July 2014 & parting Korea… the drawn-out goodbye.


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Jam won pool day with Bri. I love the blue sky, clouds, and warm weather!

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Bobby’s slip and slide rooftop birthday party at Southside Parlor with fantastic people.

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Citrus beer and philly cheese steak with french onion soup (kind of) reminds me of USA.

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I was honored to cheer on Andra’s hockey team! I forgot how much I enjoyed watching hockey, especially in a very cool arena while it was sweltering outside.

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Birthday dinner at Petras Middle Eastern restaurant in Itaewon. Thank you for joining friends 🙂

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Drinks upon drinks upon drankkkksss. Bday festivities.

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Below: Meow earring birthday present from my lovely friend, Ashly Moore.

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Ellie cat’s birthday brunch at Flying Pan in Itaewon. Delicious!

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Followed by cute outside-indoors-themed cafe for caffeine.

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Below: Only in Korea will you find a couple come in, sit down, take out huge-lens cameras and start photographing each other from across the table. Bizarre, but cute.

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At the National Museum of Korea with Yoobin. The gardens were gorgeous and the exhibits fascinating.

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Above: Kimchi Bossam- my first time trying boiled pork with spicy kimchi radish. So ambrosial. Below: Bingsu, but no pat 😦 Pat is the word for red bean. Red bean flavor is my favorite. I ordered incorrectly. Opps!

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A morning walking tour after my emergency passport renewal. I woke up one morning, two weeks away from leaving for Taiwan, and discovered my passport had expired!

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Protesters in Korea sit peacefully, dance and sing- much different than in USA.

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My eccentric, wonderful, creative student: Theo Puff.

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Meanwhile, in Hopkins, MN, Spencer is starting to make himself at home with the new family!

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He loves to watch the bunny families in my mom’s gardens.

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Japjae & spicy kimchi lunch in Insadong with Chantal.

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Below: the customary practical joke in Korea- to poke people in the butt hole. Both holy and wholly awkward, ’tis true.

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Patbingsu dessert.

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…followed by tea at a traditional Chinese tea house in Insadong with Jooyea and Chantal- fierce feministing and hilarity ensued.

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My last day with my kiddos. Tears were plentiful.

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I brought the Korean staff cake for my last day as a small thank you to their amazing hard work all year long… keeping us Americans/Canadians safe, happy, and mildly aware 🙂

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And then we forced the kids to suck on sour warhead candies for the first time in their lives. Their reactions are priceless!

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Saying goodbye to these little cuties was rough! Kiki and Max were my kitties away from home.

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My last meal before heading to Taiwan for 8 days- Uzbekistan food! So scrumptious and unique.

 

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After returning from Taiwan, my ‘last meal’ was jjim dak- melt off the bone beef and veggies, followed by patbingsu for dessert!

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The following day, I headed to my favorite part of town- Insadong- for bossom (boiled pork with spicy radish)

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19 Months of Status Updates

January 19, 2013 near Minneapolis, MN, United States

I’m moving to South Korea today!

January 21, 2013

I made it to Korea! The trip was not without drama, but so far I love the city and I am learning something new everywhere I turn. Blog post to come shortly. Again, thank you to all of those who have been reaching out and continue to support me. Sending love to USA and to my climbable chocolate bear who continues to be my biggest support. — with Chris Mungin.

January 22, 2013

My boyfriend has hot lips and a great personality — with Chris Mungin.

January 25, 2013 near Seoul

So this lil tech challenged blonde is now teaching two Ipad critical thinking current issue classes! Prep work, prep work, prep work!!!

January 26, 2013 near Seoul

Such a great day! Skyped home, Hello Kitty Cafe with cousin and friends, cat-petting cafe, school supply shopping (lots of Hello Kitty stickers purchased), followed by night time Dr. Fish pedicure-like procedure (the fish eat all the dead skin off your feet). I’m loving the Seoul life

January 27, 2013

Only in Seoul: A world famous pastry chef/instructor comes and sits next to me at a coffee shop, asks to see my facebook, shows me hers and then gives me a tour of her pastry kitchen and things she is working on for a world competition!!! OMG Ahhhmazzing. Don’t worry Cbear, she agreed to give you a tour too when you come in April! — with Chris Mungin.

January 27, 2013 near Seoul

It’s an hour before my class begins and I am starting to freak out!?! I hope it goes well. I am all moved into my apartment, but no internet yet so it might be a few days before I send out skype requests for my schedule. Still thinking of you loved ones.

January 28, 2013

Best first day of work I have ever had thanks to high-achieving brilliant students and an extremely supportive fun peer group/supervisor. Needless to say, I am kind of loving this teaching gig so far.

January 28, 2013 near Seoul

Korean family-run english-speaking coffee shop that plays 90s and early 00s R&B…. Ummmm YES PLEASE! Blessed

January 29, 2013 near Seoul

Great News!! I have internet in my apartment!!

Weird News: It was installed this morning while I was passed out shirtless in my bed after way too much wine last night. I did not even know that someone had been in my room…. awk.

January 29, 2013 near Seoul

English words my 10 year old students are reading in their SECOND language that I never knew: phragmite, transom, gunnel.

February 7, 2013

A couple thoughts after polishing off 5 bottles of wine with my coworkers… 1. As a white woman with inherent privilage I am very good at hailing cabs 2. Girl Generation is the South Korean version of Spice Girls and they rock 3. I am blessed with amazing fun different traveled coworkers who make me belly laugh 4. And finally… its been about six years since I had KFC and at least one month since any fried food. I will NEVER EVER IN MY LIFE EAT KFC AGAIN. It never comes up quite the way it went down. Fml lol lovey night. Rowr.

February 8, 2013

Bad News: The bus tickets to Icheon were sold out because of the Korean New Year holiday. So… I do not get to see my awesome cousin Georgia this weekend.

Good News: I booked a bus ticket to see my friend Amber Barcel in Gumi for a Sat/Sunday excursion. AND I am going to see Georgia Adkins next weekend! Traveling back to back weekends to visit with lovely people… exciting

February 12, 2013 via Instagram

A day at the Seoul Art Museum for the Tim Burton exhibit.

February 19, 2013

It makes me so proud to be living and working in Seoul especially after talking to my Grandma on the phone. She said that it is awesome that women of our generation get to do things that she could only dream of. Women of her age were lucky to get out of the house. Thank you to the former generations of strong women who forged these opportunities for me!

February 20, 2013

I drink so much on the weekdays that I can never have a “proper” night out on the weekends. lol fml. I use my weekends for recovery.

February 26, 2013

Frustrated, annoyed, disapointed, sad, and anxious. Ready for tomorrow to be a new day in 2 minutes. Fresh start. Clean slate.

February 27, 2013

I found the cure for a bad day!!

Talk to Tj Ikhena, have a kiwi smoothie, cheap cajun BBQ for dinner and confirmation that tickets are booked! Chris Mungin will be moving to Seoul on 5.5.2013. And my mom will be visiting 5.16.2013!!

March 5, 2013

Yeaaahhhh….. so I have had just about enough of the pre-teen hormone-induced attitude from the young ladies in my class. No. Just say NO to pre-teen drama in the classroom! Smh

March 10, 2013

I would seriously pay at least 100 dollars for Chipotle today. Whenever I am sick I crave my mom and Chipotle…

March 11, 2013

Student: “Teacher, why are all Americans a little bit fat?”

Me: “Well, there are a lot of reasons. One, life style choices like fried foods and driving more than walking. Two, healthy foods are more expensive which is why one sees a lot of weight in less financially stable communities. Three, lack of education.”

Student: “Oh. ok”

Me: “It’s ok. I don’t feel bad. I know I am fat compared to Koreans.”

Student: “But you are only a little bit fat teacher. And you are bigger here than in America. When I googled fat people, many 500-pound Americans showed up.”

Me: Chuckling to myself with relief… “Thank god I am only a little bit fat, right?”

Student: Yep.

Priceless. LOL. FML. Life in Korea

March 14, 2013

For probably only the 4th time in my life, I have completely lost my voice. Completely cray cray!

March 15, 2013

My St. Paddy’s day curse continues! I am even more sick than yesterday and I am still completely without a voice Wine and appetizer night will be rescheduled for next Saturday, March 23. Booo to no talky….

March 16, 2013

Thank you for making my day Christine Shea! She brought this sick little kitten monduguk and Vitamin C drinks! It’s so nice to be cared for, especially when I am so far away from my mom and dad who usually baby me when I am sick

March 16, 2013

A spoon full of 10 dollar penut butter helps the horrible-tasting Korean medicine go down

March 17, 2013

I’m hard core craving corn beef hash that Cbear used to make for me Sunday mornings back in the USA. — with Chris Mungin.

March 19, 2013

After filling in ALL of my report cards, I realize that I did it in the wrong format and the information will not display correctly. FMLLLLLLL. Going to bed moody. Growl.

March 26, 2013

It’s difficult for me to comprehend that a mere 70 years ago, it would not have been legal for Chris and I to wed. My Papa Bear turned 73 this week. I want him to be alive to witness love displayed whenever wherever by whomever with the support of the nation behind them. Everyone should be able to pounce, lick, purrr, and marry the one they love.

April 5, 2013

Soon to be fly and fresh together walking down Seoul streets in our custom Nikes. His and her sweetheart shoes^^ — with Chris Mungin.

April 7, 2013

FOUR weeks from today my Cbear moves to Seoul!! Here are FOUR reasons why I am sooooo excited:

1) We will get to wear matching outfits and show Seoul what fierce biracial coupling is all about.

2) That nasty varmint that Chris calls a beard will finally be taken off his beautiful face.

