Korea!

Hello all! I am back from Korea and you know I just had to make a cheesy video of my experiences out there.

But first, a little backstory. In November last year, I was accepted to a program called Project Bridge. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between cultures, more specifically, Korean culture after the LA Riots. Despite being Korean, I know next to nothing about my ancestry, which is why I signed up for Project Bridge. Surprisingly I got in and twice a month, I attended workshops with 7 other students all over Los Angeles. Finally our workshops led us to a 10 day trip to Korea (an ~all expenses paid~ trip, might I add). There was another Project Bridge group in New York and we all met up upon arriving in Korea and from there, we travelled as one.

We were lucky enough to stay with busy high schoolers, live with monks, meet large Korean companies, and connect with a culture not distinctly seen in the vast melting pot of America.

Now here I am, back from Korea with many stories, memories, and connections I will never forget. It was emotional and beautiful and seeing a new country so different than what I’m used to yet vaguely familiar was a strange feeling and I hope one day I can go back.

More information about Project Bridge and PCI, the group that established Project Bridge.

And the video you’ve all been waiting for, enjoy!

 

Rice CakesKing Sejong StatueHanbokLanternsFish Market

The McDonald’s

My mom pulled into the empty parking lot of the unfamiliar McDonald’s at midnight. The artificial gleam from McDonald’s was the only light for miles. The sun was gone. The stars covered by clouds. The clouds draped in black. The black even blacker than the concrete of the parking lot.

The McDonald’s was still open.

Mom told me to get her a coffee. Said I could get a burger. Handed me a 10.

The McDonald’s was unfamiliar. The glaring light was too bright. The cashier’s glowing yellow shirt had an unsettling deep red stain under her illegible name tag. Her smile dragged like an enormous slit across her white skin as I walked in. “Howdy! What can I get y’all?” My mom was still at the car. I was alone.

My order took longer than it would have at the McDonald’s by my house. I waited in a dark booth, in a corner, away from the cashier. The harsh light still glared, but unable to reach me, leaving me sitting in darkness. I tried to make out the words of the man’s voice coming from the radio. It sounded like another language. It sounded like a warning.

I left the McDonald’s with food and coffee. My mom was still at the car. Had it gotten darker? Where are the clouds? Where are the stars? Where are we? I did not ask as I climbed back into the car with the woman who claimed to be my mother. I did not ask why we kept driving. I did not ask where we were going. The McDonald’s glaring light followed us as we drove on.

The Dragon Prince

Hello father,

It is Alexander. It’s been a week since the evil witch cursed me to become a dragon and several days since you started your journey to find a cure but it turns out that the royal physicians have had a solution. Apparently it’s pretty simple so I guess you can come back to the castle now. I’m warning you though, I am not going to let them turn me back into a human just yet – it’s not often you can spit fire from your mouth. I just learned how to fly and my wing strength is greatly improving as well. I’m trying to teach myself how to do tricks now.

I’m also in the process of convincing Sophia to pretend to be my captured princess in the top of one of our towers (she’s already a princess so she’s got half of it covered already). She’s not taking to the idea but I think with enough convincing she might agree.

While I seem to be the only one, right now, excited by this fantastic development, I’m sure you’ll learn to love it as well. Mother isn’t too happy and I think she’s yelling at me to change back but it’s hard to hear her when I’m so much larger than her.

Travel safe,

Prince Alexander the Dragon (I’ve added “the Dragon” to the end of my name, cool, right?)

P.S. I accidentally burnt Baron Seymour’s eyebrows off when I sneezed yesterday. He’s quite angry so you may have to have a talk with him later.

P.P.S. Do you think I can lay eggs?

The Captured Princess 2

Previous Chapter

After much convincing, Beth finally had the prince in her house. She had forced him to climb up the rope she had made by stringing a few bed sheets together, though he had to leave the pizza on the ground in order to climb it. Now he was standing in her home and she could get a better look at him.

Beth had much to expect due to her books and he was exactly what she wanted: dark hair, dark eyes, tall, and well built. His splay of freckles differed from the picture she had in mind, so did his tanned skin, but she could manage. He also looked more timid than expected but this was something she could also deal with. Her books never mentioned anything about their personalities so Beth assumed any type was good. Besides, if he had looks, who cared about his character?

princess

Princess Beth

“So… money?” He looked a little impatient; maybe he was in a hurry to marry her? The thought suddenly struck her and she gave a little gasp.

