Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shanghai Bound!

Heading out now... will resurface in a few days.

In the meantime, take care and stay tuned for lots of photos and anecdotes to come!

Monday, July 26, 2010

You Are Perfect

One of my favorite modern movies is Love Actually, and one of my favorite scenes in that film is when Mark holds up handmade posters proclaiming his love for Juliet. I usually tear up while watching that part. However, seeing the sign above hanging in front of a shoe store in Hongdae was rather unexpected and turned out to be a fun + quirky surprise. For all I know, it's the name of the shop itself.  

Nice to know at least some locals around here appreciate that bittersweet scene as well. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Any Given Day

My sincere apologies for the lapse in posts. I'm still adjusting to my new schedule and with it, a more frenetic pace. Going well thus far... just hectic. Or, as they say here:  Pali, Pali (Faster, Faster! or:  Hurry, Hurry!).

It's amazing what you can experience during any given day in Seoul. On Friday, I was in Itaewon where I helped students interview foreigners for a course project. I also introduced them to Taco Bell for their own personal gastronomical development. 

While in Itaewon, I popped into Tartine, a tiny bakery renowned for their scrumptious tarts (they did not disappoint; the pecan pie a la mode was divine.). 

On Saturday night, I was out in Hongdae with friends. We ate dinner at the Sexy Pig where we dined on galbi and sam gap sal. The restaurant's name and logo had long intrigued some of us, so we finally checked it out. After dinner we headed to a Moroccan wine bar which had a very cool ambiance. It was in the basement of a building and had really high ceilings. We sat on cushions on the floor (which reminds me, I need to work on my flexibility...). From there we went dancing at Jane's Groove. Those who know me may recall that dancing is not one of my gifts, but I wanted to be a good sport. And anyway, for me at least, it was really more about the sensational people-watching. I felt like a behavioral scientist observing the wide range of activity surrounding me.
the irresistible Sexy Pig

And now, time for bed. Exciting week ahead!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Shark Attack!

Didn't mean to scare you. Honest! I'm just excited about this icy treat I tried tonight. A student mentioned that it was a favorite snack of his, and he grew very animated as he described it to me. So, after dinner I popped into 7-11 to pick one up. They're good and perfectly refreshing, particularly on a crazy-humid day like this one.  

In case you're wondering about the shark tie-in:  the popsicle, a mix of citrus and strawberry flavors, is shaped like a shark fin.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In a Pickle

Another element of Korean life which may surprise you is the side of pickles popping up in the oddest of places. For example, they arrive when you order pizza. Or fried chicken. Or Thai noodle dishes. I even got an unexpected serving the other day when I visited an Indian restaurant -they came with my garlic nan and chicken tikka masala. It's worth noting that the pickles are sweet, never dill. And even though I don't care for sweet pickles, I usually eat them anyway, maybe out of habit at this point. Or maybe to ward off potential illnesses which they could help to prevent. Who's to say, really? 

When in Seoul, when in Seoul...

      an unusual rendition of chicken tikka masala (peculiar sauce!), served with pickles

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It May Surprise You...

I've lived in Seoul for 10 months now, and every day presents new opportunities to experience a culture which, in many ways, is vastly different from whence I came. Still, at times I lose track of the differences, so I thought it would be fun to start posting them here -perhaps an occasional feature of this blog. In any case, here's a starter set...

It may surprise you:
  • there's no tipping.
  • girls and women of all ages will walk hand-in-hand; guys, too.
  • shower slippers are a normal part of life. It is funny though to see people sometimes wearing them outside.
  • anything goes in fashion... except when it doesn't. Case in point:  girls will wear the absolute shortest of skirts, yet it's rare to see them in tank tops or anything exposing their shoulders or with even the slightest hint of cleavage. This is an ongoing + troublesome issue for my expat friends and me since we love our tanks and would never be caught dead in the ubiquitous micro-minis.
  • Converse sneakers are worn by at least 80% of teens and twenty-somethings. Males and females.
  • it's socially permissible for women to smoke, however unlike their male counterparts they mustn't walk down a street with a lit cigarette. Rather, women must be more covert, for instance:  smoking in designated areas within cafes and restaurants, away from the general public.
  • couples clothing is very real and alive. I've lost count of the matching tee-shirts and/or Converse and/or hats worn by young couples. Today I even saw coordinated (and bleached!) hairstyles. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

End + Begin

Today marked the end of a two-week session in which I taught conversational English to two small groups. It was such a delight to talk with the students in an intimate setting. We spent 90 minutes each day discussing various topics relating to culture and had several lively debates. I learned a lot about Korean culture from these individuals and will really miss them.  

