2015-09-06 HK TV features Aeran Lee

On Friday, I was interviewed by a TV crew visiting from Hong Kong. Today they interviewed Aeran Lee. She is the Wonder Woman owner of a North Korean restaurant, 2010 winner of the International Woman of Courage, in addition to a host of other activities and projects.

She cooked North Korean food with two special guests from Hong Kong, including politician Ann Chiang.

Aeran is a student in Teach North Korean Refugees, studying with a lot of enthusiasm even though she is so busy. Watching her, it is clear that she can have only one leader in her life–herself! So she was not fit to live in North Korea.

Masha Klimenteva, one of Aeran’s tutors in the project, and hubby Kyle Kostashukashuk joined us  today. TNKR cofounder Eunkoo Lee helped behind the scenes to make it happen. And from Hong Kong, thanks to Kary Wong, I met her exactly one year ago in Hong Kong (Yeonmi Park and I recorded a live podcast in Hong Kong then).

I’m one of Aeran’s fans, and I have learned that she is also one of my fans!

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2015-09-06 TNKR Seven Days A Week


When you have a job you hate then it seems that the clock doesn’t move. But when you have a career, purpose or work that you enjoy, then you can easily do that seven days a week.

We had a meeting this afternoon with an outstanding young man. I’m lucky that so many talented people want to meet with me to brainstorm.

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2015-09-05 My Working Birthday

Know how you know you love what you are doing? One sign: You don’t stop doing it simply because it is your birthday!

I celebrated my birthday by holding three different orientation sessions. So many wonderful things from today:

* A refugee calling me a “superman for North Korean refugees.”

* Tutors coming from around the country to join TNKR, including one teacher who wants to fly in from Jeju twice a month to tutor. We definitely need a gofundme account for her…

* Orlandy Godines and Worth Stokes teaming up to completely revamp the TNKR website.

* Celebrating my birthday with the refugees entering our project.

* Three of the refugees who were Grace’s students the last few weeks joining the program clearly more confident than they were a few weeks ago.

* An unexpected donation from a Bitcoin user. https://www.atlasnetwork.org/donate/other

* An unexpected $100 donation from one of the refugees in the project. You can also donate, by the way. https://www.atlasnetwork.org/donate

* We had only two orientations scheduled, but three of the tutors coming from far away, and unfamiliar with Seoul, arrived really late. So Eunkoo Lee and I met them from 7 pm for a third unexpected orientation.

* The refugees were curious about me, they wanted to know why I do what I do. The same with the last group of tutors at the last orientation.

* One refugee mentioned that it is amazing what we do without real infrastructure. We have held our orientations and matching sessions at TOZ, Mulmangcho, Freedom Factory, the Bitcoin Center.

* And I checked, I have 195 birthday messages on my Facebook timelines. I have more than 2,900 Facebook friends, so I guess I need to delete the other 2,700 who did not post a message. 🙂

* Special thanks to Christian Kim and Sareena Tanlines for talking us up to TaLK teachers. We have so many outstanding young people signing up to join TNKR.

* Years ago, I had to work on my birthday. I remember grumbling all day. But this September 5. I loved it.

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2015-09-04 Hong TV, Grace’s last day, hello, Sharon!

A TV crew from Hong Kong stopped by this morning to record a clip about (TNKR) Teach North Korean Refugees. They interviewed me and also recorded a class with our super in-house tutor Grace.

Today is Grace’s last day, it has been an active couple of weeks for her! And today has been no different!

* Early morning tutoring session recorded by HK TV station
* Goodbye lunch with a student
* A writing session with a refugee
* Now, a 3 hour class with a refugee getting ready for a big exam at his hagwon.

Sharon Jang also stopped by this morning, it is always great seeing her!

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2015-09-03 Things are going well when…

* … a Reuters reporter not only recognizes you, but knows enough of your writing to demand that you shake hands with him, not fist-bump…

* your co-director respects you enough after two years of working together to want to treat you to a nice birthday dinner in advance to thank you for teaching her so much…

* a humanitarian stops by the office to talk with you, brings you gifts, gives you great advice, and even gives you an idea for a future column…

* even teenage girls think you are a super cool guy (even though you were already an old man before she was born)…

* an outstanding young man tries to explain to you one of his ideas about social media, tries to explain it to you but when he recognizes that he is speaking a different language, he then stops by your office, clicks a few buttons, then shows you a relly cool thingamajigg that you still don’t quite understand but yeah, looks really good…

Another big day planned tomorrow…

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2015-09-01 lunch meeting with a fan

I had lunch today with a FAN! She says I am a modern hero, that she even thought about Martin Luther King Jr as she learned more about me. I hate comparisons with others, but I don’t fight when people make that one. 😉

This is a no-nonsense lady who doesn’t easily compliment people. But the way she was praising me, I could feel like pancakes when the syrup gets poured on top. So sweet!