She commanded the prince to wait exactly where he was before rushing to the library down the hall. All her reference books for this situation were hidden behind the books on flowers. She furiously flipped through pages to find her favorite story of the trapped princess in the tower.

The prince was starting to get worried. Entering the house of a customer was strictly against the Pixie Pizza Code of Conduct yet so was leaving money behind, so technically he was following the rules. The more pressing matter was the fact that this ditzy girl seemed to have no idea what money is. He rechecked the paper in his hand, 2400 Bellflower Street…

Princess Beth reentered the room. She had redone her hair and even changed the sash around her dress. In a silvery voice she gave her proclamation, “Young Prince, I will willingly go away with you-”

“Hold on. What is the address of this place?”

“Excuse me?”

“The address? What’s your address?”

Beth had never felt so insulted. First this prince doesn’t immediately climb into her home, and then he just expects her to marry him without even asking, and then interrupts her while she accepts the unspoken proposal, what was the princess of the world to do? Well she knew he was going to be a tough one, though her storybooks never had difficult princes.

castle

Princess Beth’s castle

He probably was asking so he knew where to send the invitation for their wedding. All her irritation evaporated and she cheerfully relayed the address that Joy had imbedded into her mind, “2400 Bellflower Lane. Now if you’ll let me continue, I do believe I was in the middle of accepting your-”

The prince shook his head, “No need, it looks like I messed up. Good bye!” And started for the window.

Poor Princess Beth almost burst into tears. All her hard work just for her prince to be chasing a different princess!

The prince looked into her watery eyes and knew he had to escape now or he’d never get to leave. What he didn’t know was that eighteen years of reading princess stories had taught something to Beth. She pressed a pale hand to her heart and sank to her knees. With a loud moan followed by a sob, she curled over. She called this ‘Damsel in Distress’, a genius ploy to gain pity.

Peaking up at him, Beth noticed he had hesitated. “At least… tell me your name.”

“I think what’s more important is that we call for help.”

She had preformed the trick too well – he thought she was really ill! His concern did make her blush and she almost allowed him to get help, but Joy had warned of the dangers of too many people seeing Beth. Then again, Joy also warned her of inviting random people into the mansion.

“I’ll be fine,” she said quickly. “It happens from time to time. I just want to know your name. For future reference.”

He moved closer to the window, “Since you’re fine, I’m going to go. I still have to deliver the…” He looked down and froze. The pizza box he’d left on the ground had disappeared. A wandering forest nymph must’ve stolen the delicious goods. His heart sank as he calculated how much this loss would take out his pay.

His dismay did not keep him still for long. Before the princess could react, he was starting down the rope.

She ran over and set her hands on the rope, determined to pull him back up. He glanced up and their eyes connected. Beth knew he didn’t want to stay. Slowly she released the rope and watched him reach the ground. The boy made a half-hearted attempt to find the pizza before dejectedly walking away.

Beth still waited by the window; not knowing what she was expecting but unwilling to look away. Perhaps it was because he felt sorry for her or perhaps it was because he felt her stare burning holes into his back, no matter the reason, the prince turned around. “I’m Eric Benson, by the way. Also, I’m not a prince.”

Of course, Princess Beth didn’t hear the last line.

 

Violence in Failing Venezuela Schools — AP Images Blog

A beautifully written article. These kids are no older than me yet are having such sad thoughts. It helps me remember that I’m truly lucky to be where I am now.

Photos by Ariana Cubillos Maria Arias slipped her notebooks into her backpack, scrounged for a banana to share with her brother and sister, and set off for high school through narrow streets so violent taxis will not come here for any price.

via No Food, No Teachers, Violence in Failing Venezuela Schools — AP Images Blog

The Captured Princess 1

“Hey ugly!”

The dragon lazily swung its head to glare at the little knight standing at the base of the mansion. Its yellow eyes burned holes into the knight’s head but, surprisingly, he didn’t back down. “Release the princess at once and maybe I’ll let you live, stink-breath!”

“God, I bet he spent all week thinking of that one.” The dragon hissed under her breath.

“Monster, I give you one chance! Release the princess or suffer!”

The dragon roared loudly, “Oh shut up!” before shooting a small blast of fire at the small man. He dropped his sword and scuttled away, probably to his Horse he had parked somewhere nearby. When her job was done, the dragon snorted disdainfully.

