Wonjo Ssambab Jip (원조쌈밥집)


Somewhere hidden along this street is Wonjo Ssambab Jib, a meat restaurant included amongst Baek Jon Won’s plethora of chains. Yet, at first glance, you’d have no idea his name’s attached, famous more as a successful businessman than a food connoisseur/cook, his restaurants are staples amongst the Korean food scene. A shabby looking place like this doesn’t quite evoke images of the clean and polished exterior’s of his more recent additions, BaekDabang (Dabang being the name for old style Korean cafe’s and Baek his name), and Chadolbaki Jeonmunjeom (Chadolbaki being a type of thin sliced beef and Jeonmunjeum meaning “specialty house”)…The restaurant itself is hidden down a tight little side alley…As we approached a foul smell emanated from the door and inside multiple large table spreads were covered with food left uncleared. I’m pretty adventurous but I’ve had enough bad experiences with unsanitary food in Asia to become a bit hesitant around places like this. At first glance you’d be hard pressed to place the name Baek Jon Won with the interior and atmosphere, yet that’s not to completely bash on the place either. It had a old style charm to it and a cozy atmosphere, with wooden lockers and keys to drop your shoes in before sitting down. On the wall were cliche spread posters of ancient Tigers and electronic bells (like doorbells, common at Korean restaurants) on the walls, indicted by squiggly lines drawn around them in red marker.


The food came out fast and it was good, albeit likely low end in quality..Consisting of a wide wooden tray of lettuce and other green leafy vegetables (for wrapping the meat), the standard doenjang jjigae (soybean soup), and a seafood ssamjang paste (a paste added to the meat consisting of gochujang (pepper paste) and doenjang (soy paste) combined with added bits of squid and octopus. Two servings of thin sliced beef was probably enough, but the food was good and the atmosphere pleasant so we chose to go for a third round of samgyeopsal (pork belly, like thick cuts of bacon), before heading out to walk off our full stomachs.

Wonjo Ssambab Jib’s not a easy find, tucked in the backstreets of Dongdaemun. Nor is it ideal for those picky about cleanliness, but it offers a peak into old Seoul, or as Winnie put it..into a “very old school Korean restaurant”. Give it a shot, and if you get lost along the way, there’s no lack of other options nearby as you can see by the picture above.


Shanghai: Old and New (상하이, 현대와 옛)


I’m back now in Seoul after a short trip to Shanghai last week. It was my first time to China. I’ve been meaning to travel there for a long time, but kept putting it off due to the visa process for Americans. Being in Seoul, I’m just a stones throw away from Shanghai and Beijing. I figured it was about time I get my visa and open the door to explore this vast country. Originally I didn’t have much interest in China. I was turned off by the bad air, the authoritarian government, the bad reputation of Chinese tourists, etc. Yet, as time’s passed for me in Asia I’ve become increasingly curious about the country. China figures predominantly in the current American political narrative and it’s undeniable that China is quickly becoming the strongest country in the world economically. I wanted to get a taste of what it’s all about, so I booked a round-trip flight to Shanghai and spent four days there.


Now that I’m back, I’m about just as confused as before I went. Shanghai struck me on first impression as an impressive mix of new and old, like Seoul, but on a more exaggerated scale. The modern areas of Nanjing Road, The Bund and Pudong, reminded me of New York , and the European architecture of France. Yet, right around the corner from these spots are small, windy streets and old homes, cluttered, busy neighborhoods where older people can be seen cutting vegetables on the street and aromas from small restaurants and shops permeate the streets. I’ve always seen Seoul as a city, like Shanghai, caught between new and old. Yet, the dichotomy between the two worlds is more profound in Shanghai. Since I came to Korea three years ago, Seoul has changed fast. It’s always changing, both for good and bad. So many neighborhoods have quickly become gentrified, bringing along with the tide new cafe’s, book shops, clothing stores, etc., leaving a lot of old homes and history behind. In it’s move to modernize sometimes it feels in Korea like the governments willing to leave all remnants of history behind. In Shanghai, these two worlds felt a bit more intact, existing side by side, rather than the old fading away rapidly into the new. I wonder if Shanghai will follow along with Seoul and do the same or if the history will be better preserved?


