first stop: the hague

slice of life 2014

After a trip, I love being able to go through my photos. The great thing about photos are how they can capture different scenes, emotions, and memories that can easily get forgotten.  As I went through my photos in the Hague and Amsterdam, I felt like they came out better then my photos from Paris. Maybe it was being there for the first time or the fascination of their unique culture and foods.

I really did enjoy exploring the Hague and the neighboring town of Leiden with Carolyn! She was a great host and it’s always exciting seeing a peek of the lives of your friends in different countries. Not only did she teach me all about the Dutch culture of using bikes, but she introduced me to mint tea, stroop wafels, croquettes, windmills, and of course we did some shopping along the way.  I will let the photos from my first two days in the Hague do most of the talking for this post. Stay tuned for more photos from Amsterdam next… 🙂


slice of life challenge day #25: the best part

Traveling has it many perks. One of the things that I enjoy the most is experiencing a new and different culture. One of the most interesting aspects of the Dutch culture that I’ve seen during my trip is the way the Dutch travel via bikes. Since I first arrived a few days ago, I’ve been amazed by all the bikes that filled the narrow sidewalks, the abundance of biking lanes, and the double decker biking lots.

It’s been incredibly fascinating seeing how they have baby seats in the front or back of their bikes (no one wears helmets). People carry items big and small on their bikes. People bike with high heels and skirts. People bike with additional people sitting or standing on the back of their bikes. People bike in the morning and late into the night. People decorate their bikes with fake flowers and attach satchels on the back of their bikes. People bike while talking on their iPhone. There are bikes of all different sizes and models. Some bikes have fun carts In the front where kids or luggage could easily fit.

My friend explained to me that in The Hague, everyone has a bike that they use to get around the town, but they also have cars as well. The cars serve a different purpose. As I remembered the intense scooter culture in Vietnam last year during my spring break, this year, I’m doing my best to avoid getting hit by bikes.

Pics will have to come when I get back home next week! Now onto my favorite city, Paris.

slice of life challenge day #15: the first meeting

slice of life 2014

My grandmother had 7 children, 16 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. Since she lived in NY the past 30 years, she had some great grandchildren in Korea that she never had a chance to meet. A few of her great grandchildren finally had a chance to meet my grandmother at her funeral. One of them, a sweet young boy, cried tears as he sat in front of her on the last day of her funeral.

My grandmother was always good with her hands. Our house was full of these swans she created with origami paper up until the end of her life. She would fold hundreds of these small pieces of origami paper to create these swans. She would make pairs of swans for our family, friends and people at our church. My parents brought two of the smaller swans she made to Korea for the funeral. This great grandchild that met my grandmother for the first time asked about these swans. I shared with him proudly how they were made by his great grandmother with much love and care. We decided to give these swans to him and his sister to take home.

After we buried my grandmother’s ashes into the ground at the cemetery, I saw the children gather in front of her grave. I knew that even though they didn’t meet her in person, I could see glimpses of her in them. I knew that I would make sure they would know her story when they got older. I knew that she was smiling to have finally met them.

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slice of life challenge day #14: shoes off

slice of life 2014

I’m finally back to slicing. I had to take a mini-break from my writing these past few days, due to an unexpected trip to Korea to attend my grandmother’s funeral. Now that I’m back home and finally have a free moment to myself, I’m finding comfort in being behind the screen and sharing my story. This was my first real experience of being part of a Korean funeral. Not only did I learn a lot about how different Korean funerals are, but there was one moment that brought some laughter during this time of remembering and mourning.

In Korea, funerals are a bit different than the States.  Our grandmother’s funeral was held at the hospital, where they had a separate building just for funerals. The room was divided into two areas. One part had tables and a kitchen, where people were served food and drinks. There was  a smaller room that people went in to pay their respects for my grandmother. Some funerals last up to 3 days, and the relatives stay in this room during the time to greet guests.  I heard that some relatives would even stay overnight in the rooms, and sleep there, as many funeral homes were open 24hours. We went home around 10pm, and didn’t allow visitors past then.

Part of Korean culture is to take your shoes off before going into inside including homes and even some restaurants. In the funeral room, people had to take their shoes off before going in. The men that came to the funeral all seemed to wear similar looking black dress shoes. As the men would look for their shoes when they were leaving, they would often get confused about which pair was theirs. Many men had similar sized shoes and styles. One elderly man even put his shoes on the side on the shoe rack because he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t forget where he put them. However, at the end of the night, he couldn’t find his shoes and was a bit angry about this. He ended up going home with the black slippers that were given by the funeral home.  There were a total of 3 missing pairs of black dress shoes during the two and half days of the funeral.