“Joy, what was he like?” An excited whisper floated from underneath the dragon.

Her expression softened. She swiftly entered the house to meet a bouncing girl who immediately lifted herself onto the dragon’s neck, “Was he cute?”

Joy shook her head, “He was old. Looked all wrinkly.”

The girl nodded approvingly, “Well I’m glad you got rid of him, he wasn’t very nice to you. Though you should’ve said the usual lines.”

The dragon sighed and the girl could feel it resonate throughout the hard body. “I would have but he was really annoying. I really just wanted to kill him.”

Once the words had left her mouth, she instantly regretted it. “Oh Joy, don’t say that. You’re trying to reform. Saying things like that won’t do you any good. And my father wouldn’t be happy if he heard you say that either!”

“I was kidding, Beth. You know I would never.” But her comforting words had no effect. Princess Beth had slid off the back of the young dragon and turned away. “Tell you what, let me go grab those berries you love. We can make a pie together.”

Joy heard the princess gasp and knew everything was resolved. “I shouldn’t have said that, I was just angry he called me ugly. He also said my breath stank.”

Beth giggled as she flung her arms around her friend, “Your breath certainly doesn’t stink, you brush twice a day! And I know for a fact that you’re the prettiest dragon around. That old fart had no idea what he was talking about.”

If the dragon could have turned any redder, she would have. Instead she opted to lightly press her lips against the girl’s forehead. “I’ll be right back,” and she sailed out the window.

Meanwhile, the princess danced happily throughout her mansion. She floated into the kitchen and spun in circles, pretending to be dancing with invisible partners who would treat her kindly and weren’t pursuing her just for her money. Joy hated it when she pretended such things but what else was a lonely princess to do? Joy hated anything that meant her leaving the safety of the castle. She understood why, of course, being the Crown Princess of the entire world was a huge position, one that anyone would kill to have.

The princess’ pretendings often left her oblivious to the world around her. With her eyes shut tight, she circled the kitchen. She knew every bit of the manor by heart, something that comes with eighteen years of living in it.

A knock at the door made her jump. She was jolted out of her dreams. Her heart skipped a beat. Nobody had ever knocked on the door before. Maybe because the door was fake.

“Pixie Pizza, delivery!” The knock came again, this time harder.

Beth started bouncing on her toes. Bolts of energy flew through her body. A prince? Could it be? She dusted her dress off and fixed her hair.

The door to the mansion was just painted onto a solid wall, her father brilliantly came up with the idea so knights couldn’t sneak in, but the window above was real. Beth had discovered that it could be opened just enough to fit through. She never left obviously, that would be suicide to go into the world, even if she was to rule over it.

“Hello.” She sang softly in a voice she had practiced alone just for this occasion. The purpose was to lure the prince to look up and call for her. So it wouldn’t appear as if she initiated contact.

The prince below kept knocking, “Pixie Pizza, I have your food!”

Beth felt a little hurt. The voice always worked in the books. She tried again and again but the prince didn’t respond. By now, both parties were getting frustrated. The prince abruptly ceased his knocking and turned away. “Guess it’s mine now,” he muttered.

What was she to do? Her prince was getting away. “Wait!” She cried, but her voice cracked and she choked on her words. But at least she got his attention. He looked back and saw her hanging out the window, fighting to hold back a cough.

“Are you… hold on,” he fumbled through his pockets while she struggled to regain her composure, “Got it… are you Barry Olga?” He squinted at the piece of paper he had just procured.

Princess Beth

Princess Beth

“Sure.” Beth smiled warmly, “Why don’t you come up?”

The poor prince looked alarmed. “Why don’t you just open the door? Or, how about this, I’ll just leave it here and you toss me the money.” He tried to place it on the ground in front of the fake door much to Beth’s disbelief.

“Money? Oh yes, money. I have them here. Come up.”

The prince furrowed his eyebrows, “Can you just open the door?”

“No I can’t. So come up and get your money.” Why was this so hard? In everything Beth had ever read the prince eagerly climbed the princess’ tower without so much as an invitation. She must’ve gotten herself a rather stubborn prince. It was clear she was going to have to do most of the work, “I’ll throw you a rope and you can climb it.”

“What about your pizza?”

“What’s pizza?”

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