(Dog I met in the streets of Old Shanghai)

Either way, it was good to get some time away from Korea and see somewhere new, somewhere I imagine I’ll be going back to again. China’s such a large country with so much to offer in terms of history, nature and culture, so as long as I’m here in Korea, I plan more trips back.



Take Your Time


  It’s been a long week. It feels like a lot is happening, yet my life has been simultaneously very mundane. I haven’t gone on any big trips or even small trips for that matter. I’ve spent a lot of time just resting in my apartment, taken very few pictures and done little to get outside of Sinchon, the area I’m staying in. I guess you could say I’ve been a little depressed, yet it doesn’t feel that way. I feel I’m in a slump right now, yet also learning a lot. It feels more like a decompression from so much new thoughts than anything else.

   Life in Korea is always interesting. It can be fun and exciting, yet there’s another side of living abroad. The loneliness. I’ve been here long enough to meet a lot of people, but still haven’t found my group. I’ve met a lot of great people who have come and gone, maybe to cross paths in the future. Some people I stay in touch with, others less frequently, but whether I’m messaging them regularly or not, there are people I’ve met here I’d love to meet again if the opportunity presents itself. I always have an available social life. There’s always people around, but it’s tough to find people I can really click with. A few weeks ago a new close friend of mine left for America. This past weekend, I sat at home wondering what to do with my day. I was exhausted and lacking the spirit to venture out into the city beyond my area. I wasn’t feeling in the mood for crowded subways or buses, so I spent my day at a cafe and watching movies at home. My girlfriend was busy having a day with her family in Incheon, yet I couldn’t truly relax, overcome by a sense of deep loneliness.

   At the cafe, I felt apart and separate from my surrroundings. While my Korean is improving, it’s still nowhere near fluent level. On my loneliest days here, that divide feels so thick and so real, between me and the korean people around me. On the loneliest days I feel like between me and my surroundings is a great gulf of misunderstanding and confusion. That divide, culturally and linguistically, can be a source of excitement and interest. Yet, on my worst days, it’s just a divide, nothing more…I simply feel alone and apart.

   I was listening to an old podcast with a very famous blogger here in Korea. He’s lived in Korea now for about 17 years and has been regularly blogging (mostly about Korean politics) since 2003. During the interview, he was asked questions about his experience, and he said at one point “I’d like to blend in…most of my frustrations here are less to do with the culture itself than with my ability to blend in, my ability to really be part of the crowd” He was expressing a desire to feel like “one of the locals”. This interview was conducted 10 years after his arrival in Korea. At the time he’d finished a translating job for some major newspapers and was working as the chief manager of a major expat publication.

   It was actually a big relief for me to hear him speak these words. I also sometimes really just want to blend in, but I’ve only been here for less than a year. He echoed those words as a 10 year resident, with fluent Korean. I’d earlier gotten in a small argument with my girflriend about my Korean language learning process and she said, “Evan, you don’t need to make artificial timelines for yourself…2 years, 3 years..Korean takes a long time. Go at your own speed, you need time”.

   For me, part of the challenge here, is taking that time. Staying present, understanding I’m a foreigner. I am new here. There’s a whole world of things I still don’t know about Korea, nonetheless myself. Being someone whose mind often races into the future, I’ve had to slow down,  in my studies, my relationship and my social life. On the loneliest days here, I miss the comfort of home, of my family nearby, of not having to think before asking for extra sugar for my coffee at the cafe. On those days, I often don’t feel like dealing with Korea, with being an expat. It’s those times I wonder “why’d I choose this?” Yet, the thing I notice is during those times, I’m often learning the most. Rather than resisting that urge to chill, I need to follow it. You can’t learn a lot without a following need for rest.

   Functioning naturally and confidently as part of a foreign culture is a process that requires time, patience and humility. It requires stepping outside of yourself, being open to new experiences, questioning your own pre-dispositions and taking risks. I’m developing greater confidence and independence through my time here. Just for any endeavor, you need the right ingredients to see the plan or goal come to fruition. For now, I want to let my curiosity and excitement guide me forward to navigate these waters.

Learning Korean


I’m at a stage now in my language studies where I’d consider myself nearing intermediate level. I still struggle to understand a fair amount around me and what people say, I still go mentally blank pretty often and I still make mistakes all the time…Yet, there’s a lot I can do now with my language skills combined with body language. While living abroad has been a journey for me, the language learning itself has been a journey as well, with distinct stages and challenges.

