Archive | November, 2012
November 8, 2012

Halloween Fundraiser


Three weeks in late October and early November meant a few wonderful adoptions at Asan Shelter as preparations get underway for the cold winter months. For Halloween, a small photo area was set up to take pictures of volunteers and dogs in costume (mostly plastic ears and crazy glasses), and these were used to freshen up the Animal Rescue Korea website profiles for each dog. Thanks to the tireless work of Daisy B., most of the cats now have names and profiles available for viewing on the site, too.

Each week lots of new faces show up to lend a hand as there is always lots to do throughout the property. Having professor Glenn and teacher Josh along with me from Daejeon has been a HUGE help. Both have eagerly chipped in wherever needed and really made a big difference with the larger dogs up on the hill. While Josh seriously considered adopting shelter favorite “Beast” and taking him back home, Glenn applied to adopt resident sweetheart, “Ghost”, to take back to Ontario. Fingers crossed, this is an adoption that looks like a true blessing for one of the sweetest dogs at Asan.

After a weekend trip was scrapped due to foul weather, a much-needed meeting with Asan owner, Mr. Park, was held instead to hash out some of the most recent issues to come up over policies and procedures. The main sticking point was the adoption process and maintaining a healthy, open dialogue. The meeting was a huge success, except for Mr. Park’s insistence that volunteers no longer feed the animals dry kibble or wet, canned dog food. He maintains that his practice of feeding all the animals raw chicken carcasses that he purchases on the cheap from a local processing plant is much better for the pets overall. He claims that it is perfectly healthy for the dogs and results in less odor in both their breath and stool. Jerky snacks and doggie biscuits are still allowed, however, in my short experience with the dogs, consuming the raw chicken (bones and all) seems to really affect their regularity, not to mention increasing their chances of contracting a food-borne illness. Overall, it may be only a temporary development as so much of what goes on there is like the rest of Korea, based on appearances and avoiding shame or conflict; logic or common sense be dammed.

(Please click on each image below to view full size)

Pressing on, the group finished another productive weekend before taking the train up to Seoul for a streetside fundraiser. Over 650,000 Korean Won was raised in Itaewon by selling Allison and Matt’s awesome homemade veggie burritos, Jello shots, and Clare Mills’ ingenious “Booze-In-a-Bag” cocktails. While the group braved rapidly dropping temperatures and the assorted drunks from all over the world, our most bizarre run-in was with the alleged owner of The Nashville Club. The behavior of this man is still the source of much confusion and laughter, as he never really came out and said what he wanted or what was bothering him so much about us being set up near his building.  Ultimately, a hilarious exchange with him resulted in his accusations that our charity event was a fraud and that he, in fact, actually eats dogs instead of supporting their well being. Sad but not surprising, the struggle for many of these wonderful animals is overwhelmingly uphill.

Thanks to the thankless support of long-standing volunteers like Clare, Daisy, Allison, Guillian, Dan, Elaine, and Jennifer, I feel I have found a cause I can truly get behind and I never tire of contributing to. This amazing video, created by Allison, tells the story much better than words as to the reality for most of these dogs as the mercury drops.

Second Chance Dogs (by Allison Young) from Matthew M. Vacca on Vimeo.

To find out more about fostering or adopting a loving dog or cat, or to donate to the efforts to winterize the kennels, contact me or visit the Asan Shelter page at Animal Rescue Korea website.

Woof-Woof and Meow-man!

November 2, 2012

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“There is only one way to win hearts and that is to make oneself like unto those of whom would be loved.”

Having recently given up on three books in a row – this terrific novel has just saved me. There have been three movie versions made of this classic 1925 book, one most recently in 2006, and fortunately I have not seen any of them. I don’t intend to either, as Maugham has written a simple, yet affecting tale of a young woman who quite literally finds herself in a cholera-ridden corner of China.

Movies tend to change or detour from the source material and that only serves to lessen the impact of the story for me. Evidence of this is right on the cover of my paperback copy of the book. Complete with the “Now a Major Motion Picture” tagline (which for me is not an enticement but rather a warning), the cover image features a still image of an event that never actually happens in the book version. I understand why they do it, but as a fan of literature and a proponent of the lost art of reading, I can in no way condone it. The change, in this case, changes the entire nature of the book and works to undo what makes the story so unique and unpredictable.

Unlike the 3 novels I have previously begun and gave up on, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Last of the Mohicans, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I found Maugham’s style easy to read and instantly engaging, even though I almost gave up again when I discovered that it centered around a shallow, vapid, and unfaithful woman.

The setting (in China and Hong Kong) is somehow inherently romantic, much like I expected Asia to be for me, too. However, unlike the the seemingly endless vacuum of hero-type characters I have encountered recently (Mad Men, Boss, Boardwalk Empire), I found Walter to be a tragic and admirable hero through his actions and patient, humble, understated dignity. Mother Superior echoes this approach to life in her advice to Kitty:

“Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.”

Walter admits that perhaps he intended for Kitty to die as a result of her accompanying him to attend to the sick. What actually happens, however, is the gradual spiritual awakening of a young woman who begs for -and never quite obtains -forgiveness for her youthful transgressions. What she does learn, however, is that she intends to raise her unborn child in a way that might prevent her from realizing a similar fate.

Without giving away the major plot lines of this accessible, universal story, I can say that I was at last pleasantly surprised to encounter a character in Kitty (and a female hero, to boot) that behaves foolishly, realizes the error of her ways including the effects they had on those who loved her, asks for forgiveness, and ultimately finds peace and perspective as a result of giving her time unselfishly to others.

Some of my favorite quotes contain the main message of the novel, particularly more sage advice from Mother Superior at the convent where Walter was working and Kitty was volunteering:

“You know, my dear child, that one cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.”

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