Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Farewell, Korea

Dear Korea,

We met two years + three months ago, and my what an adventure we've had! You've changed a lot, and I have, too. 

As I prepare to depart from your land of morning calm, I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude. 

Thank you for drawing an eclectic mix of individuals. Many of them have become my friends and have been swell companions as we explored your buzzing terrain together.

Thank you for your randomness and quirkiness. They've kept me intrigued and given me ample inspiration for writing.

Thank you for pushing me every day to challenge myself. During those moments when I began to drift into a comfort zone of sorts, you threw me a curve ball and kept me on my toes.

Finally, thank you for reminding me on a daily basis where to find my strength and put my hope. Through little serendipities and all-out miracles, God's presence in my life felt more real and alive here than ever before.

In closing, you've given me amazing experiences and memories. I'll always be grateful for my time with you. Let's keep in touch, shall we?

Until we meet again,


Monday, December 19, 2011


Don't stop believin', hold on to that feelin'.  -Journey

One of my favorite places in all of Seoul is Journey -a Kondae bar, owned and operated by Jason Yim. My friends here know that Journey is where I like to go to listen to good tunes and enjoy good conversation.

There are several reasons why Journey is special, but first and foremost is Jason himself. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of 20th century music, and his memory for customer names and details is extraordinary. His music collection is comprised of more than 6,000 albums, and he knows exactly where to locate any song that customers request.

On this, my last night in Korea, I'm reflecting on the things I'll miss most. Jason and Journey rank high on the list.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Food Promotions

HG and I were in for quite a treat today with not one but two photo-worthy promotions. Both were related to food -ironic given our deep shared interest in that subject.

First up, in Myeongdong:  a lethargic Colonel Sanders distributing flyers for KFC while apparently conserving energy:

Next, in Insadong:  the sushi-heads -vastly more energetic and eager for a photo opp:

Gosh, I'm gonna miss the daily randomness...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cute or Creepy?

By now faithful readers must have realized there's no shortage of cute in Korea. For the record, however, not everything dwells in the cutesy realm.

That said, I'm still deciding on whether these banners are aiming for cuteness or if they're just flat-out creepy. They appear to be promoting a DJ-hosted New Year's Eve party for the 18 and over crowd, featuring cartoonized men in drag. 

Cute or creepy?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Back to Brown

Lucy worked her magic on my hair yet again, and now I'm back to brown -which I love. I definitely feel more like myself with warm brown low-lights vs. lots of blonde highlights.

Here we are, striking the ubiquitous kimchi pose:

And then, really hamming things up with the famous heart pose, popular with Korean couples:

PS:  I still love Lucy! She really does an awesome job, particularly with westerners' hair. For more info, visit her website at:  http://lucyhair.com/, and tell her Jennifer from Konkuk sent you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Turtle Melon Bread

How have I managed to live in Korea for 2+ years and never notice turtle melon bread before today? 

These pastries are just so darn cute, and after spotting them earlier at E-Mart (where else?!), I'm super curious to know what they taste like.

Readers, weigh in:  is turtle melon bread worth deviating from my South Beach Diet regime?

HK Kitchen Domination

Have just returned from E-Mart where I stumbled upon significant proof that Hello Kitty is indeed taking over the world. This display focused on her dominance of the domestic realm, specifically the kitchen.

How will I survive in America without easy access to an HK whisk? Or knife?! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thank You Notes

My last week at Konkuk is rapidly coming to an end -a bittersweet time indeed. It has been an incredible joy to teach at this university and interact with so many motivated students (and faculty!) for the last year and a half. I'm grateful to have met them all and trust many of us will remain in contact. 

Right now we're in the midst of finals, and things are hectic as we wrap up the semester. As someone who thrives on encouragement, I was delighted to find notes from a few students on the back pages of their exams. In the cases above, these words were written by three students who consistently demonstrated exceptional effort in every class, making my job all the more joyful and fun.


To all of my colleagues and students who may be reading this:  thank you for giving me the privilege and honor of working with you. I miss you already and hope you'll keep in touch.

Martin Luther

Last week on my way to the National Pension Office, I passed by a statue of Martin Luther. It was such an unexpected sight, one I truly enjoyed.

I've been thinking about Luther a lot ever since -what an inspiring man! In his lifetime, he expressed profound, life-changing ideas and accomplished great things. Here's one of my favorite quotes:
God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.  -Martin Luther

Nearby the statue Luther, was another rather intriguing work of art. What do you make of it?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cinderella Surgery

It's well-known that plastic surgery is socially acceptable and common in Korea. Every day I see advertisements for various procedures, and while the signs may still make me sad on occasion, they don't faze me as much as they used to. In fact, I generally ignore them. Unless they're original and clever, like the one below:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. Sim's Largesse

On behalf of the group, I returned to Mr. Sim's store today to purchase more gloves for folks at Seoul Station. Not only did Mr. Sim honor last week's special discounted pricing (10 pairs for 30,000 won), he also threw in a big bag of scarves. 