Around this time last year, I began to take my Korean studies seriously. I’d been in Korea as a tourist for about 3 months and was nearing my departure for home. There’s another story in here, but I’ll save that for a later post. After leaving Korea and arriving back home, I was searching for english teaching jobs as a way back into the country with a visa and income. During that time, which amounted to about 5 months, my girlfriend and I stayed in touch through Skype and Kakao (a Korean messaging application)/Facebook. I arrived back in the states with some basic grammar, basic introduction, a few questions and some korean food names. I was far from able to start creating my own sentences. I was running off, primarily, phrases I’d picked up or learned from a book.

Prior to starting my Korean studies, I’d never really wanted to learn a language. I took some French in middle school, then again in college, a spanish class, and 3 years of Latin. I was taking classes because I had to, not because I wanted to. I guess my mind started opening up to the larger world outside of the states during high school when I discovered international film and fell in love with Asian and French cinema. Yet I still, all through college, never considered really delving into a language. I didn’t have convincing enough motivations at the time. So, taking the first step to just acknowledge to myself that I was going to make a serious effort to learn Korean was a big leap. Choosing a language so far removed from my own was daunting to say the least. It still is. I felt very overwhelmed with the immensity of the task in front of me, even with the help and encouragement of my girlfriend and a developing life in Korea.

Since then, I’ve gone through stages of consistent, prolonged, daily study, and multiple week long dry spells. I’ve gone through weeks of chatting regularly with locals to weeks where finding the courage to reach out to strangers felt impossible. I’ve had highs where I’ve felt I’m making incredible progress, and lows where I’ve felt I’ll never be capable of reaching my goal of fluency. It’s like anything else, it’s a process, it has it’s curves, it’s ups and downs, it’s stages and challenges along the way…and most importantly, it’s ongoing. The process and learning never ends.

Now I’m approaching a year of study, at least…in terms of intention. I’ve been studying solo since 2 months ago, not including around 10 classes I attended through a nearby private institute during my teaching days. I’ve learned more than I expected I would through my studies. When I first started along this path, I felt it was just a matter of learning the necessary skills. I saw it as a technical pursuit. Not so much as an opportunity to really radically shift the way I thought about the world. What I’ve learned since is that language includes cultural characteristics, and through embodying and using the language, you can feel the energy of the culture – through the intonation, the emphasis, the word choices, etc. To speak a language effectively, in a way that creates a sense of connection to a native speaker (when heard), you must reflect the character of the language you hear. It’s not simply enough to say the words. That works to translate the literal context, but language in use is more than words, but the emotions associated with the words themselves. The process of language learning is more than just learning new vocab, new grammatical structures, but also stepping into a new way of emotionally and mentally relating to your surroundings.

For me, I still have a long way to go in my studies, but I’m at a point where I feel significantly closer to the culture here, simply from having developed my language skills. I’m given insights through the language (in terms of ability to understand (a little) of my surroundings and interact, at a relatively basic level, with locals) about the culture and the place I currently call home. In a later post, I’ll go into more detail about what exactly the language is teaching me about Korean culture specifially, but for the time being I’m just enjoying the experience of communicating in two distinct ways. This past week I’ve been at a low in my confidence about my language learning process, but after meeting a Korean friend today and sharing our languages, I’ve been given a boost. Looking forward to a new week of classes.

On Hiking Alone in Korea



  I’m not intending to make this blog a “hiking in korea” blog, yet lately, I’ve felt really drawn to the mountains here. It’s a combination of interest and need. Lately, I’ve been looking for quiet outside of my single apartment. I’ve felt a yearning for nature and real contact with the earth. Sometimes life in Seoul can get to me, and I either clam up in my apartment for a day or two or take to the mountains or parks. As a naturally introverted person I simply need that time away from all the crowds to decompress. In Vermont, I often found hiking to be an escape, to simply find some time to myself. Of course, I’d bump into people along the way and strike up a conversation, but I’ve found hiking alone in Korea to be an entirely different experience.


   I hadn’t thought a lot about it when I started to get more serious about making hiking trips apart of my weekly life here, but from my brief experiences so far, I’m learning that there are unique obstacles to hiking alone as a foreigner that present a new set of challenges to navigate. Mostly, it’s that I stand out. Back home I blend in on a hike. I’m tall, relatively thin and white. I don’t stand out on a Vermont mountain as looking particularly unusual. I’m a Vermonter like many others on the trail. My styles never radically different and it’s common to see other people hiking alone. I’m typically greeted with a slight nod or a passing comment.

