Sunday, January 31, 2010


Given my wacky food allergies, I'm not usually comfortable eating street food -it's hard to gauge all the ingredients used in any given dish, especially without a menu. However, there are a few generally reliable items that I'm quite fond of, and tteokbokki is one of them. 

Tteokbokki is a dish made from rice cakes (which look like white tubes, except they're not hollow, and have the consistency of pasta) and a spicy sauce made from red chili paste. I've really been craving it lately, so tonight after church I filled up.

Here's the stall I visited (it looked the most hygienic):
Here's the array of options:
And here's tteokbokki, in all its spicy glory:

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Sometimes you need to completely turn off your computer to recharge it. Ditto for cellphones. Today was such an experience for me. Embarrassing but true, I spent the whole day indoors -resting and watching Rock and Doris movies (thanks, JME!). It's almost 7pm here, and I'm about to call it a day. While it feels indulgent to lounge about and register zero on the productivity scale, I'm confident it will pay off and I'll be in fighting shape tomorrow. For now though, the calm that arrived after the month-long intensives storm has set in.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I wish I could think of an anecdote from today that merits a post. Funny things happened and I laughed along with students more than a few times, but my brain is on overload and I can't think straight (or refrain from writing a run-on sentence apparently). Am excited about getting through tomorrow... will be awesome to have more free time again. Who knows what I may accomplish!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tunnel Light

Got home two hours ago and since then, I've been inputting grades via the school's online system. Not finished, but I made a sizable dent. The end is in sight! Intensives wrap on Friday, and while the next two days will be extra-hectic with grading, I can see the proverbial tunnel light. Thanks to so many of you for all your prayers, well wishes, encouraging notes, and care packages... two arrived today! The Oreos, coffee, Baby Ruths, and crunchy peanut butter have been significant, go-to comfort foods this month. Thank you, thank you.

Will resurface asap...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Iguana's Return

The student who coined "Iguana Eyes" opted to perpetuate the nickname during class today. He announced to the other students that "the teacher" (yours truly) had a new name -Iguana. Outwardly I played it cool and told him that was disrespectful, but inwardly I was cracking up... he knows it's a clever name, and he can't let it go! This particular student is the one boy who has consistently been a problem for all the teachers who've taught him, and in the four months he's been in my class, he's been rude to me on countless occasions. Still, I'm hopeful that I can break the cycle and get through to him on some meaningful level. On a side note, we were talking about why people save money, and I asked everyone what they were saving their money for. His reply? The United States. I moved on to the next student, but curiosity got the better of me, and so I went back to him. The conversation went like this:
Me:  How much do you think it would cost to buy the United States?
Student:  One thousand, five hundred million dollars to buy California.
Me:  What about the rest of the country?
Student:  California is enough.
Incidentally, he's 10 years old.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Case of the Mondays

Cliche as it sounds, my day began with a case of the Mondays. I ignored my first alarm at 7:45am and fell back asleep before it rang again at 8am. Even after logging extra hours of sleep over the weekend, I could hardly force myself out of bed. A shower did little to help wake me up, so I moved onto coffee and breakfast. Unfortunately, the yogurt I'd intended to eat spilled into an open kitchen drawer, making a huge, squishy mess. Next, I tried getting dressed except that the jeans I'd planned on wearing had developed a hole in a very conspicuous place, rendering them unwearable. Only after exiting my building, whereupon I was enveloped by the frosty morning chill, was I able to feel alert.

I bought choco-pies for my students to reward them for their efforts in giving speaking presentations last week. Choco-pies are like Ding Dongs, though not as good IMO (in my opinion). Always in search of a teachable moment, I asked the students to vote on which they preferred, Kimchi or Choco Pies (nb:  we were studying Comparatives, so my question was:  Which is better/more delicious?). In my wildest dreams I never would've predicted the results:  kimchi the undisputed winner, by a margin of 5 to 1. Unbelievable. So then I asked:  What food is better than kimchi? Various responses ensued, but the food mentioned most often was spaghetti. Ahhh, finally something we can agree on.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hold the Cheese

Like a good Italian girl, I turn to pasta when seeking comfort food. Like ice cream or gelato, it always makes me feel better. Tonight's dinner was an Italian-Korean hybrid in keeping with the weekend's theme. I bought the fusilli at a local shop, though the package says it's imported from Italy; the Contadina sauce was hand carried by my dad who was delivering the gift for my mom; and in lieu of cheese or meat, I sauteed slices of tofu and mixed them in. Tasted great and hit the spot, although the tofu looks like chunks of mozzarella, and I'm kind of pretending that's what it is. 


