first time trying sake; it was much smoother than soju. Not even a few seconds after taking a sip, I could feel the sake working its magic.  

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In Japan, we learned that during high traffic hours, specific subway cars can only be accessed by women. This is to make women feel safe and not have to worry about (chikan) men groping them or harassing them on the subway. This is a great idea that needs to be implemented in many cities.
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On our way to the airport, Naima fell asleep. Knowing we had another 11 hours to spend on the flight ahead of us, we hoped that she would stay sleep, but we weren’t that lucky. Moments before boarding the plane to L.A., she decided to open up her brown ovals. We had flown many flights with Anaya as a toddler, so we felt like we prepared to take on the task of flying with Naima. We had packed some drawing books, crayons, a tablet full of movies and her favorite TV show, Curious George.  There was a screen for her to watch children movies on the flight; however we packed toys for her to play with and a bunch of snacks to keep her preoccupied.
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Naima is so unpredictable, which is always the case when traveling with a toddler. Naima turned 2 in December, so this time we had to pay for two children. I wasn’t happy about having to pay so much for her ticket, but I was extremely grateful that I didn’t have to hold her for the entire 11 hours.

Everything was going okay, until after we had our first meal. Usually after the first meal, the plane shuts off the lights so everyone can sleep, but Naima decided she was not ready to enter the chambers of slumber. The first thing she wanted to do was take off her shoes and socks. After she removed her socks, she proceeded to throw them at her sister, and then the magic began. She unbuckled her seatbelt, started jumping up and down, and singing her ABCs like she was performing at the Apollo Theater. Then she stood up and stuck her head over the seat, entering the personal zone of the passengers behind us. I’d take her to the bathroom and let her walk around from time to time, but I couldn’t do it too often or she’d be running like a crazy child up and down the aisles. She kept yelling, “Mommy, Potty! Potty!” She didn’t have to go to the bathroom, it was just one of her many escape plans. It became extremely difficult when the seat belt sign came on because we all know that is the time when you’re not allowed to get up at all. She’s only 2 so she couldn’t understand, “No, you can’t get up right now, it’s not safe!” so she’d get frustrated, start having a hissy fit by trying to climb out of her seatbelt and kicking the seat in front of her. She’d find her way to the floor and lay there. I’d try to get her up off the floor, and she’d toddler me out of protest. I have to say these times were stressful.

On many international flights, wine and beer are complimentary, so Leonard and I decided to have a few miniature bottles of wine to relax and ease the stress of flying. Several hours into the flight, I told Leonard I was tired and that I was ready to go to sleep. I had Anaya and Naima switch seats so Naima could sit closer to Leonard. I dose off, and then something awakens me. I hear the sounds of a child laughing hysterically and bolting out tunes so loudly I can no longer keep my eyes closed. I turn to my left, and I realize it’s MY CHILD. I look next to her, and Leonard is knocked out! I’m like who is watching her! I said NO! This has to END NOW, I’m TOO TIRED!

Five hours into the flight, with another six hours to go, I was so drained, I tried to put Naima to sleep, but she was still going strong. The flight to and from Korea is a very long flight to endure with a toddler, and although I held out as long as I could, I resorted to the only thing that could to keep my sanity: Benadryl. I don’t condone drugging your children, and I would never do it in any other circumstance. You can judge me if you want to, but when you’ve tried everything to resolve the situation, you become desperate! I had exhausted all of my options!! I used plans A, B, C, and D! Expecting a toddler to sit still in a tiny section of an enclosed space with no room to run around for 11 hours is complete torture. I always said to myself, “I never want to be that person; the person whose child is raising hell 35,000 feet in the air!” Flying back to Korea with Naima by myself, I had to mentally prepare myself. You can never be fully prepared when traveling with a toddler; the road may be long and tiring, but you get through it! It gets better as they get older. Anaya is so used to flying now; she just sat there with her tablet and didn’t bother me at all!

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We arrived in LA to see some of our closest friends. We only stayed there a night before heading to Nashville where both our parents live. After a week, we headed to Alabama for Anaya and Naima to see their great-grandmother. That same day we drove to Atlanta to see Naima’s godfather. From Atlanta, we flew to Philadelphia to see our family for a couple days, and while we were there, we heard that there was a blizzard heading towards the east coast. Luckily, our flight left the day before the storm hit. In Philly, they got almost 30 inches of snow, so I was so grateful we left when we did! We ended up getting 8 inches in Tennessee, which isn’t normal; it hadn’t snowed that much in almost 10 years. On the way back to Korea, we stayed overnight in Dallas to spend time with my little brother. During our trip we spent time with a lot of people, and we are so fortunate that we got to spend time with everyone.

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Our flight touched down in Korea around 9:30 pm. I knew the last bus to Daejeon was at 11:10 pm, so I had to rush off the plane to get through immigration. When I got to immigration, there was such a long line. By the time I got to the booth to buy our bus ticket, it was 10:45. I told the ticket agent, “1 adult and 1 child’s ticket to Daejeon.” He sighs and then proceeds to tell me, “Sorry, the last bus has only 1 seat left.” It was almost 11, I was so exhausted! I couldn’t believe I sprinted all through the airport with Anaya, Naima, and four suitcases, and I still missed the last bus. I had been traveling for 2 weeks with over 60 hours of travel time. On the way to Korea, Naima only slept a few hours so I wasn’t able to get any sleep. I was suffering from jet lag, and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep in my own bed! At that moment, all I wanted to do was cry. I ended up booking a hotel room at the last minute. That was an extra expense that I didn’t need, but I think it was God’s way of telling me that we needed that rest.

The next day we caught the 9 am bus back to Daejeon. We get home, and as I’m unpacking, I’m looking through all the bags, and I can’t find the tablet. Then I remembered Naima was looking at it on the bus, and I didn’t remember seeing it after that. I was like, aww man! We left the tablet on the bus! I was frantic! We looked up the phone number to the bus terminal; luckily we had someone to translate: Anaya! They told us they would call the bus driver and then call us back. They called back and told us it wasn’t there. I was so devastated, I couldn’t believe it! Then an hour later, we get another call telling us they had found it! I had Leonard take Anaya and Naima to pick it up because at that point, I definitely needed a break!

Despite all the crazy mishaps, we had an awesome time. After traveling to 7 cities and enduring 10 flights in less than two weeks, I’ve realized I will never travel this extensively with a toddler again!

Osaka Layover (Jan 2016)
Trip to LA and Philly Jan 2016
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