3) Chris gets to meet all my friends and try tons of tasty food

4) I get my snuggle bunny back… MeeeoooowW! — with Chris Mungin.

April 11, 2013

I love Makgeolli with coworkers, oreos, kitties, spicy food, hot yoga, lake sports, nature, ROK, the color tea rose yellow, Mariah Carey from 1995-2005, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, chipotle, holding Chris Mungin‘s hand, sleeping in, traveling, reading, social justice issues, the beach, and curling my hair.

I HATE HATE HATE Pringles Wild Spice… uGHhhhh why did I eat them. Soooo gross!

April 11, 2013

I FOUND GV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 16, 2013

I’m so excited that I can’t sit still… just got the news yesterday that I was approved for 4.5 weeks off in the summer! Chris Mungin and I are headed to Thailand, Cambodia and Japan!!!! And the planning begins…

April 19, 2013

Just got hugged by an adjumma in a rest stop bathroom… presumably because I am blonde? Lol love the ROK.

April 20, 2013

This temple stay may be one of the top ten coolest adventures of my life.

April 29, 2013

OMG Papa Bear is so frackin’ adorable! Chris Mungin sent me a picture of the new sunglasses he bought today. Pretty sure he doesn’t realize and/or care that they are for sure women’s sunglasses!!

May 1, 2013

Being a teacher makes missing being in school much more bearable. Love my job and life here in the ROK. Rowr.

May 3, 2013

Finished latte, prepped for report cards, and did grading all by 8 am on a Saturday morning… because I’m cool like that.

May 5, 2013

My lover bear is now in Seoul and we are full from a fantastic dinner and drunk off of makgeolli. He has passed out ungodly early with half of his legs dangling off of the bed… lol Korea is not made for Cbear size…

May 6, 2013

Just brought Chris Mungin to Espirit and boy was he a HIT with the kids. They were so curious and terrified at the same time. The children would compete who could get closer to him before running away. They dubbed him many names: giant, dinosaur, basketball player, Shack, and my favorite, only because they look nothing alike, Michael Jordan.

May 10, 2013

I know this is a little late… but I feel very very proud to be a Minnesotan where equality for all expressions of love is slowly becoming a reality

May 12, 2013

I have such a caring partner! He woke up to go get groceries to make me breakfast in bed and then surprised me with the addition of this delicious delight — with Chris Mungin.

May 16, 2013

Flights booked!! July 23rd we fly from Seoul to Siem Reap, Cambodia. From there we bus it to Bangkok. We fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to stay on an Elephant reserve. A week later a flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket and a ferry to Phi Phi island. We will return home August 17th. Chris Mungin and I are going to live a real life Trains, Plains and Automobiles

May 16, 2013

My mom arrives in Seoul in 6 hours for her first overseas whirlwind adventure!!

May 24, 2013

Headed to North Korea… — with Chris Mungin and Carly Teng.

May 26, 2013

Well today ends the epic 9 day whirlwind adventure of my mom in Seoul. I am sad to see her leave, but I feel blessed to have had this once in a lifetime experience. Thank you to all of my friends and Cbear for making her feel so welcome^^

June 2, 2013

We are ‘that’ couple today Sweetheart shoes… headed for lunch in Itaewon. Rowr — with Chris Mungin.

June 7, 2013

I could not be more blessed with any other crazy funny intelligent supportive and reliable debauchers than my coworkers. Good night… still can’t believe all of the things that were said and done in front of my boss… awk.

June 16, 2013

I read a lot, yet I rarely ever may facebook recommendations, BUT I read this book in 4.5 hours. I could not put it down. The human rights atrocities in North Korea outlined in this book are happening RIGHT NOW!

“A book without parallel, Escape from Camp 14 is a riveting nightmare that bears witness to the worst inhumanity, an unbearable tragedy magnified by the fact that eh horror continues at this very moment without an end in sight.” -Terry Hong

June 18, 2013

Today is the first time since living in Seoul where I wish I was at home at my parents place in Hopkins, petting Rory, eating Chipotle, and drinking ice tea with Papa Bear. Sigh…

June 25, 2013

Is it sad that I am too exhausted after making my to do list to actually do anything? Le sigh…

June 25, 2013

I just wanted to say sorry to my friends in the USA for being a little disconnected lately. You are in my heart always. I have just been so mentally and physically exhausted lately. I will make it up to you. Promise. Rowr.

July 2, 2013

Sound anti-anxiety recommendations from my coworkers:

1) Learn to accept that the only permanence is impermanence.

2) Me: “…but my heart beats in two places.”

Carly: “Yeah, well, what place are you getting pounced?”

Lol Can’t imagine my life in Korea without them. Rowr. — with John Avaricio Mascardo and Carly Teng.

July 3, 2013

Dear USA,

Happy Birthday! I love you not necessarily for what you are, but the beaconing potential I see you in you and because no matter where my heart beats literally, a figurative half will always resonate in the USA. This is one of only a few 4ths not spent on the lakes of Minnesota, BBQing, and enjoying the sun. Le sigh. For those of you there, please enjoy on my behalf. Sending lots of from Seoul.

July 11, 2013

Whenever I have doubts about whether our stars are aligned or if we are meant be, Chris Mungin always manages to display his brightest qualities. He combats my drunken psycho self, he buys me a hand made lantern that I said I wanted months ago, and he makes me a better human being every day. My muse, my love.

July 11, 2013

If you don’t already know and love Lil Bub, you should!

July 17, 2013

Rookie mistake: Start reading a captivating new novel at 2 am… leading me to go to bed at 4:30 am for the 10th night in a row… leaving only 2/3 of my report cards done that are due in an hour!! Ahhhhhh.

July 21, 2013

Trip to the Philippines booked for Chuseok!! I could get used to this

July 23, 2013

Starting our month-long trek through Cambodia and Thailand today!!

Seoul → Siem Reap → Bangkok → Chiang Mai → Phuket → Phi Phi Island → Phuket → Seoul

July 24, 2013

On our faux honeymoon adventure, we have come up with new pet names: Cocoa Hubs and…

July 24, 2013

Free ‘honeymoon’ upgrade to a suite that is literally 5 times the size of our apartment in Seoul… ummm… duh YES PLEASE^^ I may never want to leave!

August 5, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia: 4 spectacular days! Temples, cute English couple friends, pool side, ahhhmazzing honeymoon suite, delicious food, and pedicures.

August 5, 2013

Bangkok, Thailand: 2 horrifyingly traumatizing days Bed bugs, terrible food poisoning, scamming hotel, continuous pleading and begging of store owners like petulant depraved children, gorgeous palace and temple, water bugs, a disturbance with a rude French man and Chris Mungin ate a scorpion!!

August 5, 2013

Chiang Mai, Thailand: 8 wonderfully relaxing and eventful days! Bareback elephant riding and bathing (harder than it looks!), white water rafting through the dense jungle, couples massages, 6 course Thai cooking class, market shoppping and just being high on life ;P

August 5, 2013

Tomorrow we are headed for Ko Phi Phi for 9 days This will be our finest accomodations so far at the wonderful Outrigger Resort… to end our faux honeymoon right^^

August 6, 2013

After 14 hours of traversing from Chiang Mai (plane, layover, plane, taxi, ferry through thunderstorm where I vomited everywhere, mile walk through town, then trucking with a constantly stalling vehicle through the dense jungle, and my continued tummy troubles), we have arrived in paradise

August 14, 2013

OH. MY. GOD. Bill for resort, room service, food and draaanks was 3 times what I expected. From the high life, Chris Mungin and I will be back to rice, broccoli and ramen in no time. It will take us months to pay this off… ahhh

August 14, 2013

I can feel the post-faux-honeymoon blues starting to creep up and latch onto my heart… and we aren’t even home yet- not for another 36 hours (all in trasit). It’s been an amazing, at times sickening (literally lol), interesting, and thrilling journey with Chris Mungin.

August 31, 2013

I can’t wait for the MN state fair to end… the statuses keep breaking my heart! #wishIwasthere #MNrocks #missmyhome

September 1, 2013

Ohhh Carly Teng and Laura Engstrom how I have missed you! Thank you for turning my Sunday frowns upside down Meow

September 11, 2013

My students found a way to include Chris Mungin in their writing!! Aka Mr. Chris, tree, giant, dinosaur, Shaq, Obama or Michael Jordan to the lil kiddos

September 14, 2013

I should NOT have just guzzled that latte at 9 p.m. I will be up until 6 a.m. if you need me! Only 25 hours till we jet off to the Philippines for another whirlwind adventure!!

September 14, 2013

Don’t hate me, but I actually like the Wrecking Ball song.

September 19, 2013

I have traversed 20 + countries, 4.5 continents and yet I just returned home from one of the best vacations of my life to the Philippines! Hiking to remote jungle water falls, massages, snorkeling, walking around the top of a 40-story building with only a harness, scrumptious cheap food, site seeing and excellent company were just some of the highlights. Blog and pictures to come!

September 22, 2013

Corrections upon corrections upon corrections. And more corrections and corrections. My desk is bleeding red ink. How many more hours… aaahhhh. I’m going nuts.

September 28, 2013

Soo… my dad bought a new screw driver this week, which of course he does not need. No present projects and none that I know of on the horizon. Plus he already has two.

Me: “So what are you even screwing these days?”

Papa Bear: Uncontrollable laughter for a good 3 minutes.

September 30, 2013

OMG. OH. MY. GAWWDD!!! Totally annoying white valley girl Oh My God! My best friend of 16 years, Laura Engstrom, has officially booked her tickets and will be spending her Christmas with me in Seoul!!! So excited! Mind blown

October 3, 2013

Apgu+ makgeolli+ meat+ noraebang+ minty menthals= perfection, every time. Meowww

October 6, 2013

I miss my Tan Cookie Carly Teng. Meow.