As far as I can remember, this one's a first for me:  fighting a headache and an upset stomach all morning, I got ready for church and began my commute, thinking I'd feel better as the afternoon progressed. When I arrived at the station where I normally transfer from bus to subway, I had to sit down because I was feeling awful. Ultimately, I wound up turning back and going home. The chronic fatigue and unpleasant side effects aren't typical traits of mine, but I'm trying to make the most of them while I've got 'em... will get back to you once I figure out the silver lining.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Laundry and Frescoes

If you clean at a leisurely pace, does that count as relaxation?

After clocking eleven hours of sleep, I forced myself to get out of bed while it was still technically morning. Glancing around my apartment, I debated where to start cleaning -so much to be done, especially for such a small space. First I tackled a suitcase of clothes which had been in a corner of my room since my dad's visit. He'd brought several items from my wardrobe back home, and I never finished unpacking or hanging them. Nice to see some familiar friends and contemplate when it'd be warm enough to actually wear them.

Laundry, dusting, and scrubbing floors followed. The place began to brighten up and smell clean again. I then opted to turn the attention onto myself. It seemed like an appropriate time to color my hair, and afterward, I couldn't resist cutting it. So much fun. Side note:  Most of these activities were performed with Anchorman on in the background. I always find something new to laugh about when I watch it, and today I even chuckled out loud a few times.

Today's special treat was a field trip to the Seoul Arts Center. Nearly 50 reproductions of Italian frescoes were on display, and I'd been excited to see them ever since reading about the exhibit. I'm glad I went, although it definitely left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was cool to see beautiful facsimiles from masters like da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael and to reflect on my splendid trip to Italy in 2007. On the other hand, there is something peculiar about observing things like frescoes out of context, especially after seeing the real versions of a few of them at the Sistine Chapel and Uffizi Gallery. I concluded that for the likely-intended audience, this was a good show -a chance to see beloved, intricate works up close, without leaving the country. For someone like me, who thinks about Italy every day, planning her return visit, it was a reminder of how much I love to travel and experience cultures firsthand. While I'm in Seoul, I will continue to focus on absorbing Korean culture. I feel like I've learned so much already, but there are several thousands of years still to catch up on.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Slumber, Party of One

I fully realize that what I'm about to write puts me into the rarefied category of homebody (ha!), but it must be said:  it's 9pm on Friday night, and I cannot wait to curl up and fall asleep watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I know this behavior is more akin to that of those two or three generations ahead of me, but really, given the pace of the last three weeks, can you blame me?

Since Intensives began, I've been away from my apartment for a minimum of 12 to 14 hours, Monday through Friday. And when I am here, the activity breakdown is basically: 
  • wolf down a bite to eat
  • dash off a blog post
  • sleep
  • scramble to get ready when my alarm goes off 
Not exactly leisurely pursuits.

All this to say that a solid night's sleep will do wonders for me mentally and physically, and who knows, tomorrow morning I may wake up energized and ready to catch up on everything -like addressing your comments and emails! In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me and for not interpreting my delayed responses as indifference. I love to hear from you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Patience, Now!

Isn't it just so cliche that whenever one resolves to be more patient or optimistic or [blank], they inevitably face unanticipated trials almost immediately?! Nothing earth shattering or significant to report, but I'll say this:  after a series of patience-sapping incidents leading to the return of a twitch in my right eye and a pulsating headache, I finally had to laugh. Of course these episodes are coming at me in rapid succession today! After all, it was just last night that I'd publicly declared my intention of being more positive and resourceful.

And so the real test begins.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I broke one of my own rules and wore the same pair of shoes two days in a row and am now dealing with the consequences. My brain feels lethargic and my body even more so. As tempting as it is to lament the aches and fatigue, I feel incredibly grateful. The situation in Haiti has me checking every negative inclination and resolving to be a positive influence wherever I am, in whatever capacity. I'm tired, but I'm working again. My feet hurt, but I have adequate shoes. My brain needs recharging because it races continually throughout the day drumming up ways to be more creative and efficient, enthusiastic and compassionate.