Even though funerals tend to be more serious and somber, my cousins and I, who helped greet guests, turn their shoes around, and helped take their jackets, found ourselves amused with the frequent missing shoes. I quickly found out that this is pretty common in Korea, as my other male relatives shared about having had similar incidents. Sometimes, when people leave restaurants or bars at the end of the night, people have fights with the waiters/bartenders about their missing shoes! So the next time you are in Korea, make sure you keep a close eye on your shoes.


slice of life challenge day #7: an incredible woman

slice of life 2014

I come from a family of writers. My mom loves to write, especially poetry and short stories. Both of my brothers are very talented writers, it comes to them very naturally. There have been a few times where I’ve asked them to edit my writing, and I remember feeling quite intimidated by what they would think of my writing. However, they always gave me really honest and good feedback.

I was really glad to hear that my brother Andrew would be able to attend my grandmother’s funeral in NY and give a eulogy. As I read through his initial draft of the eulogy, I kept crying as it brought back memories about all that my grandmother did and meant to me. My words to express how I feel and remember my grandmother are still being formed and not ready to come out quite. I hope that I can share my words with you all soon…

Today, I wanted to share this beautiful and powerfully written eulogy by my brother Andrew.

Eulogy for Halmuni (Grandma)

Read on 3/4/2014 at her funeral

By Andrew Kim

My grandmother is an incredible woman. Born before the First World War, she grew up in rural Korea during a time when girls were not allowed to receive a formal education and she passed away having seen Korea’s first woman President. All this to say, she lived through an incredible time of difficulty and transition. And through it, she remained steadfast- unwavering in the face of myriad challenges and change.

When the Second World War ended, she fled to the South with her children in tow. They left everything behind and made a perilous, night-time escape across the border. They made it to my grandfather who was already in Seoul at the time. Their lives were hectic as the Korean War raged on and as another son, my dad, and another daughter were born. Every day brought new challenges. My grandfather passed away when my grandmother was just 49 years old, leaving her behind with their seven children in post-war South Korea.

I wasn’t there, of course, but I can imagine how my grandmother responded. Backed up against a wall, future uncertain, and I imagine, rather I know she was strong, gloves up, full of grit, ready to face this hardship with calm, but also with fire in her soul. I know because her life is evident in the lives of her children- they have inherited this grit, this fire; they too have risen from hardship, they too have persevered.

She moved to America when she was almost 70 years old to help out with her children and grandchildren. She was uneducated, she was a widow, and in a country not her own. Yet she flourished.

When my grandmother was 75 years old, my 5 foot tall, 95 pound mother gave birth to twins. After which, with my mother recovering, she took up the unenviable task of taking care of me and my brother. She helped raise us- doing it with grace, with poise and with a smile despite our best intentions.

Halmuni, you couldn’t speak English, yet somehow I remember you talking to all the American grandmothers at the track you walked on everyday. I remember the huge garden you built and meticulously manicured in our backyard. I remember your army of handcrafted cranes brought to life from scraps of old newspaper. I remember at 100 years of age you flew from New York to the scorching Memphis summer to be a part of my wedding.

Halmuni, you came from a generation so vastly different than mine. You were selfless. You were never flashy. You never ever talked about yourself. You only cared that everyone else was taken care of first. You were the first Christian in our family and have planted an amazing legacy of faith. You always read your bible, each new version with larger print than the previous one. You were steadfast and never backed down from hardship.

On your final day in this world, you ate jajangmyun (black noodles) and soondubu (tofu stew) and you smiled and laughed. When the end neared my parents brought you to the ER. There you told my dad that it was time to go, that you didn’t want anything else done. You left this world unafraid of death, knowing you were going somewhere much sweeter. I think saying bye was your most selfish act. Even though you were 101 years old, I wish you would’ve stayed longer.

Halmuni, I love you and miss you.

slice of life challenge day #6: a baby in paris

slice of life 2014

I decided to do a #tbt (throw back thursday) slice of life post!


On a cold winter day,

a red plaid scarf,

a pink puffy jacket,

and a simple stroller,

all waiting eagerly

 to get their picture sketched.

Does anyone remember,

a baby in Paris?

Artists armed with sharp pencils,

 line the cobble stone streets,

high atop Montmartre,

nestled between cafes,

with coffee and cafe au laits,

sitting on chairs facing the street,

people watching,

a baby smiles.

Waiting, wondering and wishing,

an artist starts to draw.

From a blank canvas,

emerges a drawing,

captured on paper.

No longer forgotten,

someone remembers,

a baby in Paris.

slice of life challenge day #4: finding joy

slice of life 2014

Sometimes you just need to take some time to stop and reflect on some of those small moments from the past few days that brought you some extra joy.