October 8, 2013

If you want wings, come to Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon tonight for 400 ₩ per wing and to make sexy cat calls to my chocolate bear Chris Mungin! We will be there at 10 pm. MeeooowW

October 12, 2013

Today marks 5 years since the day I lured Cbear to my apartment in Omaha, NE for a faux party that I had arranged with my friends so that I could meet him. Over the years, we have had our ups and downs like any other couple, but what I appreciate about this climbable chocolate bear is his tenacity, communication skills, passion for cooking, and desire to always make me happy. Here’s to 5 more. I love you more and more every day Chris Mungin

October 17, 2013

Meat, makgeoli and bowling near Kyodae for Chris Mungin‘s birthday tonight!!! Come celebrate!

October 29, 2013

Happy National Cat Day!!! The best day of the year

November 5, 2013

“Teacher, what is sex?”… yes, it finally happened in class.

November 7, 2013

A couple bizarre occurrences today…

1) On the subway, I saw a woman pick her eye boogers and then egregiously smear them on the glass.

2) At the post office, I overheard a man with a natural voice that could have doubled as Kermit the Frog.

It is a freaky Thursday here in Seoul…

November 10, 2013

Such a spectacular day in Itaewon with my friend Yoobin Cho!! Ben’s Cookies, a quick hi to Cbear at work, delicious grapefruit tea, followed by dinner with a stranger! A gracious man treated us to bulgogi… yummm ^^

November 10, 2013

RIP my sweet little Rory who was put down this week. After 20 years of having a house of full of kitty love, our family is now catless

November 18, 2013

The first snow each year is unforgettably magical. My students and I squealed with glee as we collectively ran to the window for a glance at the new season. Too bad I didn’t wear a jacket or winter-friendly shoes today…

November 23, 2013

A perfect sweet from my sweetie Chris Mungin

November 26, 2013

My food-based homesickness has been temporarily appeased because I just had the best meal of my LIFE!!!!

A few highlights: smoked salmon sashimi, Brie and fig preserves, froie gras, steamed ox tail, fried spicy sea cucumber, beef roast, quinoa avocado salad, raspberry cheese cake, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and creme brûlée.

OMG!!! It was heaven on many many plates. Sooooo blessed!

December 3, 2013

If I have to disappear from the world for a while, let it be into the often odorous, tattered, yet ever tantalizing, pages of a well-loved library book.

December 5, 2013

RIP Nelson Mandela… a social justice role model, soldier for equality and hero of tolerant patience.

December 8, 2013

My choco bear Chris Mungin is so seductive. I am a lucky woman… rowrrr

December 10, 2013

I set my alarm for 8 am. It is now 11:30 am. My alarm has rung every 5 minutes for the last 2.5 hours. I am almost certain that Chris Mungin is currently plotting my death… especially after he worked 12 hours yesterday. Sorry Cbear!

December 11, 2013

Hold strong MN! I will be back next winter to warm you up. Sending love home from Seoul

December 12, 2013

I am off to Vietnam with my beloved Chris Mungin and my lovah of 16 years Laura Engstrom!! I can’t wait to be reunited with my bestie. I will return Tuesday.

December 12, 2013

Free upgrade to first class with champagne… umm… yes please!! Chris can actually extend his legs fully!

December 15, 2013

Vietnamese. Food. Is. The. Best. Ever!! Oh and our baddass chartered private boat tour and kayaking through Halong Bay was not too shabby either.

December 19, 2013

‘I felt the feelings of how handicapped people are indisposed. When I was in puberty, I felt that I was not a normal person and not special too. I was just an object of ridicule. And I could have chosen the extreme measure of suicide. There was great suffering in my heart, but not on the outside. Now I’m sufficiently satisfied in this life and thankful for my parents.’

-An 11-year-old student’s profound ability for imaginative introspection while writing in his second language

December 21, 2013

Are report cards the bane of my existence or is facebook the bane of the completion of my report cards?? Must. keep. going…

December 24, 2013

Meowy Christmas to everyone abroad and in the USA. Today, I miss the frigid breath-stealing cold of MN, foods and presents in the chaos that is my Grandmother’s house, and most of all, midnight candle light mass.

December 27, 2013

Daaayummm Minnesota. Why so cold? -48 degrees Farenheit in the Twin Cities

December 28, 2013

Me: So what do you think I am passionate about?

Laura Engstrom: Social justice issues and cats… long pause… and education, swimmimg, and being an involved friend.

Sounds about right

December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013. You were by far the best year of my life!! I moved to Seoul, South Korea with my beloved, made new friends that I am certain to have for life, traveled through 5 countries in Asia, grew professionally, fell in love with Korean kids & food, invested in art, grew closer than ever to Chris Mungin, and rekindled my passionate fuel for reading, writing, and social justice activism. Hello 2014.

January 7

Keep strong in the frozen tundra MN.

January 7

Afternoon A2s… are you ready? Im going to pounce and Im pretty sure you are not going to like it…

January 11

Happy Caturday Korea & USA!! Meow.

January 17

Are you a ‘new window’ person or a ‘new tab’ person? As you might have guessed, Chris Mungin and I are endlessly opposite.

January 17

And the count downs begin: 6 days till the end of winter camp, 41 days till Jeju Island romantic weekend, 49 days till Chris Mungin returns to the USA,14 weeks till the epic return of Carly Teng, and finally, 6 months left for me in this marvelous wonder called Korea.

January 30

Dear adjoshi (older gentleman) casually wearing the pimped out burgundy crush velvet jumpsuit,

I love you. Thank you for making me smile. Robyn

January 31

I can’t wait to go kitty shopping in July!

February 2

Got 3 hours of sleep before a Monday because lover bear Chris Mungin had Chucky nightmares and neither of us could get back to sleep… le sigh. More time for the Kitten Bowl?

February 3

Those awkward moments as a teacher when you are bent over laughing at your own joke and only 30 seconds later realize that you are the only one laughing amidst a sea of blank stares. If you have to explain a joke… it’s no longer funny. Womp. womp.

February 5

I swear to god, if I hear the lyrics to Disney’s Frozen gleefully sung throughout the Espirit halls one more time today… Smh. I seriously don’t even need to see the movie anymore.

February 11

Ohhh my sweet students know me too well. New cat stickers from one of my favorites made my day today!

February 12

That moment when you realize your partner disappoints you so deeply and painfully that the world collapses in around you. Darkness.

February 13

Kids can read you instantly. I didn’t say a thing but my student immediately drew me a broken heart today. I gave him extta hugs.

February 13

Although personal despondence still rages on, the swell of of the storm has passed and I do see light through the clouds. Thank you sincerely for the calls, texts, messages, and comments. Being so far from home, it has meant more than you know. I’m usually more political/cat/feminist/traveler in my postings, so grant me reprieve for my recent despairing flare.

February 13

All I want is KFC mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and to be in my kayak out on lake 26 alone at sunset with my fingers gliding through the cool rippled waves…

February 13

Great job Facebook for finnnallllyyy adding inclusive language for gender preferences!

February 13

How quickly cravings change as cliched progression from devastation to rage emerges. Now I yearn for corn bread, chipotle and a run through 9-mile creek in Hopkins.

February 14

‘It seems difficult enough to consider one’s own triumphs and failures with perfect verity, for it’s no secret that the past proves a most unstable mirror, typically too severe and flattering all at once and never as truth-reflecting as people would like to believe’ -Chang-rae Lee

February 14

I can’t and I won’t reply to everyone’s messages, but I am reading them and THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart

February 14

When I run out of my own words, I use the inspired ones of others…

“I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

February 14

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Epicurus

February 14

My previous classmate’s sister from the Academy of Holy Angels died tragically and unexpectedly on a crosswalk that many of have taken hundreds of times at a very popular area in Minneapolis. Sending love from South Korea.

February 15

It was a spectacular day for retail and sushi therapy! We are attempting to heal and tentatively rebuild, one morsel of sashimi at a time. Please continue to send warm energy… I feel it!

February 17

The only certainty is uncertainty. 50/50.

February 18

‘Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable’ -Wizard of Oz

February 20

‘The circumstances are not ideal, yet it seems to me that life’s moments don’t have to be so right or not right anymore, so fraught and weighted with value, but just of themselves, what they are.’ -Chang-rae Lee

February 21

Given the recent events in my life, I’ve taken to ‘treating myself.’ If you aren’t familiar with the concept… get familiar.

Side note: yes, I know this solves no real problems.

February 21 · Edited

Sending cozy, warm, hot cocoa wishes of safety to the arctic state, MN. Some of my proudest and fondest memories of the state I love include the ralleying of neighbors to push and dig cars out of the tundra, the communal ‘niceness’ and general bonding that a whiteout induces.

February 27

Jetting off to Jeju Island for a quick trip See you Monday!

February 28

Treat Yo Self continues in Jeju: new silver bow tie ring, prescription sun glasses, swanky pre-professor glasses and scrumptious seafood. Making the best of a rainy day. Enjoying a cherry blossom latte while reading with Cbear.

March 1

Matching couple designer frames and new ring — with Chris Mungin.

March 6

Anyone wanting to hang out with Chris Mungin before he leaves, come out tonight or tomorrow night. The plan for tonight is 11:30 pm Dolce Vita pub in Itaewon… Till dawn. Lol — at Dolce vita.

March 7

TONIGHT, Chris Mungin‘s Final Farewell. Dinner at Brother Brother BBQ near Kyoda (Seoul National University) at 8:30 pm. We will do noraebang and games after (Cards Against Humanity & Catch Phrase). Let me know if you plan to be at the restaurant so I can get a headcount. See you soon. Meow. Call me if you get lost. 010.7714.2514

March 7

Oh. Dear. Higher Being… why oh why did you create a human who could think 2 bottles of soju and 1 bottle of red wine could be a great combination. Spent a good chunk of the night on the floor…. literally.