Of course, there wasn't much time to dwell on those classes since as soon as they wrapped, I began preparing for Monday -the start of an intense 5-week English immersion camp where I'll be teaching a variety of subjects to students of varying proficiency levels. The materials look interesting, and from what other teachers have shared, it sounds like a fun session. Plus, apparently the time flies given all the diverse activities. And, perhaps best of all (or, at least up near the top!):  I have my own T.A.! He seems totally on the ball and told me that he's the captain of all the other T.A.s, so I shouldn't stress because I'm getting 'the best.' Nice! 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Growing Up

Lately I've been thinking about a passage from Mere Christianity. Since it's been on my mind, I thought I'd share it with you:
When the most important things in our life happen we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. A man does not always say to himself, 'Hullo! I'm growing up.' It is often only when he looks back that he realises what has happened and recognises it as what people call 'growing up.' [...] it may be so gradual that no one could ever point to a particular hour or even a particular year. And what matters is the change itself, not how we feel while it is happening.
 -C.S. Lewis

Maybe those words will get you thinking about your circumstances in a new way; they've certainly inspired me, particularly as I'm immersing myself in a new job and environment.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day with Coffee

What a difference a day (with coffee) makes!  

Big thanks to many of you for your kind words and concern over my caffeine-deprived yesterday. Today was much better in terms of coffee intake, and I did feel far more productive. Good thing, too, as my hours at work are picking up, and I have loads to prepare for a new teaching session which begins on Monday.  

Recently I ran across this sign in front of a cafe; thought it would be especially appropriate to share it with you now:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day without Coffee

Big mistake.

A couple factors prevented me from having my morning coffee, and as I carried on with my day, I wondered if there'd be any impact. By 1pm I had my answer in the form of a severe headache. Grrr...! By the time I could actually get a coffee, it was too late in the afternoon to consume caffeine without it affecting my sleep. And so, I powered through with a pounding headache and muddled thoughts, vowing to allot enough time for coffee every morning. Starting tomorrow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hope Market

Yesterday after church I visited Hongdae's Hope Market. It's an arts-n-crafts fair, held every Sunday afternoon at a neighborhood park. I'd read about the market beforehand and had been interested in checking it out. Although I didn't purchase anything, it was nice to be there, surrounded by entrepreneurial artists hoping to sell their wares (it kinda made me miss my little jseBellaFoto business). As you'd expect, some booths were stocked with well-designed items, while others were less so. A good reminder though that art and design are very subjective, and isn't it wonderful that we all have our own unique preferences...?!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Paris en Korea

My eyes, nose, and mouth just made a quick trip to Paris, and oh was it grand!

I stopped by Paul and Paulina, Hongdae's renowned French bakery, to pick up a baguette. Alas, they'd already sold out. While waiting for a new batch to be made, I splurged on a chocolate croissant, fresh from the oven. Oh la la!! Although I may have just consumed my entire weight in butter, it was worth every calorie.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Bell, Pt. 2

It opened early... and I was there!

Had a suspicion they might be doing a soft opening, and so I decided to pop over to Itaewon to verify. Sure enough, The Bell was open for business, and it was hopping inside. The store has three levels of seating and was quite full of customers. Plus, I watched as numerous people took their orders to go. I, myself, opted to eat in. Twice. I kinda choked when it was my turn to order and wound up asking for a steak quesadilla (which I never get!). It was good, and I started to leave but then realized what I'd really been craving was refried beans. So, I got back in line and ordered a bean burrito. All in all a good experience, and yes, I'm sure I'll be back soon.  

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bring the Happiness

Many a time I've done a double-take when spotting signs and posters on display here. The one above continues to perplex me. Also perplexing are the odd sayings emblazoned across countless tees. I seriously wish I could take pictures and post them for your amusement, but I don't want to get into the whole process of asking the shirt wearer for permission, etc. The one that really cracked me up today was on a young college girl and read:  WE'RE NOT MEANT TO BE LOVERS [all in caps and boldface type].