The rain we're having has also had a sobering effect. It causes me to be more introspective which I appreciate. I'm hoping to carve out time this weekend to be still and reflect on how best to invest my resources and talents. That parable in Matthew has long been a favorite of mine, and yet lately I feel like I'm slacking and not being a good steward. Lots to ponder and pray about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Iguana Eyes

It's become increasingly apparent that traits I once considered assets are more like liabilities here. Take eye color, for instance. I've always been quite happy to have hazel eyes but am now realizing they may not be very appealing to Korean tweens.

This afternoon, students in one of my Social Studies classes were doing all they could to veer off topic, understandably since the material was rather dry. In preparation for upcoming presentations, we were practicing how to make eye contact, and next thing I know, they're all gathered around me staring right at my face. Nervous about what they were thinking, I didn't have to wait long before one blurted out: "Teacher! Green and brown eyes!!" (Yea, I thought naively. They noticed!) Then they all began saying it as though it were some cool revelation until one boy remarked, "Iguana eyes." Bam! Right back down to Earth as I'm coming to know it in Korea.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thunder Mountain

If ever I find myself longing for Disneyland's Thunder Mountain ride, I can always hop on a bus. Truly, an adventure unto its own. I love taking the bus, and I use it to commute to work. However, every day brings a new adrenaline-inducing experience. Take this morning. I was fortunate to land a seat -a solo one in the front, no less. Once the light turned green, we were off like a jack rabbit. Acceleration seems to be no problem for these buses, and the drivers appear to love testing the brakes... as in, upon approaching the next bus-stop, just how close can we get to the bus in front of us? I swear we were at 2 inches today (remember, I was in the front and had a great view). Then, there's the whole nutty experience of exiting the bus. It's customary to exit at the back, and on more than one occasion, the driver has started to pull away as I've got one foot on the ground with the other still on the bus. Scary! Especially when negotiating icy curbs.

In sum, the bus rides would definitely qualify for E ticket status should Disney ever decide to bring back that system.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gift with Purchase

Last night at dinner, I ordered a glass of Hoegaarden with my pizza. When the waiter brought the drink, he also handed me a blue capsule-like container without any explanation. A little confused, I opened it and found two dozen colored pencils. Apparently Hoegaarden must be doing some promotion right now, although as far as I could tell, it wasn't advertised on the menu. Pencils and beer... so random!

What's better than a gift with purchase? A surprise gift with purchase! 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Half Way

Today marks the half-way point of this intensive teaching month. Even though my voice resembles that of an adolescent boy during puberty, I'm feeling fine overall. Sure, I'm tired on a regular basis which is new for me, but I'm grateful to have a job. Plus, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. In terms of sheer fun, it's hard to beat my morning science class. Just after 11am, young Jack was right on schedule in his attempt to lead us in the UCLA cheer (some students also called out "Texas, Fight" which was endearing, too). After he grew overly excited, I suggested we do the cheer silently while making exaggerated gestures. That actually went over very well and caused far less disruption for the class next door.  

Thursday, January 14, 2010


As all the teachers out there know, students have a knack for throwing curve balls when it comes to answering questions. The unpredictability and wackiness keep me on my toes.

The junior Romeo in my science class was in top form this morning, and I lost it after one particularly unexpected comment. We've been studying natural resources, and today's lesson focused on air -how it's invisible although you can feel and smell it. I went around the room, asking the students to share their favorite scent. Their answers were diverse, though pretty much what you'd expect -cookies, roses, candy... and then, the kicker from Romeo:  "Chanel" (spoken while raising his eyebrows up + down and batting his eyelashes). Later, a different student replied that he liked the smell of cocoa, to which Romeo exclaimed:  "Teacher, Chanel has a Coco smell, too!" I am stumped... how does this 10 year old boy know these things?! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Science + Students = Comedy

There's a student in my Science class who kills me. He's either going to be an international man of mystery (a la James Bond) or a pop star when he grows up. When he's not staring off into space, he's alternately practicing his signature and raising his eyebrows (think Joey on Friends saying, "How you doin'?"). It's so hard to keep a straight face when he's in one of his performer modes, and most of the time I wind up breaking character (like Jimmy Fallon in any SNL skit). The other students are both amused and frustrated by him because while he does funny things during class, he never knows where we are in the reading when it's his turn.