March 8 · Edited

It’s jimjilbang time. Let’s get nakey! Chris Mungin is excited to wrestle nude with Korean male bush.

March 9 · Edited

Today was one of the most stressful days of the last 14 months of living in Seoul. I almost had a panic attack from feeling trapped in the ceaselessly surging masses and chatter of Seoulites. I couldn’t get a moment alone to think which is what I really needed. Ironically, we spent most of the day at the spa (interesting, but definitely not relaxing). Now I just need a sensory deprivation bubble where I can cry calmly and rock myself in silence.

March 9

After seeing hundreds of naked bodies yesterday at the jimjilbang, I can confidently say there is pure beauty in the human form…

March 11

As I stepped into the apartment that was ours, a weighted waft of pure aloneness hit me with the dual effect of both peace and vacuity. My best friend, superior travel companion, and gossip guy is gone, currently on his flight home. Despite recent hurdles and the continued unknown ahead, I miss his presence dearly.

March 14 · Edited

Sending all my love, hope and peace from Korea, come what may, to the Mungin Family as they gather around their honorable family pillar, Mel. Chris Mungin Kevin Mungin Andre’ Mungin

March 14

Worst idea to get in a cab at rush hour… grrr.

March 14 · Edited

Starting drinks early on Friday night with my couples’ days companion- Christmas, Valentines, White Day- BOOM…trifecta all spent together Ellie Martin

March 14 · Edited

I decided that is has been too long since I had bangs so I drunkenly cut them myself…

March 15

Five skype dates down for the weekend, two more to go. I love reconnecting. Meow.

March 16

My heart leaps for joy when my students use adverbs like ‘surreptitiously’ in their creative writing

March 19

RIP Mel Mungin. I’m sending my wishes for a peaceful gathering in Nebraska today where family and friends can reminisce in shared funny and fond memories. I wish I could be there in a way other than with flowers to say goodbye to an honorable family man…

March 21 · Edited

Drinking apple cider vinegar is so painful. OMG sooo painful!

March 23

Well… I wasn’t as social as I planned to be this weekend, but I did get a lot done: meals for next week, deep cleaned the apartment, restored fung shui to my space, read a book, finished report cards, worked on my blog, had 4 skype dates, caught up on some shows, and enjoyed Sunday ladies walk and dinner

March 24

Mind racing. Please stop for the sake of sleep and efficiency.

March 29

Please someone… anyone call me when you wake up if you have advil or the like. My head feels like it is in a vice!

March 30

“our job is to prepare children to meet adversity well”

“adversity is natural, consistent, and useful”

“until we’re tested, we don’t know what we’re made of… adversity gives us a sense of self”

March 30

Teaching today is going to be mighty interesting given that I lack the necessitating factor… a voice.

March 31

Oh. My. God. The construction… or rather deconstruction of the building a few feet away is the bane of my existence right now. The entire building feels like a gigantic vibrator, but not in a good way. Ugghhhh. I NEED SLEEP. Angry cat.

April 3

Weekly dinner and debate with fabulous people. Meow.

April 4

Glad to know construction continues to grind and vibrate early on the weekend morning… NOT!

April 6

Just dropped some major dolla bills to book my flight back to the USA (August 4) and to visit my feisty, intelligent, hilarious friend Carly Teng in Taiwan (July 27- August 2)!!! — with Carly Teng.

April 7

I am finally active on Instagram. Follow me at fiercebadasskitty.

April 8

Happy hump day Seoulites!! Meow. USAers… you’re almost there. Meow.

April 8

If anyone could make this decision other than me…

April 10

Question on the board today: Why is it important to have heros?

Student: Do you mean comic super heros or real heros like teachers, like you?

Me: Smile from ear to ear.

April 12

The economic climate does not support what was ‘traditional’ for a 20 year period in USA history (the glory days of Reagan and Clinton). I am from the ‘boomerang’ generation that returns home or goes abroad to save money/make money so that I can pay back my loans. We are also the generation of ‘companionship couplehood’, no longer requiring or desiring gendered norms or roles, or for that matter, the approval of society.

April 13

“Beauty was not something that I could acquire or consume. It was just something that I had to be.” –Lupita Nyong’o

April 14

Priviledge is a terrific power and an overwhelming responsibility to live socially just and to contribute to the surrounding community. The more money, power, and privilege… the greater the push to use extra resources for equality of rights and opportunities.

April 14

113 days until I am reunited with my first love… Chipotle.

April 16

Welp. Glad to know Korea is one of the safest places in the world because I just returned home after an 8 hour work day to realize that I left my apartment door wide open!

April 22

Surprise kitty ring present today^^ Thanks Brianna Bengtson!!

April 23

Papa Bear ‘ism’ of the day… a perfect way to start my last work day of the week, “I always love you when you are you. It doesn’t get better than that sweet heart!!” I my Papa Bear

April 25

Ya betcha! Interesting, unique, and different are definitely not adjectives that would pass as compliments coming from a Minnesotan. Lol

April 25

Please tell me that women have more going on in their lives?!? Where is the media, movies, TV, literature, or magazines that show women bonding over anything other than talking about men? NO. SERIOUSLY… I am asking FB people out there… do you know of movies, TV, books that have two or more named female characters who have a relationship that doesn’t revolve around discussing men or anything else superficial?

April 25

Thirsty Thursday shinanegans…

April 25

My student Theo found this on my desk this week and would not stop saying ‘pussy’~ pronounced puzzy~ the rest of the class… le sigh.

April 26

My favorite time of year, in my favorite area of Seoul: Insadong and Jogaesa.

April 28

Chris Mungin, you send the BEST kind of package! MeeooowwWW! Kitty like.

April 29

I never do FB friend quizzes, but I’m in an altered state of mind, so FAVORITE DORITOS FLAVOR!!?! And go… (leave comment)

May 2 · Edited

I’m ready for our 4 day trip touring Namhae and Goje Islands!! See you Monday night ^^

May 9

Our friendship started 9 years ago and has included living together, working together, volunteering together and obsessing over cats, just to name a few. In 112 days we will be reunited after nearly 2 years of unbearable separation. Can’t wait kitty betch!!

May 14

A spectacular day 1 of 2 for Teacher Appreciation week: an assorted basket bouquet with roses, a bundt cake, carnations, coffee, and a card

May 15

Day 2 bounty: Belgium chocolates, muffins, cake,hand made flowers, carrot juice, and fancy tea!! I am not into teaching for the presents, but it is a gleeful bonus!

May 16

“Read good books. Keep a journal. Write every day. Trust yourself. Take advantage of every good thought. Laziness will kill your dreams with a self-inflicted wound.” -Jack Gantos

May 18

Welp. It only took a very concerned team of 5 Koreans (who couldn’t speak English) to help this fluffy blonde (who still can’t communicate well in Korean) ship two boxes and 5 letters in the midst of morning rush with a building queue. Thank you whoever you are!!

May 20

Drunk facebook-liking is dangerous.

May 25

When I ask my student’s what they know about the USA, more and more, the very first response is that it is so dangerous because of gun ownership. Our national pride in guns is foolish folly from an outsiders perspective and my own as well. Smh. Uggghhh.

May 26

Galavanting around Gangnam with John Avaricio Mascardo and happened upon Kakao Talk Cafe!! So fun^^ We both got souvenirs. — with John Avaricio Mascardo.

May 27

“We are often criminals in the eyes of the Earth, not only for having committed crimes, but because we know that crimes have been committed.” -Hombre de la Mascara de Hierro

June 1 · Edited

Great times with fabulous companions. Couldn’t be more blessed. So many laughs ^^

June 1

I was having a miraculous dream with Tyrese, but woke up as a fluffy white woman living in Korea with a bloody nose. Can’t help but hear Eminem’s words… “snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity.” Welcome to my Monday. Le sigh.

June 15

After 1 year and 5 countries, I have to say goodbye to you comfy pillows of heaven for my feet. Better to have loved and lost, than not at all.

June 16

…when you realize you went to check a text and start looking on facebook on your phone whilst facebook is up on your laptop in front of you. Le sigh.

June 16

Through a joint effort of my parents and the caring Chris Mungin, I gleefully received a very special package today!! Such a great way to lift my day even higher

June 18

Steak, Vietnamese pho, and Korean patpingsu at 11 am… don’t mind if I do…

June 19

Introducing the new addition to the Kelly family: Spencer!!!!

June 19

Please keep the Kelly family in your thoughts and prayers. Our home was struck by lightening last night. Everyone is physically ok, but they are now trying to assess the damage.

June 20

If you aren’t from Minnesota, you might not know how critical and cherished cabin season really is. Here’s an example:

Despite having their house being struck by lightening and taking care of our new sexy beast cat Spencer, my parents are still headed to the cabin Friday through Monday. Dedicated.

June 20

Did I miss something? Why is Iggy Azalea popular? I guess I have been gone for far too long. She can’t dance, she can’t sing, her lyrics are repetitive, and she copies scenes from other art/movies in her videos. I don’t get it. smh.

June 24

During a flash back giggle fest with John Avaricio Mascardo, I recalled a funny story, so here is one memory from my 10 years of teaching swim lessons at the beach:

In order to abate the screams from my anxiety-ridden 4-year-olds, I told my children a little lie. “The little sun fishies are not sucking on your skin, they are giving you lovely welcome kisses,” I gleefully stated. One kid tearfully replied, “but my mommy told me not to accept kisses from strangers.” Jaw dropped, I retorted, “THEY ARE FISH, NOT PEOPLE!” Lolz

June 24

39 days left.