The bag was really heavy, and after getting home and examining the contents, I understood why:  25 warm winter scarves were tucked inside.

The group also experienced another surprising windfall:  last night we received clothing donations from two friends -a thick wool scarf and a heavy winter jacket- and financial donations from two others. It reminds me of the loaves and fishes account found in all four gospels. 

Key takeaway:  God can multiply meager resources into unexpected largesse by stirring people's hearts. Awesome!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Unusually Superstitious

Does anything seem unusual about this elevator sign? I noticed it yesterday at the National Pension Office in Songpa-gu.

Since when are 2, 11, and 12 on the superstitious numbers list?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pension Office

A visit today to the National Pension Office was slick as a whistle, to borrow an expression from my grandpa. 

In fact, the NPS Songpa branch in Jamsil may just be my all-time #1 experience at a Korean government-run office, which is saying a lot considering how much I enjoy going to the post office here.

I love the NPS motto hanging up on their office walls. It's hard to read in the photo, but it says:  Deeper Love, Better Service. Can you imagine seeing that at your local IRS or USPS branch?!

The Songpa NPS branch is very close to Jamsil Station. Exit gate 8, and walk about 200 meters, then turn left. It's directly across from the giant Tesco.

taken in front of the NPS office, facing out -Tesco's in the background

For those who may also be leaving Korea soon, visit the NPS website^ to look up your local branch office; then, make sure you bring the following items with you:
  • passport
  • alien registration card
  • one-way plane ticket out of Korea (departure date must be within 1 month of filing with NPS)
  • your Korean bank info (bank book)
  • your foreign bank info (voided check or bank statement)
^NPS English site:  http://english.nps.or.kr

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kosney Cute

Kosney is one of the stores in Korea that I'll surely miss. We don't really have any shops like it in the States -or, at least, none commonly found. Along with Artbox, another favorite, it is an avalanche of sugary-sweetness. Cuteness to the extreme.

Incidentally, I'm completely within their target demographic. It's not like it's a Build-A-Bear or Disney Store. They've got clothes, accessories, stationery, home furnishings, candy, and more. In a way, it kind of resembles an Anthropologie, except Kosney's cute quotient is off-the-charts and unparalleled.

Ahhh, Korea. The limits of cute know no bounds here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Couples in Korea take their couple status very seriously. Very. Seriously.

This cultural phenomenon manifests itself in various ways. For example, there are numerous couples celebrations -Valentine's Day and White Day are only the beginning. There's actually a couples event on the 14th of every month, each with a different theme (e.g. Photo Day, Green Day, Hug Day). Couples also mark and celebrate their days of being together, as in 100 days, 200 days, 300 days...

And then there are the ubiquitous couples clothes and accessories. Sweatshirts, caps, shoes, rings, cell phone charms... 

Tonight's photos depict couples undies (mainly because these are pics I had in my stash). I'll search for more couples items to photograph in the next few days and try to get them posted here soon. Shouldn't be too difficult -an entirely separate blog could be devoted to this topic.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Neo What...?!

A student was wearing this shirt the other day. I have no idea what it means. I wanted to ask him, but then I envisioned two outcomes:  
  1. he wouldn't know the meaning either, OR:
  2. he'd explain it to me, and an awkward conversation would follow. 
Thus, I'm resigned to letting it remain a mystery. Unless, of course, you happen to know...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Namdaemun Generosity

We had such a windfall today with regard to our Seoul Station outreach, that I feel compelled to mention it here.

In short, there's a vendor in Namdaemun that I like to patronize. He's friendly, and his prices are fair. He's accustomed to seeing me pass by and/or through his shop on a now-weekly basis and is familiar with what we've been doing at the station.

Today we popped in to buy a bunch of gloves. Not only did he give us terrific pricing on 10 pairs, he also threw in -free of charge- five beautiful + warm, red-checked scarves. We were amazed at his generosity and vowed to return next weekend for more supplies.

After bringing the goods to new and old acquaintances at Seoul Station, I returned to Namdaemun to express our gratitude. Not merely in words, but also by dropping off a few beverages and, more importantly, spending more money in his shop. The hat pictured below is a new acquisition. And my niece REP is going to be getting a set of pink bunny earmuffs in her Christmas stocking...

Readers, if you're in the market for scarves, mittens, gloves, earmuffs, or hats, go to Yoo Seong Cap, easily accessed from Gate 8. Ask for Mr. Sim, and tell him Jennifer of Seoul Station sent you.