Another student in the same class told me I was a grandmother after I mentioned my age last week. You know how it is... anything over 13 is ancient. Anyway, despite my logical protests (e.g. I don't have kids, so how could I be a grandma?!), he couldn't understand why I was wearing a scarf around my neck because that (apparently) is a definite old lady move. He even went so far as to ask the Korean counselor about it, which she told me today. The student's name is Jack, and after he repeatedly called me 'Grandmother,' I told him I had a Grandpa Jack who lives in Nebraska and then proceeded to call him Grandpa Jack a few times. I also went through the other kids' names in class, mentioning I had an Uncle David and that my middle name was Sarah, so now he insists on referring to me as Jennifer Sarah, which I find hilarious. Especially because he's one of the smallest, yet most outspoken, kids in the class. He also loves the UCLA cheer and tries to get the class to perform it every day. Science has never been so fun (or funny).  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oreos, Oatmeal, and Coffee -Oh, My!

Well, if a hotteok can turn around an afternoon, imagine what a care package from Texas can do (thanks, K!). My sister's carton of awesome treats arrived this afternoon, and the timing was marvelous. I'd just wrapped a hectic 3-hour science class and was partially covered in vinegar + baking soda (today was Volcano Day, Part II - The Eruption). My head was spinning from keeping track of 14 hyper students, however, I planned on foregoing my break to catch up on grading. Ironically, I'd brought tofu for lunch, which then froze from being in the refrigerator at work, which in turn made eating Oreos and oatmeal (plus some Milky Ways) for lunch all the sweeter. I have since consumed additional Oreos and am now contemplating where to hide the remaining ones so that I can prolong their lifespan in Korea...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hotteok Monday

Sometimes all you really need is a hotteok to get through a crazy day at work. Something about its impossible sweetness combined with its yeasty, slightly greasy texture, results in some serious comfort food. Bonus:  it's filling enough to sustain you for six solid hours of prep + teaching. Thus, thanks to a friend's surprise treat, I pulled through this afternoon fueled by cinnamon and sugar. And another Pepsi Nex.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rest for the Weary

Apparently I really was tired because I woke up at 1pm. Could've slept longer but realized I had about 9 hours to complete a few days of catch-up work, namely, cleaning. The lure of bleach pulled me out of bed and got me going. Oh, how I love its smell and instant cleansing effects.

As of now, things still aren't all in place, but I had to allow for a little downtime. Grocery shopping, writing thank you notes, and a few Skype calls found their way onto my list of accomplishments today, as did mindless internet surfing (there is something to be said for zoning out now and then as it helps my mind re-set). 

My hectic work week begins in 10 hours, so, time for bed.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Intensives, Day Five

Forgot to set my alarm last night and scrambled to get ready when I woke up at 8:15am. Easy mistake. After all, today is Saturday, and the last few days have left me exhausted. Fortunately I made it to work with a few minutes to spare and even had time to grab a Pepsi Nex. My energy levels followed the pattern I mentioned in yesterday's post, although at this hour I feel so tired and incoherent, I don't think I have more than a few sentences left in me.

The students were bummed about coming to school on Saturday (especially since many of them already have weekends crammed with other extra-curriculars, like math academy, art classes, piano lessons...). I tried to be extra-fun and gave them more latitude than usual. Word searches related to the readings, lots of stickers, and a can of Pringles went a long way in making class seem special (and the students enjoyed them, too).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Intensives, Day Four

In honor of Texas playing for the National Championship today, I tried to infuse my classroom with some Longhorn spirit. I wore a Texas t-shirt with jeans (plus my new snow boots -day four and counting), and I attempted to teach my morning class the "Texas, Fight" cheer. Half of them were into it while the other half rolled their eyes and looked at me like I was an idiot. (I don't have the heart to tell the spirited ones that Texas didn't win.)

My energy levels have been totally erratic this week. I arrive at work in a zombie-like state but then perk up once class starts at 10am. Am usually able to maintain momentum throughout the class and even get an extra jolt when it ends at 1pm -perfect for powering through a round of quiz grading. Then, at about 2pm I completely crash which makes subsequent lesson planning a real challenge. However, once my next class starts at 4pm, I'm back to normal (more or less) although my energy continues to fluctuate until the work day concludes.

I feel like I'm writing incoherently. Should probably sign off before I say something truly silly or regrettable. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Intensives, Day Three

Monday's snow day has really thrown off my rhythm this week. On top of the longer teaching day due to Intensives, I'm still adjusting to the idea that although today is Thursday, my work week is only half over (actually, now 3/5 over since I'm back at home). This working-a-full-day-on-Saturday concept is a tough one!

