Thursday, April 29, 2010

Donkasu Delight

A friend treated me to a scrumptious lunch today at a place near Konkik University. The restaurant is renowned for its donkasu -deep-fried, breaded pork cutlets- and omarice -deep-fried rice, encased in egg. Oh my goodness. I love me some fried foods. Can't believe how much I'm already craving another helping; will definitely return, maybe even before the week's over. I forgot to take a picture of the food, but managed to get one of the restaurant's exterior. It's in an alley, off the beaten path, and I wanted to make certain I'd know how to get back there.

After lunch I strolled around the area and ran into another friend. I love when that happens, especially in a huge city like Seoul. It makes things seem less anonymous, more personal. 

My favorite banner of the day:
A Love Party sounds good right about now...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ego Boost

One of the students in my Science class (grades 1-3) asked me what their next presentation topic would be. Since these presentations are still a few weeks away, I hadn't yet given thought to what I would assign, so as a joke I replied that the topic was to talk about why I'm a great teacher. Some students knew right away I was joking, and they played along shouting out loads of reasons. Eventually the entire class got into it, and I loved every minute as they spouted off dozens of descriptions. Most were complimentary (if only pure flattery), but some were downright funny:
  • tall (it's all relative)
  • nice clothes
  • s-shape
  • square jaw
  • good at speaking English
  • old and sad (?!?)
May revisit this brainstorming exercise for the ensuing laughs and ego boost. Soon.

ps:  Happy Birthday, Mom! xoxo

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


After what can only be described (in this public forum) as a totally unexpected and bizarre incident yesterday, it was comforting to meet with friends over lunch at the aptly named Oasis restaurant in Cheongdam.  

Everything about the place is essentially how I'd want to assemble a cafe, should I ever have one to call my own. The food (panini, salads, cakes) was outstanding, and the ambiance truly lovely. Fresh flowers in colorful arrangements were in abundant supply and included all my favorites, too -peonies, blue delphinium, ranunculus... The walls had a rustic, unfinished look, and tastefully stenciled onto them were inspiring words -a verse from Ecclesiastes and the cafe's motto:  Love and grace served here. The servers wore button-down pinstriped blouses accented with chic orange neckerchiefs, and they were attentive and cheerful. No doubt, I will be back. In fact, were it closer to my apartment, I'd probably take up part-time residence, doing everything but working and sleeping there.

The company was wonderful as well. As I reflect on our dialogue and their words of encouragement, I am reminded of these verses:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  -Hebrews 10:23-25   

Citizenship, Pt. 2 are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  -Ephesians 2:19-20

Sunday, April 25, 2010


One cool thing about living in Seoul is that you can't go too far without seeing a cross. Some are neon, some are not, but all of them remind me of the bigger picture.

At times I really do feel like an alien going about my daily routine. But when my mind starts to wander into self-pitying territory, I try to recall a favorite verse:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  -Philippians 3:20

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Taste of Italy

An Italian girl like me can only go so long without an authentic dining experience, and so I splurged tonight and visited a well-regarded restaurant in Cheongdam. Overall the food was good, though pricey. I ordered the pumpkin risotto with shrimp and truffle shavings. It was fantastic, and they weren't stingy with the shrimp. Even though there were elements that frustrated me -mediocre service, so-so bread, manager recommending a wine without mentioning the price difference- I will definitely return (wiser!). 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wrap Dress Love

Long live the wrap dress! 

Diane Von Furstenberg is credited with introducing the wrap dress back in 1973, and boy was she on to something. 

Many of you know that I'm a huge DVF fan. From NYC to SoCal, my wrap dresses have served me well. What a delight to report that I can teach in them, too. The one I wore today was a big hit. Not only did one young girl tell me how pretty it was, a student in my adult class said it was beautiful. Now that is something... appealing to two generations of Koreans in an ensemble that dates back to 70s America.   

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Rose Is a Rose

Most of the students I teach choose a Western (English/American) name to go by when they're at our school, although there are a few hold-outs who opt to keep their given Korean names. Anyway, this afternoon in an unprecedented move, two students of mine decided to change their names. Before class, "Shawn" switched to "Tim," and then during the break, "Stephanie" switched to "Briteny." At first I thought they were joking, but turns out they were deadly serious. So much so, that when I accidentally referred to them by their former names, they actually got upset.  

The whole experience was funny to me, although I tried to suppress my amusement. A lot of times, I look at kids and think She doesn't look like a Judy or He seems more like a Mark than a Fred. But in both of these cases, I actually thought that their previous names suited them. Of course, the irony is that I don't know their real names and even if I did would have no clue about their Korean connotations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Well, what do you know... it worked. Apparently getting one's mind off oneself really does make a difference. Obviously (or maybe not so obviously) I knew that intellectually, but it was beneficial to put it into practice.