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Bell

At last, Taco Bell will soon be open for business! Hooray for comfort food!

I'm getting mixed reports as to whether it's officially opening on Saturday or Sunday, but regardless, it's just days away. While there are already a few Taco Bells in Korea (located on military bases), this one's civilian-friendly. The only slight issue is that it's in Itaewon -a neighborhood I generally avoid. Am now making bets with myself on how soon I'll make it over there, and how frequently I'll visit.

Another thing I'm trying to predict:  how will this Taco Bell incorporate Korean flavors into its menu... kimchi crunch wraps? Bulgogi burritos? Tteokbokki tacos?


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


As far as I could tell, this shop sells neither eggs nor kids, however they did appear to have furniture in stock. Would love to know how they came up with their name. It's certainly catchy and memorable, although now I'm thinking about all the amazing egg dishes served at brunch:  eggs benedict, eggs florentine, scrambled eggs...

Monday, July 5, 2010

(Un)failing Coolness

She had...the unfailing coolness acquired in the endless struggle with the heat.                               
-F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Last of the Belles

Perhaps one day the above could be said about me, but I seriously doubt it. Still trying to navigate how to get from A to B without looking like a hot mess. Five NYC summers and two years in Texas should've gotten me acclimated to the humidity, right? Ahhh... at least they served as signposts for what lay ahead.  

No pressure or anything, but today I began teaching a summer course focused on the themes of fashion and culture; a few students looked like they came to class straight from the runway.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy ATM Day

Although it was by no means the highlight of my day, I had a minor freak-out. While I was attempting to get cash from an ATM, the machine malfunctioned, dispensed no money, and kept my card. Watching this all unfold, about a dozen scenarios raced through my mind, none of them positive, and I kinda panicked. But then, as I came to my senses, I turned to find a couple behind me and asked them for help; the girl spoke enough English to understand my dilemma. I'm not sure what she did, or what exactly happened, but within a minute or two, my card popped out of the machine. We were both happy with the outcome, me slightly more so.

In other news, it's strange to be away from the States on July 4th. I think I said Happy 4th to only one person today. So, I'll close by addressing all the Americans out there:  Happy 4th to you! 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Unexpected Encouragement

Amid all the activity of this week, I've been preoccupied with the persistent thought of:  what am I really doing here? Doing, as in how is my contribution to this world stacking up with the blessings and talents God's given me? Here, as in Korea. I've been second-guessing myself and wondering a lot about my immediate future and longer-term plans. Like other expats I know, I struggle at times with pangs of loneliness and being homesick. Even though intellectually I can grasp what C.S. Lewis says in The Weight of Glory -this desire for my own far off country is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in my experience [I'm paraphrasing], I still find myself missing it, or at least the idea of it.  

So, given that context, I was taken aback by something interesting that happened yesterday morning. I awoke to an email from an acquaintance, someone I don't even know very well. But he knew I was living here and felt moved to offer encouragement, recognizing life abroad can be difficult at times. He also shared a timely reminder that God is with me and that moving to Korea is likely part of a greater plan.  

Perfect timing.  

Lost in Hongdae, Pt. 2

Over the last couple of days, I've been snapping pics in my new temporary neighborhood while sorta pretending I work for a travel magazine. Not that they're professional-quality shots by any means, but the sheer quantity I've taken has been enormous. It's exciting and invigorating to be in an environment that stimulates me creatively. Anyway, for whatever they're worth, here's another batch.

Scenes from Hongdae:


Friday, July 2, 2010

Lost in Hongdae

It has been such a thrill to explore a different part of Seoul. As I mentioned, I'm housesitting for friends in Hongdae. The neighborhood centers around Hongik University and reflects the school's artistic focus. Hongdae is considered the heart of Seoul's indie scene -a major contrast from my previous neighborhood which felt relatively suburban and sanitized.  

Here are a few snapshots to give you a sense of my new surroundings. Over the next six weeks, I plan to visit many of the funky coffee shops, restaurants, and cool boutiques, so stay tuned.