Yoo Seong Cap (Mr. Jeong-Il Sim, owner)
#36-1 D-dong, 33 Namchang-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
tel:  02.754.1936
mobile:  010.3715.3814

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Korean Cosmetics Stores

Oh, how I adore Korean cosmetics stores!

They get me excited on multiple levels, but here are a few reasons:
  1. free samples just for walking inside (window shopping okay, the girls exclaim to get you in the door)
  2. super cute packaging
  3. effective products at awesome prices
  4. more samples with purchase
Tonight I stayed local in Kondae, but there were plenty of shops competing for my attention. Ultimately I spent the bulk of my time in Etude House. Can you blame me after checking out these pics...?!

roll-on perfume in citrus

 the best nail polish at the best prices!

nose hair trimmers

hair mask

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pakistani Cooking

Biryani and raita and lentils, oh my! 

Have just returned from my first Pakistani cooking class. Our teacher, Monica, hails from Pakistan and now lives in Itaewon where she offers cooking classes in her home. It was a treat to watch and learn as she demonstrated how to prepare a full Pakistani meal.

A bigger treat, however, was dining on the finished product (photos below). 

For those interested, I'm eager to try out these new recipes, especially when I get back to the States. Hungry?



happy students with our teacher

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time...

Never mind that I'm leaving in 18 days. I've still got two and a half weeks to celebrate Christmas right here in Seoul. And since today's December 1st, it seemed as good of a time as any to put up a few festive decorations. 

I was in a rush and shot the photos with my iPhone, but nonetheless they're here for posterity. I may re-shoot them later, but things are starting to get hectic. As for the apartment, it looks and feels extra cozy.

I love the Christmas season! For me, it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Cue Andy Williams:  andy_williams_version^. 

^thanks, DS, for prompting tonight's post title + song reference!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Desk Standing

I did it!

It took me a full class to work up the nerve, but by my second one today, I was able to infuse some Dead Poets Society desk standing into my final lecture. 

Must say, it was awesome, and it definitely made an impression.

On a side note, I got a lump in my throat while saying goodbye to the students in that class but fortunately was able to suppress the sadness. Barely.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brow Horror

A picture may say 1,000 words but not necessarily the ones you're intending.

Upon recommendation from a trustworthy source, I set off this morning to get my eyebrows shaped. Armed with two photos (depicting different angles of the same model), I walked into my appointment at the Benefit Brow Bar in Lotte Department Store, Star City. Although the brow specialist spoke limited English, I figured I was in good hands. 

Very clear photos + a solid recommendation = guaranteed success, right?


Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

During the procedure, my eyes were closed. Once finished, the specialist proudly handed me a mirror to see the results.

Shock, confusion, and horror ensued, followed by outrage.

Ten hours later, I'm still feeling all of the above emotions to varying degrees. However, some positives came out of the experience, and I'm trying to focus on them:
  1. Key general lesson:  assume nothing, particularly when it comes to other people interacting with your face. 
  2. Key beauty lesson:  photos only work in conjunction with mutually understood verbal communication. 
  3. Key spiritual lesson:  to paraphrase Tim Keller, a test to determine what we idolize or desire too strongly is to pinpoint the thing that would make us enraged/inconsolable/sick with fear if we lost it... so I think I've answered that question, and it's clear what desire I need to keep in check.
Additionally, JB and BD were unbelievably effective in helping me calm down. (JB:  truly one of your shining moments; you got me laughing in short order + made me feel so loved. BD:  your empathy + fact-finding mission in search of re-growth tips helped tremendously! Ditto on making me feel super loved.)

In the days ahead, I'll be searching for miracle-producing eyebrow pencils, shadows, and tools. Readers, your suggestions are always welcome.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Choco Pies

Oh, choco pies! How you confound me.

How can something so indisputably artificial-tasting still maintain an allure? Is it your new packaging which appeals to the American patriot in me? 

The cashier at E-mart smiled as she rang up the five boxes I purchased tonight (total pie quantity:  120). Wonder if she thought I was planning to eat them all? 

Hopefully I won't be eating any of them. My final lecture for each of my classes is coming up later this week, and I thought I'd go out with a sweet bang. Depending on whether I can work up the nerve, I may throw in a little Dead Poets Society desk-standing, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

1, 2, 3, Kimchi!

It's a universal practice that when taking photos over here, one must flash the kimchi sign.

What's that, you ask? Westerners know it as the peace or victory sign, but in Korea it's something else. I've heard it means cute or kimchi , but whatever the case, it's ubiquitous. Kids learn it at a young age, and the practice continues long into adulthood.

These pictures, snapped furtively by yours truly, illustrate the custom.

Step 1:  Getting into Position

Step 2:  Flashing the Sign

the little guy on the right will catch on soon enough...