Nothing too eventful to report with respect to teaching, except:  in my Science class we were discussing how to classify animals (mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.), and then we talked about other ways you could group animals, such as by the shape of their teeth (sharp vs. flat). This led to a round of my questioning the students about the various animals they've eaten. I covered the conventional ones (cow, chicken, pig...), then branched out to the less conventional (lamb, rabbit, deer...), and finally onto the more unusual (snake, reindeer, dog, horse...). One student, who wants desperately to get the award for best participation, said he'd eaten every animal I asked about; he looked so earnest, too. I guess I'll have to believe him even if his responses grossed me out.

In other news, my apartment got re-wallpapered today, thanks to some paternal intervention. Like a good father, my dad was concerned about the mold situation and offered to cover the expense of installing new paper. He spoke with my manager, who made a few phone calls, and viola! New paper, and the building super covered the cost.

The super arrived early again this morning, and I left for work excited about returning home to a less-drab, less-moldy apartment. Then, later in the day, my colleague informed me that the work was finished but that the super told her I'd need to clean up the mess when I got back. Perhaps something significant was lost in the translation because I was left with the impression that I'd arrive home and find heaps of glue and paper on the floor. Fortunately, it was not that bad at all; more importantly, the new paper has definitely helped to brighten up the place. I'm really looking forward to a power-cleaning evening to get things into a more habitable state. For now though, sleep.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Intensives, Day Two

A naturally enthusiastic person, I've never struggled much with being upbeat or energetic. However, it was a challenge to sustain throughout the full day the necessary energy for motivating dozens of Korean kids to embrace English.

The morning began with a bang. My alarm clock went off, and within two minutes my door buzzer rang. It was the building superintendent coming to check on my hot water; he was an hour early. Not to worry... I needed to get to work earlier anyway to prep for Volcano Day. All the teachers were to lead our respective classes in the timeless art of papier-mache. We were making volcanoes, which will later erupt thanks to the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. I must have been absent on the day my own elementary school class did this beloved project because it was completely foreign to me.

Half of the students were excited to help and get messy, while the other half were dry-heaving at their desks and/or looking on with disdain. The funniest moment was when one boy took a few strips of newspaper, drenched them in the reddish colored paste, and held them to his mouth while yelling, "kimchi, kimchi!" The timing was spot-on as I was in dire need of a levity jolt. For my personal amusement, I named our creation Volcano Velasco after the eccentric neighbor in Barefoot in the Park, one of my favorite movies.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Intensives, Day One

I survived.

If pulling 13 hour days (9 hours of teaching + mandatory prep time) during the month of January is what I knowingly signed up for, then it's an unexpected delight to begin each day with the basic science class I'm now teaching. Initially I was nervous about teaching science (not my strongest subject by any stretch) to 14 students (grades 1-3!), but then I saw how cute and generally well-behaved they all were, and my apprehension dissipated. The students are still at the age where they're prone to being obedient, and positive reinforcements, like points and stickers, carry weight. Then again, maybe they were on better behavior since today was Day One.

I was excited to have four of my favorite students back. It's crazy to see how much these boys have grown since I last taught them two months ago. Not only are they taller, they act cooler, too.

A care package arrived today from a childhood friend whom I've known since I was three or four. Thank you, MW, for the awesome stamps and stickers! They're just perfect; when I handed out a few today, the students went crazy... thank you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Real Snow Day

Due to the weather conditions, school was canceled today (or I should say postponed until Saturday when we'll be working from 10am - 8pm). The timing of when I found out was pretty funny (I was about to walk out the door for work), and I'm still laughing over the fact that it never even occurred to me to look out the window while I was getting ready. Had I done so, I would've noticed 6 inches of snow on the ground and more falling.

By sheer coincidence, I happened to snap a photo yesterday in a location that I returned to today... how different things looked 18 hours later!
(last night)

(this afternoon)

Not wanting to squander away the hours indoors, I opted for a day out. First, a quick visit to the post office to buy stamps and mail letters; then, on to Lotte to exchange the boots. The store was terrific about taking them back; unfortunately, they didn't have my size. Good thing I didn't get too attached.

To broaden my options, I headed up to Dongdaemun Market only to discover that the biggest retailers are closed on Mondays. From there I ventured over to my favorite stomping ground, Myeongdong. Stores were open, and I was in my comfort zone. I found several awesome pairs of boots (some practical, many not), but none in my price range.