  • I received an e-mail from one of my student’s parent with her slice of life post. She decided to participate in the challenge along with her son and our class. I was completely blown away by her first post; she’s an incredible writer.
  • I received an e-mail from a good friend about the birth of her baby girl with pictures attached of the beautiful newborn!
  • In class we are working on fantasy stories and some of my students decided to put their own drawings into ibooks author, which we are using to publish their pieces. I saw quite a few of my students offer to draw pictures for other students’ fantasy books. It was great to see students that aren’t close friends helping each other out!
  • Yesterday, I was thinking about buying some flowers for myself because flowers make me happy. However, I didn’t have time to get them. Then, this afternoon, I had two surprise visits in my classroom. I received two huge and beautiful bouquets of flowers from my fifth grade team and the lovely ladies that I take a taxi with every morning to school.



  • Yesterday, I had a chance to eat dinner with a good friend and catch up. She texted me while I was on the MRT (subway) home and the timing worked out perfectly.
  • I didn’t get a chance to watch the Oscars, but I must admit, I loved seeing the selfie photo of the night.


What small moments brought a smile to you these past few days?

slice of life challenge day #3: about time

slice of life 2014

I’m a day late again for my post, but I’m going to keep going. Last night, I fell asleep with my laptop next to me on my bed, with my blank blog post for the day open on the screen. All that I had typed in was “slice of life challenge day #3”. It has been one of those weeks, incredibly draining emotionally and physically, and it’s only Tuesday night.

Sometimes you just need a break, which is hard for teachers, when it always seems to be “go, go, go”. How amazing would it be if teachers got 1 full day a month without students, no grade level meetings, no parent e-mails to respond to, no professional development meetings, and were allowed time in their classroom to plan, grade, and reflect on the learning of their students?! Even though 1 full day a month would probably not be enough time, think about the impact that could make on student learning and teacher effectiveness.

I’m not sure if it’s just part of my school culture that teachers feel so overwhelmed and busy, or maybe it’s just something that all teachers face. I’ve taught in four different schools (2 NYC public schools and 2 international schools), in the past 11 years and I can definitely say that no matter the environment (public vs. private), there always seems like there’s too much to do. How many teachers have you met can say, I have enough time in the school day to get all my planning, grading and all those other added responsibilities done? Or what about teachers that say, I never have to bring work home during the week or the weekends?  If you have met those teachers, please have them share with us their secrets.

I’ve come to realizing that we need to embrace the work load and finding ways to manage it so that it’s reasonable. One part of that would be to let go of achieving perfection, and make a priority list. Is this activity or item on my to do list really necessary? How can you decide what is necessary? For me, it’s all about going to my core beliefs and values on my role as an educator. I think a lot about how does this impact student learning.

In addition to spending time on things that will positively impact student learning, I really value building the individual relationships with my students and making sure they know they are valued. So even if it means spending extra time at home commenting on my student blogs (they are all participating in the slice of life challenge), sometimes you just need to take that time, to make sure they know that you care.  In the end, I think it will probably be those little things that you do for your students, like handwritten birthday notes, checking in with a student that looks sad after recess, or sharing how impressed you were with their writing that will resonate in their souls.

How do you manage to balance your time as an educator? How do you find the time to get everything done?

slice of life challenge day #2: missed calls

slice of life 2014

The first thing I do in the morning is usually checking my iphone or pressing the snooze button on my iphone alarm. Today was a Sunday morning, and I woke up on my own a little before 9AM. I always keep my phone on vibrate during the night, so when I checked my phone, I was surprised to see a bunch of text message and 10 missed phone calls from my dad in the States. I opened the text message from my dad that said, “Halmuni (grandmother in Korean) passed away now.”

It took some time for it to really hit me what those words meant. Everything else on my mind seemed to take a pause.  It was the moment I was dreading, the moment that deep inside I knew would happen, especially after the heart attack she had earlier on in December and considering how she was 102 years old. I just thought that I would have more time.

I kept thinking about the last conversation we had over Google hangout on Thursday night, where she asked me what I ate for dinner, and then asked me when would I see you again. And I replied, in 3 months, when I come home for the summer. It looks like it might take me a little longer to see you again. ❤


slice of life challenge day #1: the “f” word

slice of life 2014

This month, I’m committing to participating in the slice of life challenge for the entire month of March, along with my fifth grade students. It’s not an easy task, and seeing how I already missed the first day, you might think that it’s not a good sign. However, I was reminded of this TEDxYouth talk I recently saw that talked about the “F” word.

Yes, I failed on day 1 of this challenge. And at one point, I thought, I should just not even start. Why even bother with this challenge? I’ve already missed the first day. It would be so much easier if I didn’t participate. However, so many times in my life, I learned that failure is needed in order to achieve success. I am not going to fear failure, and instead I will embrace it, and move forward from it. So, I will continue to write on this journey and participate for the 3rd year in a row on the Slice of Life Writing Challenge hosted by The Two Writing Teachers. Will you join me on this challenging, but rewarding journey? It’s ok if you missed the first day, it’s definitely not too late to join. 🙂