The playlist definitely helped me reframe:
  • Breathe on Me, Jennifer Knapp (played this one about 7 times)
  • Your Grace Is Enough, Chris Tomlin
  • Song of Hope, Robbie Seay Band
  • You Never Let Go, Matt Redman
  • Healing Is in Your Hands, Christy Nockels
  • Above All, Lenny LeBlanc
And my new Nike Frees made me feel like I was lighter than air, so I wound up running most of the time. Speaking of wardrobe, my entire ensemble was an apt metaphor for something... maybe for me. I'd inadvertently put on UCLA track pants, a Texas tee, and my Yankees hat, and I realized as much once I was out the door. All of those places have had a profound impact in shaping my perspective on life and various cultures; no doubt my time in Seoul has already contributed much to that perspective, too.

Initially my thoughts were on running -surprised at how great it felt (the shoes!) and shocked at my ability to do it (I will pay for this decision tomorrow... my muscles are already sore). Gradually, though, my mind zeroed in on the message behind the lyrics I was listening to, especially these by Matt Redman:
Even when I’m caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won’t turn back
I know You are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Just got home, it's late.

Fighting an overwhelming feeling of being boxed in, akin to mental suffocation; can't think straight, can't take deep breaths... want to throw punches in the air but don't want to appear completely crazy. So what would you do? Who would you turn to or call out to?

Here's my experiment:  with iTunes set to some serious praise music, I'm heading out for a brisk walk around the lake. My hypothesis is that my heart will feel lighter and my mind may begin to think more clearly after this endeavor. And if I'm wrong, at least I'll get in some cardio.

Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. -Mark Batterson, In a Pit With a Lion...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Driver-less Cabs

Beware of driver-less cabs on the sides of busy roads, a sight not uncommon in Seoul.

After witnessing this phenomenon on multiple occasions, it seems fair to report that in close proximity to a driver-less cab is its driver relieving himself in bushes nearby. No need to worry though:  he leaves the car in park, sans passengers.

(The scene described above was a highlight during my walk home tonight, along with warmer temps.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My Favorite Sign

It really is my favorite, which is why I'm sharing this picture; hope it makes you smile (I always crack up whenever I see this sign, up at a few restaurants). About a week ago I posted a variation on the design, but this one's much better, no? You can bet that if and when I see another version, I'll snap a pic and post it... stay tuned.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Budget Pampering

An appointment for The Project had me out the door by 9:30am, which in my present world is very early! I woke up still reeling from the previous few days' events and, admittedly, was having a mini pity party on the long subway ride to the meeting, but then I caught sight of two guys whom I was undoubtedly meant to see. They were decked out in some serious Texas garb, and burnt orange never looked better, at least this side of the Pacific (no one pulls off Texas pride better in my book than JB). I tried to be inconspicuous snapping their picture, but I think they saw me... not the best pic, but at least you can get an idea:
The man on the right was wearing awesome cowboy boots!

After the meeting, I wound up in Myeongdong (where else!). Even though it was incredibly chaotic, as per the norm, I still managed to find a few ways to pamper myself:
  • dumplings for lunch at my favorite place
  • blackout doughnut from Doughnut Plant NYC (so funny they have shops here!)
  • new aviators (at drastically reduced pricing)
  • super-cute headbands (so cheap!) from a brand called Naughty Cat -love their tag line:  A feeling of luxury and the pursuit of cuteness 

By far the most random sighting in Myeongdong today was a group of people dressed up like sneakers, promoting New Balance:

On my way home, I walked past Seokchon Lake. The trees have continued to blossom since I was there last week, and many people were out taking photos. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Destination: Bizarro World

The thing about Bizarro World is that it can creep up on you instead of hitting you all at once. Little remarks here, unusual experiences there, different approaches to handling stressful situations, a dozen explanations for inappropriate conduct, a few awkward conversations to address the aforementioned items... and before you know it, you're walking around feeling like the immediate world is utterly bizarre, wondering if you've inadvertently taken crazy pills. 

At this point in the day/week/month, I'm not quite sure how to proceed. Do I go with the flow, aware that in this case I'm the fish out of water or do I swim upstream, ever mindful that this fish is bound to struggle but may ultimately prevail?

Sanity is the goal. Regain, then retain. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I had the oddest sensation tonight. Due to freezing temps, I took the subway home in lieu of walking. While ascending the stairs at my stop, I was enjoying a great mix on my iPod courtesy of Genius (pretty nifty tool). Then "More Than This" by Roxy Music began playing, and next thing I knew:  I felt like I was back in London emerging from a tube station (Piccadilly Circus? Leicester Square??). The feeling was so strong, and I did a double-take to verify my actual whereabouts. 

I know it's common to hear a song that takes you back, but in this case, I felt like I was actually reliving an experience from nearly 20 years ago.