Korea’s been a different beast. I stand out, a lot. It’s rare I see many other foreigners on a hike, and especially rare to see a foreigner hiking alone. I get a lot of curious looks from other hikers, words of encouragement, invitations to talk…I do anything but blend in. During my last hike up Ungilsan near Yongsu-ri I rounded a corner to hear a man exclaim loudly to his group “Wow! A foreigner!” There was nothing mean spirited in his words, nor racist, just to him, a surprising sight. We talked and he was perfectly friendly and helpful and wished me on my way. Yet, afterwards, I got a bit lost and couldn’t find my way to the temple. An old man came on the path and said “수장사에 가요? 같이 가요!”, “Are you going to Sujangsa (temple)? Let’s go together” and went charging onwards, ushering for me to follow, waving his hand in motion to continue behind him. As I didn’t know where I was, I chose to follow his lead. I tried talking with him in Korean, but either he didn’t understand my speaking or wasn’t wanting to talk…my guess the latter, as he had a pretty serious demeanor.


  When we arrived at the temple, I stopped to take photos and he yelled at me “No, come this way! Come now!” I said, “Wait, I want to take pictures” but he persisted in his yelling. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I needed to leave him behind because I was getting irritated by being told what to do. I came to realize that he automatically expected me to follow his lead and go at his pace. He didn’t at all seem to appreciate my speaking up and telling him to wait. I guess he had a strong sense of his pace and wanted me to adjust to him. I started feeling annoyed and realized I needed to say goodbye. He was barking at me to hurry up, and I kept thinking “he doesn’t even know me” Yet, he really wanted to hike with me. His behavior felt very rude, yet, behind it, for some reason he really wanted to hike along with me. I’m new here, so there’s a lot I don’t understand and probably never will understand, but this confused me. My only guess is that as the older man he expected me to follow along at his pace and respond deferentially to what he said. Anyway, I found a way out when I noticed two guys I met earlier on the hike in front of me. I waved and said hi and they came over and said hi. The older man kept yelling “빨리 와!” “hurry up” but I ignored him and he got the idea.


  They were both in the 40s, middle aged Korean men. Earlier on the hike, they expressed interest in me, saying “Tired? Do you have enough water? Keep fighting!” and both gave me high fives upon reaching the summit. We spoke for a while on the summit in Korean and they suggested I meet them at the temple. So, having reached the temple, we met and I was able to leave the older man, much to his dismay. The three of us walked together and continued speaking in Korean. We walked together through the temple (Sujangsa), but it was a quick pass. In retrospect, I wish I’d stayed longer, but I was enjoying their company so I continued on. They suggested we eat lunch together and offered to share the lunch and makgeolli. I was hungry, so I took the offer and a short ways down the trail we set up a place to eat. We talked over a bottle of rice wine and duenjang jjiggae (soy bean stew) with rice balls. It was a tasty and healthy meal and I enjoyed talking with them. They were funny and kind, showing me photos of their wives and children. Yet, the more we talked, they began slapping me on the back and saying “We’re good friends now! Great friends” in Korean…And I agreed, I was having a fun time, but it felt a bit odd. I felt there was something else going on, and not so surprisingly the next thing he said was “Let’s hike again next week, and please come to my home and teach my daughter english” I said “wait, wait a second. I’m not ready to agree to that” He told me repeatedly to think hard. It occurred to me that having established our friendship by word, he felt comfortable then expressing what he’d like from me. I’m a native english speaker and I can be of help for his daughter learning english. This is how a lot of tutoring jobs happen for foreigners. Sure, it could be a source of money, yet I was hesistant to make any deeper commitment, and instead simply changed the course of the conversation.


 The peace and quiet of hiking in Vermont, with an occasional adventure mixed in, has not been my experience here. I mean, it is calming and relaxing and always rewarding, yet I’m more on the spotlight, and the likelihood of side-adventures happening is much higher. I can’t really complain, as I’m having interesting experiences, yet some quiet time alone, it seems, can quickly become an invitation to drink and eat. It’s really just the difference between being a local and being a foreigner. I’m learning that when I hike alone I need to be prepared to have people try and talk with me, invite me along for their hike, ask to take pictures with me, etc. Some days I’ll go with friends, other days I’ll wear my headphones, but mostly I’ll learn how to navigate this new role and find ways to enjoy my hikes in whatever way I choose.




