Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Little Gifts

Every now and then, a student surprises me with a little gift. I am always moved by their thoughtfulness and generosity. 

This semester alone, I've gotten a handmade headband from a student who specializes in making accessories and a bag of coffee from another. Two weeks ago, I received a pocket-sized mirror in traditional Korean design, and today a student brought me coffee and a slice of New York-style cheesecake. 

These gestures go a long way in keeping up my energy and passion for teaching. And lately they've tended to arrive at just the right time.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Last week I mentioned that my favorite Korean snack is ggul ggwabeggi. However, I probably should have specified that those honey twists are my favorite convenience store snack.

My absolute favorite street food snack are the cream-filled waffle sandwiches. I usually get strawberry cream, and wow... it is delish! Good thing there isn't a vendor located conveniently near my place; I actually have to make an effort to get one of these waffles -which, incidentally, I never do. But, when I happen upon a stand accidentally as I did this past weekend, all bets are off.

Based on my limited experience, the best vendors are in the subway stations at Sinsadong and Euljiro-1.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Promised Restoration

I love this verse which was read at church today:
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
-1 Peter 5:10
What encouragement!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Natural Romance

I spotted this signage in Myeongdong today, outside of a women's boutique. What on earth does it mean??!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Eyes of Texas

In the last few weeks, someone hung up the Lone Star flag at the dormitory across from where I live. I get to view it at least twice a day -whenever I exit and enter my building. Something about seeing that flag in Korea really warms my heart, as if the eyes of Texas were upon me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Liszt Bliss

At the invitation of a friend, I had the pleasure of attending a piano recital this evening. It was sublime. 

The talented and elegant Eun Jeong Lee performed works by Franz Liszt, and as she played, I felt myself thoroughly unwind and relax. It was incredible to sit still and focus on the blissful sounds emanating from the gorgeous grand piano before me. I imagine that the music in Heaven will be something like what I heard.

There are times when I really regret giving up on piano lessons; tonight was one of them. Although I cannot, nor could ever, perform as Ms. Lee did, at least I have access to the music itself. A big thank you to HG for sharing with me the gift of lovely classical music, particularly in a week when it's extra-needed and appreciated!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Honey Crunch

No doubt about it, my favorite Korean snack is Ggul Ggwabegi -that's honey twists for the non-initiated. 

There's usually a few bags on hand in my apartment and also at my desk at work to facilitate convenient crunching. It's tempting to tear through an entire bag by myself though, thus I make sure to only open a new one when others are around... 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ironic Monday

As I was doing my devotions this evening, I couldn't help but zero in on a particular verse from today's passage:
"Return home and tell how much God has done for you."  So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.  -Luke 8:39
I know people tend to see signs and interpret things the way they want to, but still... it struck me ironic all the same. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rejoice + Hope

One of my all-time favorite Scripture passages came up at today's church service. Like so many of my favorites, it's from Romans. I hope that it realigns your perspective and elevates your mood as it did mine:

...we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  -Romans 5:2b-5

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Moveable Mosquito Feast

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.  -Ernest Hemingway

I've begun reading A Moveable Feast and am enjoying it. Can't believe I've never read it before. Then again, I really disliked The Old Man and the Sea, which probably attributed to my avoidance of all things Hemingway. Anyway, now that I've got Paris on my mind, it seemed like an appropriate time to pick up this beloved work.

In other news, I think I've become a moveable feast for the mosquitoes of Seoul. Yesterday I woke up with three bites on my forehead and more all over my arms. This can only signal the start of a long summer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Africa + Beer

A new place is opening soon in my neighborhood... based on the sign above, what do you think they sell?!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beauty Found...

Yesterday I wrote about beauty being where you find it.

And then there are days when beauty finds you.

Funny how your mood can change on a dime when you meet the unexpected. In this case, I encountered a delightful surprise waiting at my doorstep tonight. 

While walking home from work, I replayed a conversation I'd had earlier in the day with a challenging student. Any feelings of aggravation immediately dissipated as I arrived home and found an unanticipated delivery; suffice it to say, the gallant gesture has been well-received.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seeking Beauty

One lesson impressed upon me since moving to Korea is that beauty's where you find it.

Coming from a coastal town in Southern California where breathtaking sights are prevalent and the norm, it's taken some practice to consciously seek out beauty. However, as I mark my 20th month of living here, I must say that it's definitely worth the effort. 

The area of Seoul where I currently reside is not particularly pretty, but there are patches of loveliness within my grasp. It's great to stumble upon them accidentally, but it's also nice to know where to go when I'm in desperate need of a beauty fix. 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mac Night

My guilty pleasure? 

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

What is it about the unnaturally orange-colored, narrow mini-tubes that eases an ex-pat's longing for home? Come to think of it, I don't even know if home is the right idea. Maybe it's a nostalgia fix for something that never really existed.