In other news, a student bit me today. Intentionally. He had been writing on the walls, and I gave him three warnings to stop. After the third one, it was time to remove him from the classroom, though he had no intention of leaving willingly. As I did my best to maneuver him out of the room gently but firmly, he bit my hand which, at the time, was holding his arm. At least he didn't break the skin. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


You know that feeling you get when you're working on something really big and significant? A mixture of adrenaline, excitement, and nerves...? That pretty much sums up things around here, except that I also have added sensations induced by every OTC cough/cold/allergy medicine I can stomach right now. Not sure what exactly I'm fighting, but it's been a 2-week+ battle and I'm determined to win.

Onward, upward!

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Listing

A little plug, 'cause I'm excited. 

This blog is now included in a compilation of blogs written by foreigners living in Korea. I was just added today, so right now I'm at the top of the list. You can see it here:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

In a Pit..., Pt. 2

A few weeks ago I mentioned a book I'd started reading. Well, after temporarily getting sidetracked, I finally buckled down and finished it. Boy, do I feel motivated and inspired!  

I said it before but will do so again:  I highly recommend reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson. It's helped recharge me while sharpening my focus and sense of purpose. Several thoughts jumped off the page for me, and I underlined something on nearly every page; here are a few highlights:
  • God breaks us where we need to be broken... and once we heal, we end up stronger than we were to begin with.
  • God is in the business of recycling our pain and using it for someone else's gain.
  • Trials have a way of helping us rediscover our purpose in life.
  • Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God.
  • Many of our prayers are misguided. We pray for comfort instead of character. We pray for an easy way out instead of the strength to make it through.
  • Sometimes an unanswered prayer is God, in His sovereign wisdom, sparing us the pain of unintended consequences.
  • Think of every opportunity as a gift from God. What you do with that opportunity is your gift to God.

Here's a link to the book on Amazon so you can get your own copy:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Suddenly Spring

Spring is (kinda) here! I was beginning to wonder if we'd go straight to summer, but apparently not. Anyway, I ventured out around my neighborhood this afternoon to snap some shots of spring emerging.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Distinctly Korea

For each bit of Americana that I stumble upon, there are dozens of distinctly Korean touches. I plan to take many photos this weekend, but here are a few to tide you over:

 Haechi:  a mythical creature + Korea's mascot

 the SPAM box set is a popular host gift

Thursday, April 8, 2010


There are bits of Americana sprinkled throughout Seoul. Sometimes things look so out of place that I laugh and take a picture. Other times I smile, knowing that "home" isn't all that far away.

 Haven't been inside yet, though I want to check it out to reconnect with Texas.

This Snow White statue cracks me up every time I pass by... it's in front of a fancy corporate building and seems out of place -especially because Snow and the dwarves are positioned among giant mushroom statues (where's Alice?!)

The King greets visitors at this place, while Marilyn stands near the exit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Big 200

Aware that this day was soon approaching, I still didn't give much thought into what I'd actually say to commemorate the 200th posting. I guess I figured inspiration would strike at an opportune moment. Alas, it appears that's not the case... Maybe it's because I've been in a bit of a fog lately, battling a lingering cold and sorting through things in my mind; or maybe it's because I've learned to expect the unexpected on any given day since inevitably something funny, strange, and/or remarkable occurs. Regardless, I guess I got complacent thinking inspiration would come to me.  

And so, with this posting, I'd like to renew my commitment to bring Seoul to you -with vivid descriptions and pictures. It'll be good for posterity, and it's the least I can do to show my appreciation for your continued support.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Statue of Ice Cream

We were discussing likes and dislikes in one of my lower-level classes today, and the subject of ice cream came up:  Do you like ice cream? I like ice cream. One student raced to the front of the classroom and began animatedly drawing on the board. He drew what appeared to be the Statue of Liberty holding an ice cream cone. I asked him if that was what he'd intended, and he -along with the entire class- nodded in agreement. Apparently they deduced Lady Liberty carries an ice cream, not a torch. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Focus 2

Today was rough. I slept only a handful of hours, and not consecutively. I woke up to find more sad news in my in-box, and all I really wanted was to stay in bed, nursing my cough and headache. One of the last places I wanted to be was in a classroom setting, trying to inspire impressionable minds to think differently. Nonetheless, I pushed through, albeit weakly. Curiously, I held back the tears, at least until I got to work (maybe being there was the tipping point). Then, in the privacy of my classroom I let go, and down they fell.

It's very difficult to be away from loved ones during challenging times; there's only so much I can do thousands of miles away, making me feel useless in the support category. On top of that, lately I've been feeling especially estranged as I go through my own routine here -the frameworks and resources I tend to rely on are often so irrelevant and serve as a continual reminder of my alien status. 

With my focus turned inward as outlined above, you can imagine how burdensome the day appeared. But then! Later, as I was preparing my lesson plans, I was jolted by the realization that while covering the Roman Empire tonight in my middle school history class, we would also discuss Jesus and His crucifixion and resurrection. What a radical concept and such perfectly ordained timing; it was exactly the shock I needed to (once again) realign my focus. 

Less of me, more of Him...