Staying True to Your Origins yet Remaining Open: Keeping Balance while Abroad

A little over a year ago I arrived in Japan for the first time. I’d dreamed since a child of seeing the country after becoming captivated by chinese landscape paintings at an early age. The interest developed over time, leading to a focus on eastern philosophy/religion in my undergraduate studies, eventually bringing me to the area itself. Stepping off that plane was a an experience I’d looked forward to and imagined since a young age. I remember my first ride into Tokyo from Narita Airport admiring the landscape outside the train window, all the rice fields and bamboo trees. I found it interesting, especially the hanging rings (to hold for balance) and the purple fabrics of the seats. I remember a japanese woman across from me curiously watching me and smiling. I don’t know how I appeared, but I remember just feeling wide-eyed and so excited. I’m guessing she could tell I was new to the country.

IMG_0568    My first few months in Asia were characterized by a combination of severe distress and wide-eyed wonder. I’d never been alone and outside of my country, or even state (for that matter) for longer than 2 months and I found the experience very challenging. Added to the situation was that I wasn’t merely a traveller..There was a transition mid way through my trip from traveler to potential expat, upon meeting my current girlfriend in Seoul. Yet, even prior to this transition, my first month in Japan was a bumpy but amazing ride. I felt at times incredibly lonely and apart, and particularly, confused. I, however, was in awe. I was seeing the culture through young eyes. I hadn’t yet grasped the dark sides of the culture. I was aware enough of the problems I was perceiving both in Japan and Korea, but I wasn’t in a place to truly feel the effect of the problems myself. I was so caught up in my excitement upon arriving in a place that previously only existed in my mind, that I saw the cultures through rose-tinted glasses. I was in my “honeymoon phase” of culture shock. I felt the behavior and attitude of Korean and Japanese people really refreshing. Even if some of the behavior frustrated me, it was easy to overlook. It was easy to focus on the positives, because the whole experience was just such a relief for me. I was surrounded by people living life in a radically different way than I was used to. Looking back, I feel part of my motivation in visiting was a desire to just break away from the familiar and experience something very different. I was also frustrated with things related to my own situation in the states and tired of some of my own countries problems.

I eventually returned to the states after an unsuccessful attempt to secure a job in Korea. I brought home with me a lot of stories and recall describing to my friends and family the many wonderful things about Japanese and Korean culture. It’s not that my perception of the culture was incorrect, but it was skewed. I was so excited about this new life I’d experienced abroad that I was seeing in Asia mostly the positives and America mostly in negatives. I was stretched and pushed by my time in Asia to embody different attributes and characteristics. I was also appreciated in Korean and Japanese culture for personal qualities I felt were less appreciated in the states…For example, introversion. I was so relieved initially (and honestly, still am) that people here communicated less through words and more through feelings. I felt immediately that more communication was happening nonverbally and more space and time was allowed during conversation. The communication style was a relief for me. I felt like, eating dinner, having some silence wasn’t considered awkward. I’ve often been stressed by the extremely extroverted American culture, and the pressure to continually talk. I still find this aspect of Asian culture refreshing, yet, there’s a consequence of it. The consequence is that, in asian culture, emotional expression and transparency in feelings is not always valued, so there’s a lot of guessing games. The withholding of verbal expression can lead to some very challenging social situations. The point being that for each culture there’s a set of positive and negative qualities. Over time, I’ve had to become deeply acquainted with my host culture’s problems to develop a healthier and more balanced view of myself as an American abroad.