I'm not sure I'll ever figure it out, but in the meantime, I've got four boxes left to soothe my spirits. Since I moved here, Korea's gotten around to stocking Oreos in easily-accessible places. Here's hoping Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese finds some shelf space, too. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Model Family

I love this depiction of a Korean family which I found plastered up in Children's Grand Park.

Not sure what the text says, but the family seems to represent the ideal around here:  father, mother, son, daughter, grandma, dog, and haechi -a symbol of Seoul. The outline in the center looks like it's reserved for another human (alien??). Would love to superimpose my face onto it...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daiso Gadgets

I've just returned from Daiso, one of my all-time favorite stores. They stock the most incredible things, and everything is really cheap. I think the highest price I've seen on anything was 3,000 won.

Anyway, not only does Daiso carry items I need, they also have a ton of random things, too. I got such a kick out of these gadgets but resisted the urge to buy any:

Nose Ball Roller:

Eye Zone Slim Massager:

Double Eyelid Tape:

I Heart Lucy

Last night I did what many ex-pats in Korea consider to be the unthinkable:  I got my hair highlighted!

Thanks to a tip from a friend who directed me to a recent article in 10 Magazine^, I read an account of another ex-pat's mission to find a stylist who specialized in Western hair. Based on this woman's review alone, I called the salon and was able to land an appointment with the owner, Lucy. I'm happy to report that now I, too, can heartily endorse Lucy.

Lucy lived and trained in England for six years and recently opened up her own shop in the Shinchon area. She speaks fluent English and asks thorough questions before beginning. Her prices are reasonable, she's efficient, and she knows what she's doing! Tell her Jennifer from Konkuk sent you.

Lucy Hair
phone:  02.325.2225 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

KU Festival

Imagine a three-day party, Korean style. On campus.

Konkuk has just wrapped its annual spring festival. Every year, all the student clubs host a tent-like booth where they serve an assortment of liquor and random food (pajeon, tteokbokki, nuts, saltines, SPAM...). It is a major event around here. In fact, in the last three days, I observed families with small children as well as students from other schools joining in the festivities.

Unbelievably, most of my students managed to make it to class despite staying out until the wee hours of dawn. Good thing the festival is only once a year. I need about 12 months to recover.

Scenes from a 3-day party:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Relaxation, Seoul-style

As those who know me are aware, relaxation is not my specialty. But today I came close. 

It was a national holiday in recognition of Buddha's birthday, so I had the day off. With no set agenda, I managed to be productive and still relax, jse-in-Seoul-style. I power-walked through Children's Grand Park where I snapped a few photos with my i-Phone; cooked a real dinner (Italian, of course); and planned the framework for my next vacation. I even squeezed in lesson planning for tomorrow's class. Oh and I also did laundry and went to the grocery store... really, only going to E-Mart was stressful. Everything else was enjoyable.

Here's some of what I saw today:

 lanterns hung in Buddha's honor

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Europe in Seoul

Last night I attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem presented by the Camarata Music Company. It was sublime. This was the 3rd CMC concert I've been to, and they just keep getting better! Amazingly talented musicians and vocalists, and the ticket prices are a great value.

Before the concert my friend and I stumbled upon the annual international food festival held near City Hall. We enjoyed scrumptious French eclairs and a nice Austrian wine for the bargain price of 8,000 won ($8). 

Mozart, pastries, and wine... I'm daydreaming of Europe even more than before.



Saturday, May 7, 2011

KU Fashion Show

Konkuk is known for its fashion design program, and after attending last night's fashion show, I can understand why.

Yoon + Semi, 2 former students whose work was in the show's finale

A few students of mine were presenting their senior projects in the show, so I went to cheer them on. Overall I was really impressed with the level of work and detail that went into the collections, and I was thrilled to observe them shining in their chosen field. Plus, they got excited when they saw I was there, and that made my night even better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Konkuk Reflection

I've spent the last few hours drafting and editing a personal reflection on my first year at Konkuk, so please forgive me if my writing is less crisp. 

Since I am approaching my 1st year anniversary, my manager asked me to write down some thoughts on the experience. Indeed, it's been one of tremendous professional and personal growth, cliche as that may sound. 

Over the last year, I've taught more than 400 students and in that time learned a lot. Probably the most important lesson I've acquired is the value in cultivating an atmosphere where students feel comfortable expressing themselves. By sprinkling personal anecdotes and humor into my interactions with students, and by extension exhibiting an approachable demeanor, I've discovered that students grow not only in their level of comfort, but also in self-confidence. And it is in this type of environment where memorable and meaningful learning can really take place. 

When working with numerous students, it's tempting to think in terms of generalities. However, from the beginning of my teaching career, I've endeavored to learn the names of every one of my students and to consider them as individuals, each with unique goals and personality traits. I still have much room for development, but I find that I enjoy teaching and thus want to improve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Meaningful Blooms

Isn't it just like a personal God to allow His creation to teach us about His character?

With bright blooms popping up all over campus, I am reminded of God's faithfulness and sovereignty on a daily basis. This verse from Daniel really resonates, particularly in light of recent world events:
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. -Daniel 2:20-22