Korean Southern Island Tour: May 2-6

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Geojedo Island is Korea’s second largest island with breathtaking scenery. At Jangpyeong-ri, simply pass the great bridge and you will be led directly to Geojedo Island, which boasts the bulk of the South Sea’s tourist attractions. Haegeumgang, Mongdol Beach and Oedo Island Paradise Island are the most popular sites among them.

Haegeumgang, an island made of rocks, belongs to Hallyeo Marina National Park and is also called the Geumgang of the South Sea. It is famous for both its sunsets and sunrises, and its unique rock formations. Also, Hakdong Mongdol Beach, made of pebbles called Mongdol, has camellias and fairy pits in spring, and comes alive as a beach resort in summer. Oedo Paradise Island, which recently became a popular site, is called the ‘Paradise of Korea’ because of the 3,000 kinds of decorated trees and the Mediterranean style buildings that stand upon this 264 square km land. This island is a poplar site for filming soap dramas due to the combination of the exotic atmosphere and sea.

Geojedo Island is historically a significant place. Memorial services are held annually in memory of General Lee Sun-Shin at the Okpodaecheop (war) Memorial Park, built in memory of the battle of Okpo(1592.5.7 – 5.8). Geojedo Island also had the biggest prisoner-of-war camp during the Korean War, and the camp has been restored as a historical relics site.

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Above: view from our one-room-for-7 hostel. Below: racks of drying seaweed

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Experiencing trepidation on our first ferry ride after the Sewol sinking in April…

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Below: Oedo-Botania is a marine botanical garden located in Hallyeo Maritime National Park, which has a beautiful view of the crystal blue South Sea and surrounding landscape. It is 4 kilometers away from Geojedo Island. About 20 minutes by ship from Gujora Port, past Naedo Island lies the European-like Oedo Island. In 1969, Lee Chang-ho first came to this island to escape from the wind and waves as he was fishing. He and his wife created this breathtaking landscape with all the care for 30 years.

In April, the island is covered with a plethora of flowers. The Venus Garden displays twelve sculptures and a western-style garden. At Paradise Lounge, one can enjoy the sunshine and the sea while drinking beverages. Camellias and various kinds of rare flowers from all over the world can be found in Oedo. When coming down the ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ visitors can view the beautiful garden and the ocean in the background. Magnificent terrace landscaping line both sides of the stairway. Oedo Paradise Island is without a doubt, a true paradise.

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Day 2:

A short, hour-long ferry ride from Tongyeong Port takes one to Hallyeo Maritime National Park, Somaemuldo Island. Located at the end of the Korean Peninsula, the island is well known for its oddly shaped rocks of the coast cliffs, the clear and blue sea, the beautiful Deungdaesum Island, which is often shown in movies and commercials.
Passing through the 500~600-year-old camelli woods for 30 min from the pier at Somaemuldo Island, you will get to Mangtaebong Peak, the top of the island. The peak is a natural observatory to enjoy the many islands of Tongyeong and Geoje Haeguemgang River. The view of Deungdaesum Island is indescribably beautiful. Somaemuldo Island is also one of the best tourist sites toward the end of the year because of the magnificent view of the sunset and sunrise.
The highlight of Somaemuldo Island is Deungdaesum Island, also called ‘Haegeumdo.’ This island is so small that it takes only 20 min to walk around. The white lighthouse on the hill and green grass make for romantic scenery. The lighthouse, which is the only facility on the island, was bulit by Japan during the Japanese Colonial Period (1910-1945). The 150-meter waterway from Somaemuldo Island to Deungdaesum Island is where the miracle of Moses takes place. Two islands are connected with a gravel road twice a day when the tides ebb. Deungdaesum Island, covered with wild camomiles from late October to early November, is especially fantastic.

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Listening to the now-required safety speech for our second ferry tour of the adventure…

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Below: variations on hiking gear in Korea…

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Below: the clusterfuck of a non-line to get back onto the ferry and the crowded floor space left on the ferry for those who didn’t manage to get a seat. It was hot and rocking back and forth. Miraculously, these two were able to sleep right through it.

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Day 3:

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A five-hour drive from Seoul leads visitors to a quaint place known as Namhae, Korea’s “treasure island.” A bridge that was constructed in 1973 now is connected to the mainland, which makes it no longer an island in the truest sense. This small yet beautiful island has picturesque sceneries harmoniously juxtaposing the mountains and the sea. The jagged 302-kilometer coastline reveals strange rock formations that create a fantastic view reminiscent of ancient Asian paintings.

The island is actually the topmost part of a huge mountain range rising from the sea floor. Because of its topological characteristics, the whole island is formed from mountains that descend steeply to the shoreline. It is surrounded by emerald-colored seas dotted with 68 islands, some inhabited and some not.

Largely untouched by development efforts, Namhae Island still has a purely traditional agricultural and fishing community. Along the steep coast, the people managed to create terraced fields to produce garlic in the spring and rice in the summer and autumn. If you would like to see what Korean life was like a half century ago, this is the place to go.

Just driving along the 302-kilometer-long coastline is enough to impress visitors. However, a trip to some tourist sites will make the trip even more worthwhile. Most are located near the coast and can be enjoyed during the course of the ride. In this edition, French student Frederic accompanied us to the major tourist sites of Namhae: Hilton Golf Namhae Resort, Daraengi Village, Geumsan Boriam Rock, Sangju Beach, Mijohang Port, Haeoreum Art Village and a German Village where we experienced fishing and pottery-making.

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ROK June 2014

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This blog is a review of my adventures in June 2014. Please read and enjoy the pics of me prancing around Korea with my friends.

First escapade: Suwon.

Suwon is the capital and largest metropolis of Gyeonggi-do. It is approximately 1 hour south of Seoul (19 miles) and is home to a high percentage of the 12 million commuters that Seoul receives 6 days a week. Transportation is super convenient in Korea, so one can choose an express bus or the subway to get there. Suwon is traditionally known as “The City of Filial Piety”. It has existed in various forms throughout Korea’s history, growing from a small settlement in tribal times to a major industrial and cultural city today. It is the only remaining completely walled city in South Korea. As an industrial center, it houses a Samsung Electronics R&D center and headquarters. Suwon is also a major educational center, being home to 11 university campuses.

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Above: Andra, her visiting friend from Minnesota, Lindsay, and I took the Suwon bus tour around the city for approximately 3 hours. Our first stop on the tour, the Mr. Toilet House.

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This has got to be the biggest case of turning a disadvantage into a life’s goal. Born in the outdoor toilet of his mother’s house, Sim jae Duck grew up with the nickname Gettongi (literally, dog sh!t). Sim Jae Duck eventually became the mayor of Suwon city, and picked out a new nickname for himself: Mr. Toilet. He helped drastically improve, regulate and revolutionize the bathroom experience in Korea. Thank God! After helping to establish the World Toilet Association in 2007, this two-story toilet-shaped building was built celebrating the man, the legend, the toilet. He passed away in January 2009, and now that the site has been completed, it’s a full-blown tourist attraction.

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Second stop, Hwaseong Fortress, for a traditional weaponry display and demonstration. The show lasted for over 30 minutes. Here are just a few of my favorite shots.

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Below: I did a lot of research trying to find out information about this golden buddha in the hills and its significance in Suwon to no avail, so I give you this incredible picture with little explanation. It is two stories tall and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Third stop, Hwaseong Fortress gate. The fortress was built as part of a planned city constructed by King Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. It served as the southern gate of the capital city of Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. The area was a strategic site for military security, and Hwaseong Fortress served as a key site for commerce. Today, Hwaseong Fortress is surrounded by many roads both small and major in addition to the Gyeonggi Provincial Government Building, giving many the opportunity to view the scenic juxtaposition of old and modern architecture. 

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Above: Andra and Lindsay try a few shots at archery.

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The fortress (constructed from 1794 to 1796) was built as a show of the King’s filial piety towards his father Jangheonseja and to build a new pioneer city with its own economic power. The fortress wall stretches for a total of 5.52km and has a great variety of military facilities that’s hard to find anywhere else. Four gates face each of the cardinal directions—Janganmun (north), Paldalmun (south), Changnyongmun (east), and Hwaseomun (west).

Hwaseong Fortress was constructed under the guidance of Yu Hyeong-Won and Jeong Yak-Yong, and is believed to have been constructed very scientifically. The fortress wall was built using Seokjae and Jeondol (bricks) and the holes between the bricks are just big enough to fire guns, arrows, or long spears through in case of an attack.

The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress went through many turbulent times and damage, and in the battle of June 25th, many of the facilities became so damaged that they were deemed irreparable. Even though the fortress restoration initiative (1975-1979) restored many of the sites to their former glory, Paldalmun to Dongnamgakru (an area 491 meters in length) has still not been renovated. The fortress was designated as Historical Monument No. 3 in January 1963, and in December 1997, it was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

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Last stop on the tour: Suwon Hwaseong Museum.

The museum presents the history and culture of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and has two permanent exhibition spaces: ‘The Exhibition Hall on Construction of Fortress’ (construction process of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and the development of the city) and ‘The Cultural Center’ (illustrates various historical events related to the fortress such events held during the 8-day visit of King Jeongjo in 1795).

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Before we retuned to Seoul, the three of us enjoyed 3 different varieties of ‘bing su.’ Bing su is a staple Korean summer delicacy. It includes shaved ice and additives ranging from fruit to red bean paste. The store clerk was surprised that each of us ordered one, given that they come in a size suitable for 2-3 people. Ohhh Korea. Their 2-3 portion size is much like the USA size for one. I ordered the New York Cheese cake with ice cream, saltine crackers and shaved ice. Lindsay had the coffee themed one and Andra stuck to a classic strawberry version.