Through being forced to relate more realistically to Korea, I’ve gained an understanding of the types of challenges I face in Korea and the states. Both places come with challenges unique to me as a white, new england 25-year old American male. Neither country is better or worse than the other, and the problems aren’t necessarily more severe in either country – rather, they are just different. I have to learn to handle problems unique to me in America just as I have to learn culturally-specific problems here. There are things I miss and love about life in America but also things that really piss me off about American life. I can say the same for Korea. There are many things I love about Korea, but I’d be lying to say there aren’t things that really upset me here. I’ve had to take off my rose-tinted glasses here to perceive this culture and place realistically, and thus, in effect, perceive my home country realistically as well. As expats, we need to both relate to the culture with healthy criticism and appreciation. I’ve encountered expats who constantly complain about the ways Korea has it wrong, speaking nostalgically about American life. I always wonder, why don’t you just go home? I’ve also encountered expats who seem to be running from something, berating their home country or speaking of it in mostly negative terms. I can relate to both these positions, however, only temporarily. Some days I complain and am frustrated by lifestyle factors here as an expat, sometimes I’m reminded of things I hate about my home culture. Yet, in the end of the day, it’s not about one place being bad and one place being good, but both having strengths and weaknesses. It’s about appreciating that you are an outsider, you are from another culture that’s shaped you..that will never change, and your host culture has a personality just like people, it will come with aspects that work for you and some that don’t. It’s an incredible opportunity to expand your mind and learn about a new way of life, while getting to know yourself as a culturally unique person.

In a Silent Way

It’s 11:17 at night here in Seoul. I’m lying on my fold out bed listening to Miles Davis’s 1969 album In A Silent Way. I typically go to bed around 12 and wake up around 7-8, so I’ve got about 40 minutes till I’ll turn down the lights and turn on the AC. I’m hoping to change my habits and get to sleep earlier on weeknights, but I also enjoy these night hours. I enjoy the time just being alone with myself, doing nothing but listening to music or reading a book. Living in a city this size as an introvert, it can be hard to find the peace I often crave. These night hours are completely mine and I’m hoping to use them to dig deeper into interests I’ve been less involved in over the last 2-3 years…my interests in music, particularly jazz and electronica, my interests in film of all kinds and religion, philosophy, and social history.

It seems the longer I’m here, the more I continue to remember about myself, what’s important, what excites me, what drives me…I’m reminded of the things I really care about. The interests I’ve pushed to the side…The solitude of starting out alone in this country with few to no friends forced me to become comfortable with myself, walking by myself, going to cafe’s alone, hiking, etc. I feel part of my experience has been a lesson in embracing solitude. When I first came to Korea I had periods of extreme loneliness and homesickness. These days, I have my off days, but I’m more at ease than I’ve ever been. I’ve had to become more comfortable in my own skin. At first, walking around Seoul I felt exposed. I wasn’t used to being an expat in a country with historically very little diversity. I wasn’t familiar with being pointed at or being approached by high school students just to be told “hello!” and have them run away giggling. These things made me laugh but also feel strange. I’ve learned since then to find some peace with my foreigner status. I do stick out here, I don’t blend in, I’m different, and often it’s glanced over, but it’s still something that makes walking the streets of seoul different from the streets of Vermont. I had to become comfortable with this new social relationship, moving from majority to minority. My way of dealing with it was not to immediately surround myself regularly with expats but embrace my foreigner status, to embrace myself as a explorer of a new country, as an observer with a beginners mind on the culture.

I chose to go out and wander the city on my own, taking pictures and wandering down random streets. At first I’d often feel uncomfortable wandering around alone in public. I sometimes felt lonely or anxious or overwhelmed by the crowds and unending streams of passerbys. I often felt self conscious of my appearance in contrast to the highly fashionable young korean people around me…yet, over time, this anxiety and unease eased to a greater comfort with my own presence. The discomfort is by no means resolved, as resolution isn’t the goal. Whether I’m in Vermont or Korea, discomfort will always exist…Rather, being alone in Seoul has been an exercise in embracing discomfort, in embracing the unknown and the alien, in having so many questions and accepting not having an answer. It’s disorienting waking up and not knowing what anything says, what anyone is saying or having the faintest clue what a day in a life of a person around you is actually like. Over time, you learn to become comfortable with these unknowns and differences, merely as a way to sanely get through each day…but, hopefully without losing curiosity and interest. Rather than attempting to figure Korea out, I want to remain open and curious, really accept that there’s a lot I don’t know and practice being comfortable in this place. Like the title of this Miles Davis album, I strive to move here “in a silent way”, at ease, open and curious, continually learning while finding comfort in all the difference. I’ve always appreciated this album for it’s sense of peace yet persistence, somehow containing and balancing both an intensity and a calmness. I strive to be like that, persevering through all life’s changes and challenges in a calm yet strong spirit.