And so, I began envisioning the possibility of wrapping plastic bags around my shoes and binding them with tape to keep my feet more protected from the winter elements. With this thought still lingering, I tried one more place, and sure enough, they had the next best alternative:  tall boots, in my size, in a color that's tolerable, and a style that will continue to grow on me. Funny thing? They're from the Jessica Simpson collection (my inaugural pair from her label). My friend, in an attempt to be supportive, reminded me that I did spend two years in Texas and that the country detailing on the boots was kinda cute. Whatever. They're warm, comfortable, and I'm wearing them now.
(view of Cheonggyecheon, near Dongdaemun Market)

On an unrelated topic, I had my 1st grape ice cream today. It definitely tasted like grape (actually more like grape bubble gum). I may branch out and try other flavors before going back to that one, but it wasn't bad.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Function over Form

Ladies, sometimes you just have to put function first. An avowed non-fan of UGGs, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd break down and buy a pair. And yet, that day has arrived; today, in fact. To clarify:  I didn't actually purchase boots under the UGG label (they are astronomically expensive here). However, I did buy a pair from a competitor which look awfully similar. Yes, I realize I signed up for insta-cankles, but too many days in succession of having no feeling in my toes pushed me over the edge.

I'm now wearing said boots in my apartment, and my toes are enjoying some rather toasty warmth. I'm also wondering if it's possible that only three hours ago my feet were a 1/2 size smaller. When I tried on the boots at the store, they seemed to fit fine. And now, after my toes have warmed up, they feel a little too close to the boots' tips. Hmmmm... anybody have any insight? Could my feet have been smaller earlier today due to prolonged time outdoors in the extreme cold? Is it possible to stretch these boots now that I own them? Any idea on how to go about exchanging goods in a country where you don't speak the language?!  

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sad Farewell

Those who know me well have likely been anticipating this post. Yes, today was indeed a very hard day. Saying farewell to loved ones is never easy, particularly if you don't know when you'll see them again. And so I found myself for the better part of the day blinking back tears and trying to talk about bland, non-emotional topics like traffic and weather. Of course, when I actually said goodbye to my dad at the bus station, I was unable to stay collected. A very tearful hug ensued, followed by more tears once he was out of sight. The good news is that there are people in my life to get sad over when we part geographically; also:  a brand new bank of memories to reminisce about in the future.

An unexpected invitation from a local friend brought immediate encouragement my way. We met for dinner and talked about the opportunities + challenges of living abroad (thank you, c.s. mate). It was a healthy diversion and a good way to reset and begin mentally preparing for the hectic month ahead. Oh, did I mention that Monday is the start of an intensive, four-week teaching schedule (13 hour workdays)? I'll be busy, but maybe this will make it easier to get through the freezing January temps.

(Bright spots of color in the bus station vicinity which helped to cheer me after the sad goodbye)


Friday, January 1, 2010

Cold and Colder

Finally, a relatively mellow day. We spent it in Insadong, and our primary goals were keeping warm while shopping for souvenirs. Results? 
Souvenirs:  check (and some good ones, too). 
Warmth:  no, yes, no, kinda, not really... still thawing out.
There's something about extreme cold that's really energy-depleting. I do not understand how the locals stay warm, or for that matter, how this civilization has survived for thousands of years. No doubt about it, Koreans are tough. There are abundant examples, but here are a few:
  1. The girls wear short shorts in below-freezing temps and still manage to look glamorous. 
  2. The girls also wear stiletto heels everywhere -anytime, anyplace- even when the sidewalks are coated in ice.
  3. Marble stairs and floors abound -subway stations, museum walkways, apartment steps. Am not yet used to the feeling of terror experienced when negotiating icy marble surfaces.
I'm becoming tougher but still have far to go. On the bright side, extreme cold does give everyone a rosy glow, so my olive complexion is perking up.

Living in freezing temperature lends itself well to eating often. We tried different foods from street vendors, and I'm now a big fan of dokbokki (rice cakes in spicy red sauce). Cheap and hearty. We also tried an historical and beloved dessert called Kkul Tarae. It's made of honey and malt, and it has an illustrious royal lineage. The artisans run through a song while preparing it which describes the process. Apparently the candy is made of 16,000 very fine strings which symbolize longevity, health, good fortune, and wish-fulfillment. May start eating it more often if I begin to see results ;)

Here are some photos to give you an idea of the process:



Where in the World?

Machu Picchu, Rome, Stockholm, or Seoul... can you guess where we are?!