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One Thursday night after work, the Apgu branch (John, Andra, Brandon & I) ventured north of the river to meet up with Jesse in Itaewon for some spicy ribs and samgyeopsal. Samgyeopsal is a popular Korean evening meal. It consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon). The meat, usually neither marinated nor seasoned, is cooked on a grill at the diners’ table. Usually diners grill the meat themselves and eat directly from a grill. It is most commonly dipped in sesame seed oil mixed with salt and pepper.

According to a 2006 survey by Agricultural Cooperatives in Korea, 85% of South Korean adults surveyed stated their favorite pork is samgyeopsal. The survey also showed 70% of recipients eat the meat at least once a week. The high popularity of samgyeopsal makes it one of the most expensive parts of pork. South Korea imports wholesale samgyeopsal from Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries for the purpose of price stabilization as imported pork is much cheaper than domestic. Samgyeopsal is popularly consumed both at restaurants and at home, and also used as an ingredient for other Korean dishes, such as kimchi jjigae.

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Above: After 1 year and 5 countries, I had to say goodbye to my comfy pillows of heaven for my feet. They could no longer be repaired. I had super glued and sown them one back together too many times.

Below: One evening on our way to visit Carly, John and I passed one of the many sock stands in Korea. They are everywhere. Koreans LOVE their socks. I decided to purchase a few pairs for Chris and I. Hilariously, neither John nor I ever considered that the mens pair would not fit Chris (who wears a size 16 shoe). Later that evening as I was bragging about my thoughtful gift, Ellie reminded me that most Korean men have tiny feet (comparable to a women’s size 8). Le sigh. I hope it was the thought that count. I wound up gifting them to my amazing two male coworkers, John and Brandon. haha!

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Above: On a Wednesday before work, I met up with my Korean housewife tutee who had been absent from my life for the past 6 months. She took me out to VIPS, a popular steak restaurant with a fancy buffet. This was my first time having American style steak in 17 months. It was so delicious. The restaurant also had a spectacular range of salad bar, soups, deserts and drink options. In addition to the steak, I had Vietnamese pho (noodle soup) and pat bing su. We grabbed Starbucks after and enjoyed a walk through the park. It was so lovely to catch up on life, food, and experience the steamy outdoors.

Below: One of my student’s magnificent drawings of me. She even got my unintentional ombre hair coloring.

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Below: Night out in Hongdae listening to live acoustic music with Carly (on weekend trip from Taiwan), Jooyea, Tom, John and Ellie.

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Above: Sunday corrections break with Ellie in Carosugil. I’m enjoying this scrumptious version of patbingsu and the cat-themed cafe decor^^

Below: Next to the cafe was a store entitled Hornycat- just one of many English translations gone wrong.

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The final and most exciting June exploit was attending my first Korean wedding!!

The wedding took place in Uijeongbu, just north of Seoul by 1.5 hours. Uijeongbu contains U.S. and Korean military bases, to be used for the defense of the Korean capital. Despite being known for its military presence, the area has boomed into a satellite community of Seoul with shops, cinemas, restaurants and bars, PC bangs and DVD Bangs. There are several mountains that are popular recreational areas for hiking and are frequented by residents living in the Seoul Metropolitan area. This city is famous for its buddaejjigae street food (a soup made with spam and hot dogs), and it was one of the film locations for the popular syndicated TV show M.A.S.H. My limited experience of the city felt clean, welcoming, homey and VERY VERY QUIET.

Featured in the picture below is my Korean friend Areim and her mother who were outside the wedding hall welcoming guests. Areim’s older sister, the bride, was a former employee of Espirit (the company I currently work for and consider to be my family away from home). I was more than pleased to be invited to this, potentially once in a lifetime experience, Korean wedding. Thank you Areim!!

 

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After the inaugural picture with Areim and her mother, I visited the ticket booth to give my donation to the couple in a white envelope in exchange for a meal voucher to be used post ceremony. It is never appropriate for one to give cash without an envelope in Korea, as it would be seen as extremely rude. It is also not customary to give wedding presents at a modern Korean wedding. Instead, guests give money to the couple to help them get their life started.

Most adults live with their parents until marriage (approximately 25-35 years of age) because of the enormous cost of apartment renting or owning, which is outrageously egregious compared to USA standard apartment costs. Although the current generation is racking up credit card debt similar to Americans, Koreans were previously known for their saving abilities. Weddings help to supplement the savings of the parents and the working bride and/or groom’s funds to assist in all the necessary home furniture, appliances, etc. There is no minimum or maximum required donation by guests, but in general a good friend would give approximately $50 and family members, $100.

The next stop was the picture room where the bride sits to be photographed with her guests. I found this part to be quite exciting. I felt like I was waiting to meet a princess. She was one of the most gorgeous brides I have ever seen in my life! The bedazzled gown was rented, as is customary in Korea.

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Above: the Espirit group ready to celebrate!

Below: The bride and groom walk down an elevated runway together. There is no ‘giving away’ of the bride. The couple walked through a cheesy heart bouquet of flowers on their way down the aisle. The gown was so spectacularly grand that someone had to assist her walking up the stairs, turning around, and basically any other movement than one step forward. There was no exchange of vows, just one man speaking. I couldn’t understand anything because everything was in Korean. The bride and groom did not smile throughout almost the entire ceremony until the end. This may have been due to nerves or just traditional Korean stoicism. The groom had his hands in tightly clenched fists the entire time, which is very unusual for Korean army men who are usually required to keep to their resting stance with hands in straight blade form.

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My favorite part of the entire ceremony was when the bride and groom performed bowing or ‘sebae’ to their parents. Sebae is a traditionally observed activity on Seollal (lunar new year), and is filial piety oriented. Children wish their elders a happy new year by performing one deep traditional bow. I am not sure if this activity was exactly sebae, but it was obviously a way for the married couple to give homage to their parents. The groom did a full bow on the floor while the bride took a shallow bow to adhere to the constraints of her wardrobe. 

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After the ceremony was completed, a cart was rolled up to the bride and groom to cut the cake with two swords. Posed pictures were taken during this process. I believe the cake was provided by the wedding hall, along with the cart. No cake was ever served or eaten at the reception. On the walk back down the aisle, the Espirit crew were asked to throw rose petals on them.

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Once the walk down the aisle was finalized, photos of the couple, families, and visitors began to take place. A lot of smiling started to happen too!

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In the very blurry picture below, Bri is featured catching the bouquet. Typically, the bride chooses a woman to catch the bouquet who is planning on getting married within the ensuing 6 months. Bri happens to be getting married in September of 2015, so they kind of broke tradition with timing. The catching of the bouquet, much like the cutting of the cake, was impersonal and very posed for the pictures, but cute and fun to watch nonetheless.

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We weren’t allowed to stay in the wedding hall too long, because the next wedding needed to be set up for. From the walk down the aisle to the end of the photo session, about 45 minutes lapsed. One criticism of Korean weddings is that they are so expensive, but lacking in individualization or personalization by the people getting married and not very representative of the couple as a whole. While I found this to be true, I didn’t really think it was all that surprising. Koreans are ridiculously practical and efficient. Also, this is a collectivist culture with tendencies towards wanting to be similar to peers, not to stand out. What I missed the most was an exchange of personal vows.

After the picture ops, we proceeded to the top floor for a very expansive buffet. I was pleasantly surprised by the seemingly endless choices of food, ranging from sushi, sashimi, rice, noodle dishes, namyeong, kimchi of all varieties, slow roasted meats, tempura, mandu, yukhoe (raw beef), and a desert station. Sorry for the horribly shitty pictures of the food. By this time, I was raging starving so I just chowed down.

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By 4 pm (2 hours total time) we were out the door and on the subway heading back for Seoul. On the way back I met an adorable adjumma who loved my nails and wanted to show me hers! haha.

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Recent reads:

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Information in this blog was gathered from: oneweirdglobe.com, Korea Tourist Organization, and the all-knowing, Wikipedia.

May & Miss Carly’s Return

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May 2014 was a cacophony of embroiled emotions. I had a blast experiencing the return of one of my favorite people on this planet, Miss Carly Teng (for a three week stay), and enjoyed the spring weather. On the other hand, the duration of my stay in Korea is nearing its end, which is spawning a well of sadness, anticipatory stress, and a struggle to stay present-minded. The following blog will review the joyful happenings of May and discuss some of my non-cajoling thoughts.

The above picture is of Canuck Bear- a present from my closest Chinese Canadian friend, Carly. Carly landed on Friday May 2nd and she stayed at my place for her first weekend. When I opened the door to let her in, it felt like I had just seen her the prior day. Effortlessly, our raunchy jokes, feminist-themed dialogue and fits of giggles returned as if they had never left.

Her first night in town happened to be the very same day as my departure for a southern Korean island tour (which will be featured in another blog posting), so we only had time for BBQ and inebriation. Upon return from the 4-day trip, many of us went out in Hongdae for makgeoli and jeon: Carly, Tom, Chantel, K-dragon, and Ariem. Below: Pre-dinner selfie and the gathering.

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John and Andra met up with us after dinner to drink in what is a children’s park during the daytime, and a raucous crowd of university students in the evening, who happened to be viewing the band from the roof top while drinking.

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We followed up beer and makgeoli with a classic Korean activity- noraebang singing.

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Above right: Our taxi driver on the way home from Hongdae had an interesting display of model cars complete with a mini-spotlight. Below: Ellie and I spent the day river side, walking in ‘nature.’ Please mind the grayness of the sky in all the pictures of this blog. Recent weather forecasts often indicate a temperature of mid-80s Fahrenheit and smoggy haze. Is ‘smog’ or ‘haze’ even a weather term? Permanent pollution is more like it, but no worries, only half of my friends so far have experienced severe allergies, skin reactions and chemically-induced, premature balding. I hope I am not not next! If one misses the bright ‘natural’ colors of nature, Seoul always has a modern solution- just show actual nature pictures on an artsy display wall at the city’s largest park.

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On the self-labled Fashion Street, ‘interesting’ fashion choices are made… The plaid clad individual on the left is a man. In my opinion, those pants are too tight, even if one is into the skinny jean craze. There is no rain forecasted. His girlfriend seems less concerned than he is about the sun. They are adorable though, right?
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There are 55 days left before I leave Korea. I have been having a hard time keeping my swollen heart, brimming with gratitude, belly laughs, travel memories and professional/personal development, inside my chest cavity. As each day drops from the calendar like a heavy gong in a silent, non-suspecting room, I can feel the ligaments and bones holding my heart in place tear and fracture as each are painstakingly plucked from their delicate bow. My pillow is damp from many tear-filled moments before my fitful angst, midway between sleep and awake, where I seem to exist these days. I stopped taking pain management medication, sleeping pills and muscle relaxers because I want to be viscerally present for this detachment process; ironically, in the course of being ‘present’ in my progression, I have been carrying the bewildering weight of so much anticipatory stress. My to do list is pages long, and recently, I have been to many places, but not much seems to get done. I have seen many people, but no one in particular. I feel constant haziness, as my norm waking hours become a struggle to opaque the future moments that I want to avoid.

I hate goodbyes the way most people hate moving, for they are painful, seemingly unnecessary, and logistically labored. I happen to be saying goodbye and moving. In my own detested syntax, and Papa Bear’s least favorite of my vernacular, Fuck MY Life. Not literally or even figuratively, of course, as this last year and a half has been the best of my life. Have I enjoyed the last month? Of course! … as you can see from the pictures and blogged documentation. Do I want to move home just yet? No. But before you emote shock, let me explain. It’s the access to hundreds of restaurants, museums, cultural experiences, and like-minded expats. It’s the way I am a privileged resident. It’s the softness of Theo Puff’s (my student) skin when he leans on me and Stephanie’s little hand in mine. It’s the collaborative work environment with an intellectually stimulating boss in meetings who is then mostly hands off about the classroom. It’s the hardy laughs every day from my coworkers and my stunningly brilliant students.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some pretty exciting things to look forward to when returning to the USA. I look forward to hugging my best friend, Papa Bear, for the first time in 19 months. I look forward to gliding the blue hull of my kayak into the cool morning calm of a Minnesotan lake and gingerly sliding my finger tips into the refreshing water. I can’t wait for the first bite of Chipotle and to obtain two new kitties for the Kelly household! I have worries about the status of Chris and my relationship, about how my presence will rock the boat for my parents’current synergy, and how willing my parents will be to let me cook. I am anxious about taking the GRE again, relearning French, applying to phD programs, and finding work that I am as passionate about as teaching. I will miss the city, my friends, the children. I will feel lonely and not safe in America for sure. I equally look forward to and dread the moment that I will walk down an empty road for the first time. I have so many family, financial, and future obligations at home that seem so daunting right now. Above all, I will miss traveling.

I constantly say this to Chris at home, and I mean it: I know the kids won’t remember me and that’s truly ok, but I will remember each of them forever. I will remember their infectious smiles, handwriting, creative stories, awkward farts in class, lessons on picking noses, them laughing with me and at me. I have taught each of my students about being great academics, and hopefully also life lessons about responsibility, striving for their personal best and having a mindset of gratitude. Most moving though is what they have taught me.

I have learned to talk and think slower. I have learned to be compassionate towards these little work machines that Korea keeps pumping out. I often witness that they believe anything is possible and their blatant naivety is intoxicating. They are little humans that will shape the future and hopefully use their wealthy privilege to progress Korea into a more egalitarian society. Every moment counts. It only takes one marvelous or horrendous experience to sear the brain and emotions forever. Teachers are so respected here that I choose my words and my life lessons very carefully. I feel that I matter. I hope they feel that from me too.

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Above: my Teacher’s Appreciation Week loot- coffee, a tomato, a flower basket with roses, carnations & a card, strawberry juice, bunt cake, muffins, Belgian chocolates, fine tea & coffee set, carrot juice, and an art flower creation. I’m spoiled and I love it! I don’t teach to get presents, but I can’t say that I mind the benefit!!

Chris has wondered why it is that I love any and all presents so much, to the extent that I request them to be given consistently, without reason or rhyme? Surprisingly, even though I like fashion and shopping, I don’t do it that often and I am not a very materialistic person, compared to many of my peers. I often prefer spending extra money on experiential activities and traveling than on clutter, and yet I get giddy with gifts. I have traced this pleasure back to growing up with a gregarious, expressive father and an emotionally muted, hardworking mother. My mom worked long hours to provide for our family. My dad and I spent many nights by the TV, eagerly darting our eyes out the window at the corner of our cul de sac every time we saw a vehicle, hoping that it was my mom’s headlights coming around the bend. Being understandably tired, she would often sigh and plop down on the bed to change before joining us. When she came to the living room, she would often say that she had gone out on her lunch hour and got me something- a highlighter, stickers, snacks, etc. I didn’t really care what she got me (I certainly did not care about the monetary value), but I was so excited that she thought about me and I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends the next day at school, “look at what my mom got for me!!” To this day, when someone thinks of me and buys me something as a token of their affection it makes me so joyful!

Below: Diva crown day with my favorite- Theo Puff.

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Below: Night out with Carly, her boyfriend Greg, Andra, Ellie, John, Areim, and Eunha at Chez Maak. Chez Maak is one of my favorite trendy hip spots for makgeoli and jeon (savory kimchi pancakes).

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Below: We are off to our second place and phase of drinking for the evening… or as Korean’s say Ee cha… to argue the merits of national defense.

It’s no secret that Koreans are some of the hardest workers in the world.  From a young age, one spends his or her school days buried in books, memorizing endless pages of material, and hopping from math to English to art academy.  There’s very little time for play, or childhood even.  Things don’t change much by the time one reaches the workplace.  Of the cities across the globe, those working in Seoul put in the most working hours per week on average. Efficiency has nothing to do with it, but because of their propensity to work hard, they find it necessary to play hard, too.  And very few can play as hard as Koreans do.

When living in or visiting Korea, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that nightlife in Korea is a big deal.  Drinking and going out is as much of an integral part of Korean culture as kimchi.  As in many places, university students and twenty-somethings flock to nightlife districts like Hongdae, Gangnam, and Itaewon to escape the imminent pressures of life and to get buzzed on cheap drinks and celebrate their youth.  For the career man (or woman), going out is a way to maintain social connections and is often unavoidable and obligatory in many workplaces.  But, unlike in the West, evenings of binge drinking occur just about every night of the week and rather than throwing back a few brews in one particular restaurant or bar, Koreans party in cha, or rounds, moving, drinking, and eating in various places.

Generally, a night out involves four cha but big nights out can take party-goers all the way into a fifth.  Depending on who you ask, each round should be at a specific kind of place, but because we are foreigners, we don’t really follow those rules. I have never made it past 3 cha, and all nights are not necessarily in the following order. They are easily interchangeable.

Il-Cha (Round 1):  Dinner and Drinks

Koreans usually begin their nights out at a barbeque restaurant.  There’s something about Korean barbeque that encourages drinking.  Perhaps it’s the sight of the fatty slabs of samgyeopsal (pork belly) or the smell of burning charcoal. A few bottles of maekju and soju are ordered almost immediately upon sitting down.  There are quite a few drinking games that encourage taking shots of the Korean firewater from the iconic green bottles. Most of our nights start with BBQ, but on this particular one, we started with round 2.

Ee-Cha (Round 2):  Bar or Hof
Koreans usually order in sets when in groups and the bill is typically picked up by one person, as “going dutch” is practically unheard of in traditional Korean culture.

Sam-Cha (Round 3): Another Bar or Hof
Sam-cha is more or less the same as ee-cha, except at this point, everyone is boozed up.  This is the point where folks let out their frustrations or problems with one another, as anything said while intoxicated is essentially “forgotten and forgiven” the next day.  Hofs are common hangouts for round three, as anju (drinking food) must be purchased with drinks.  Said snacks are usually consumed with the intent of decreasing the chance of a morning hangover.

Sa-Cha (Round 4):  The Main Party
Round four typically involves dancing.  There are plenty of big, flashy clubs throughout Seoul but there are also some cool underground places that are pretty chill but allow for dancing and mingling if its desired. Patrons sit at tables in caves or dance to indie electronica.  Fortunately for the night owls, most clubs and bars such as these stay open until the wee hours of the morning, or at least until the first subway trains start running.

O-Cha (Round 5):  Karaoke
Karaoke is a national pastime of Korea. Karaoke isn’t something that is done in large groups of strangers here; instead, noraebangs are businesses of individual rooms, allowing private parties to sing their hearts out.  For the most part, noraebangs are extremely tacky with their neon flashing lights and cheesy decor. People drink a few beers, shake tambourines, and sing (or try to) a very random mix of songs.

By the end of o-cha, most are exhausted and head home (or to the nearest sidewalk) for a few hours of sleep before making it to class or work the next morning.  I will never understand how Koreans work so hard and play so hard at the same time. As time and Korea progresses, however, many companies are working to stamp out the excessive drinking culture.  Employees are beginning to take a stand and some have even gone so far as to sue their employers for being forced to drink. It’s great to know that measures are being taken to combat binge drinking in the corporate environment.   

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Below: Jesse’s 31st birthday- 12 of us went out for dinner to have dak kalbi.

Dak galbi is a popular Korean dish generally made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken in a gochujang (chili pepper paste), sliced cabbagesweet potatoscallionsonionsperilla leaves, and tteok (rice cake) together on a hot plate. Dak galbi appeared after the late 1960s as an inexpensive anju (food that is eaten while drinking) in small taverns, on the outskirts of the city to replace the comparatively expensive gui dishes which are grilled over charcoal. The dish spread where the livestock industry thrived and offered fresh ingredients with no need for refrigeration. It is also a popular dish for university students who are on a low budget, because it is relatively cheap and served in abundance. Despite the fact that its name means chicken ribs, there is no rib meat in dak galbi. 

Next, we went to a ‘uniuqe’ dive bar that I probably will never frequent again. It had very aggressive English swear words plastered everywhere. I know I am a walking hypocrite given that I repurpose many of these words on a day-to-day basis, but I am more of a lounge type person, if the experience involves drinking only.

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Below: A Saturday picnic at the park near the river. These pictures sorely misrepresent the at least 50 people in attendance of 5 birthdays at the park (Bri, Ben, Jesse, Bama, Jeff). The week before the park get together, I had been complaining about alcohol being uncomfortable to drink on a hot day. Wine is for dinner, cheese or lounges. I don’t drink beer ever, but if I did it would make me feel bloated. And hard liquor just makes one hotter. So… I decided to make my own refreshing mixed drink: Lemon Rosemary Cucumber Spritzer.

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One Sunday, I went to the Hapjeong cafe area with Chantel…

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Above right: The first Psychiatric Services sign, building, or otherwise, that I have seen in the past 1.5 years. Stigma surrounding mental health is still overwhelmingly oppressive here.

Below: My favorite summer dessert- Patbingsu!!

The early forms of patbingsu consisted of shaved ice and two or three ingredients: red bean paste, tteok (rice cakes), and ground nut powder. The first patbingsu could be found in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Government records show officials sharing crushed ice topped with various fruits. Some historians believe that the dessert originated from a Chinese tradition of eating snow or ice topped with fruit juices, but Korea disputes this origin. The modern forms of patbingsu are reputed to originate during the period of Japanese occupation (1910-1945) with the introduction of a cold red bean paste dish. However, the combinations of red bean paste and shaved ice is a Korean invention. During the Korean War (1950-1953), foreign influence led to the inclusion of ingredients such as fruit cocktailice cream, fruits, nuts, cerealsyrups, and whipped cream

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Below: Holy Geek out moments with John in Gangnam at Kakao Talk Cafe!! The following animated creatures are a set of extremely popular emoticons used on a texting application in Korea: Kakao Talk. I use this application ALL the time, even to talk to many of my friends back in the USA. It is completely free and so fun to use. The digital has become physical in this fun, quirky cafe.

Can you guess which one is my favorite character? Bossy Neo- the blue cat! Neo is a prim and self-oriented cat who cares for no one but herself. She is obsessed with her black bob cut wig, which is one source of her confidence. Frodo (the brown dog) and bossy Neo despise, yet love each other. You can always find them together but they are usually fighting- like cats and dogs! At the end of the day, they always find ways to settle things, no matter what.

Chris’s favorite emoticon is Jay-G, the one with the blonde afro and sunglasses. Jay-G always makes it a point to get his afro done fresh and his suit crisp. He is a secret agent who finds inspiration from his largest idol, Jay-Z. Although Jay-G tries to portray an image of a calm, cool-headed and professional dude, he is actually as clumsy as a bear and has the heart of a pussycat who is hungry for affection.

John graciously lent me money to buy a few souvenirs 🙂

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Below: John and I bought tickets to the 29th annual Korea World Travel Fair. The purpose of the fair is to promote tourism around the world by highlighting global costumes and cultural performances, as well as offering petite food and drink samples.

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Below: John and I met a sassy Kenyan Masai leader who travels around the world promoting tourism. We had a fascinating conversation with him about his job and the effects of tourism on cultural degradation, education expansion, and promotion of human rights issues within his tribe. He was an excellent English speaker and was passionate about promoting education not tied to ministry and about ending the crisis of female genital mutilation and HIV within his community. He gave us two of his bracelets and his card. I hope to meet him again some day.

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Below: Two Thai performances. Ironically, Chris and I never got to see one in Thailand, so this was especially awesome!

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Below: Okinawan, Japanese dance and drum team performance.

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Below: I am featured wearing an Afgahani lapis lazuli stone necklace. The procurer of the stone and jewelry maker is sitting in the picture. I wish I had bought it!!

Lapis lazuli is a deep blue stone with golden inclusions of pyrites which shimmer like little stars. This opaque gemstone has a grand past. It was among the first gemstones to be worn as jewellery and worked on. At excavations in the ancient centres of culture around the Mediterranean, archaeologists have again and again found among the grave furnishings decorative chains and figures made of lapis lazuli – clear indications that the deep blue stone was already popular thousands of years ago among the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. It is said that the legendary city of Ur on the Euphrates plied a keen lapis lazuli trade as long ago as the fourth millennium B.C., the material coming to the land of the two great rivers from the famous deposits in Afghanistan. In other cultures, lapis lazuli was regarded as a holy stone. Particularly in the Middle East, it was thought to have magical powers. Countless signet rings, scarabs and figures were wrought from the blue stone which Alexander the Great brought to Europe.

Lapis lazuli is regarded by many people around the world as the stone of friendship and truth. The blue stone is said to encourage harmony in relationships and help its wearer to be authentic and give his or her opinion openly.

Lapis lazuli is a rock that mainly consists of diopside and lazurite. It came into being millions of years ago during the metamorphosis of lime to marble. The small inclusions with their golden shimmer, which give the stone the magic of a starry sky, are not of gold as people used to think, but of pyrites. Their cause is iron. The blue colour comes from the sulphur content of the lazurite and may range from pure ultramarine to a lighter blue. At between 5 and 6 on the Mohs scale, this stone is among the less hard gemstones. When polishing this stone, one must handle it gently on account of its modest hardness.

As they did more than 5000 years ago, the best raw stones still come from the steep Hindu Kush in the north-east of Afghanistan. The lumps of blue rock, extracted from the inhospitable mountains by blasting, are brought down into the valley in the summer months by mules. Nature also created deposits in Russia, to the west of Lake Baikal, and in the Chilean Andes, where the blue rock often has white or grey lime running through it. In smaller amounts, lapis lazuli is also found in Italy, Mongolia, the USA and Canada, Myanmar and Pakistan.

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I was privy to an adorable moment while sitting and waiting for John to finish his canoodling with the Guam performers. The little teeny boppers above were instructed to stay off of the red carpet until she returned. The students’ consciousness of their red barrier lasted less than 30 seconds.

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On the last weekend of May I enjoyed a day trip north of the river to Dongdaemun for scrumptious yukhoe (raw beef) and jeon (mung bean pancake) with my Korean friend, Yoobin.

Yukhoe (pronounced ‘yook-way’) is a variety of raw dishes in Korean cuisine, which are usually made from raw ground beef seasoned with various spices or sauces. It is basically a Korean steak tartare. Usually the most tender part of beef is used. Yukhoe can be made with a variety of meats, such as liverkidney, or heart. The ingredients are thoroughly cleaned and salted, then rinsed and dried to remove unpleasant odors. Yukhoe is assumed to have been introduced from China into Korea during the Mongol conquests in Goryeo period, and was popularized in the Joseon era. Thin slices of tender beef are soaked to remove blood before being finely shredded. The shredded beef is then marinated in a mixed sauce of chopped spring onion, minced garlic, pepper, oil, honeypine nutssesame, and salt. Its dipping sauce, chogochujang includes chili pepper condiment mixed with vinegar and sugar that can be altered to taste with pepper or honey.

Meat in Korean cuisine has highly detailed classifications regarding freshness, quality, and part differentiation for specific cooking methods. Since yukhoe uses raw beef, freshness is the most important criterion. For yukhoe, it is recommended to use beef no more than one day after defrosting, and traditionally should not be aged more than one day after slaughtering. Regular Korean yukhoe customers often patronize trusted restaurants or butcher’s shops which have well-known, high-quality beef distributors.

Since 2004, the Korean Government has run the Beef Traceability System. This system requires ID numbers with the age of the Abanimal of origin, supplier, distributor, the beef’s grade, and butchering date and originating butchery. Most of the good beef restaurants in Korea list their beef’s information on the wall.

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Above: The Dongdaemun Design Plaza, also called the DDP, is a major urban development landmark in Seoul, designed by Zaha Hadid, with a distinctively neofuturistic design characterized by the powerful, curving forms of elongated structures. The landmark is the centerpiece of South Korea’s fashion hub and a popular tourist destination. The DDP features a walkable park on its roofs, large global exhibition spaces, futuristic retail stores and restored parts of the Seoul fortress. The DDP has been one of the main reasons for Seoul’s designation as World Design Capital in 2010. Construction started in 2009 and it was officially inaugurated on March 21, 2014.

The Samsung designed DDP has received mixed reviews. The futuristic design is a bit lost in the city where recent modernity meets tradition. Hundreds of local market owners were displaced in the process of clearing out enough space to complete the project, so the expectations were high. People wanted to see something that was worth removing their history, culture and market. The project was extended further than expected, and it is still a little unclear as to the purpose of the space. Personally, I thought it looked like a stylized UFO landing and that it looked neat enough, but my perspective was soured when I realized what was removed to make this modern structure possible.

Below: Funny shopping finds and traditional baby Hanbok.

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