Wednesday, August 31, 2011

CA Girl

My native state of California is famous for various things, including a few stereotypes which persist around the world. Case in point:

Earlier this week, while I was introducing myself to students on the first day of class, I asked them to guess which state I was from. One student wasted no time in answering and blurted out:  California!  

I was impressed by her accuracy and asked her how she knew. Her reply:  You're blonde and tan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Healthcare Deja Vu

Healthcare Deja Vu (a.k.a. Bronchitis 2.0)^:
  • same symptoms
  • same doctor
  • same diagnosis
  • same meds
  • same low cost care
Most amazing of all? Same circumstances:  after a relaxing trip abroad, coming down with an infection on the flight back to Seoul. During today's consultation, the doctor joked that Korea could be making me sick.

^see post from July 26th for details of round 1:

Monday, August 29, 2011

NC on My Mind

A whirlwind trip but also a truly wonderful one. 

Within a day of arriving, the lyrics of James Taylor's song started to resonate more personally. And after a week's stay, well, the song's been on continual replay in my mind.   

We covered much of North Carolina's coastal region and made it out safely before the thrust of Hurricane Irene hit. Here's a few shots capturing the week:


Wrightsville Beach

Bald Head Island

Ocean Isle Beach



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Carolina in My Mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina.
Can't you see the sunshine?
   Can't you just feel the moon shinin'?
Ain't it just like a friend of mine
   to hit me from behind...
Yes, I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind.
          -James Taylor

Summer's intensive English program wraps today, and from the graduation ceremony I will fly... 

Yes, I'm going to Carolina in my mind and for real.

Back by month's end. See you then.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Although I've gotten a similar compliment before, it still takes some getting used to:
Student:  You've changed. You look so different now than how you were when classes started [4 weeks ago].
Me:  Really? Different how -tired? bad? good?
Student: Oh, good. Much, much, much better.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

BDay Love

Getting a card always makes me smile. Getting one that's traveled across the Pacific Ocean makes me beam.

Laughing with students and co-workers makes any day better. Being serenaded by them makes for an unforgettable experience.

Skyping with loved ones is a regular treat. Listening to my 3 year old niece say Happy Birthday, Aunt Jenn is extra sweet.

All in all it's been a very special and memorable birthday weekend. Thank you, everyone! xo

ps:  Woke up to some excellent news which has further boosted my celebratory mood:  excellent_news

Friday, August 12, 2011

36 Things

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? 
-Psalm 116:12

A year ago I posted a list of things for which I'm grateful. I still very much appreciate all of those items, especially since they remain a part of my life.

Today I want to share a Korea-specific list:  36 Things that Make Life Sweeter in Seoul.
  1. air conditioning
  2. neon crosses that dot the evening skies
  3. my core girlfriends:  BD, HG, and AS
  4. an interesting job
  5. friendly coworkers
  6. good neighbors
  7. a comfortable apartment
  8. a Bible-teaching church
  9. low-cost health-care
  10. clean and convenient subway system
  11. happy post office experiences
  12. the tigers, elephants, and peacocks at Children's Grand Park
  13. general public safety
  14. plentiful samples at E-Mart
  15. ArtBox stationery and office supplies
  16. Daiso deals
  17. cell phones that never drop calls
  18. tofu by the truckload
  19. ggul ggwabeggi
  20. naengmyeon
  21. hotteok
  22. cream cheese roti buns
  23. cheap nail polish that never chips
  24. eye cream from The Face Shop (Flebote Collagenic XP)
  25. lipstick and liner from Innisfree
  26. Amandier patisserie in Insadong
  27. strolling through Samcheongdong
  28. Garosugil's charm
  29. Hongdae's quirkiness 
  30. Itaewon's ethnic diversity
  31. ATM machines where I can pay my rent (no check writing!)
  32. Journey (my favorite pub, deserving of its own separate post)
  33. Cass beer
  34. Lucy at Lucy Hair in Sinchon 
  35. Boa at Juno Hair near Konkuk 
  36. daily randomness -guaranteed

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Air Quotes

The other day while talking with students, I inadvertently used air quotes when referring to one of them. This particular student is known for his no holds barred critiques of other students' work, and he also happens to be getting married soon. So, after he made yet another frank comment to a peer, I halfheartedly affirmed it by telling the recipient:  yes, you should follow [blank's] advice since he's the "love expert." Like I said, I did the air quotes without even thinking.

Shortly after, another student piped up and asked what they meant. Before I could reply, someone chimed in:  I read that Americans do that when they want to emphasize something. At that point, all eyes were on me, and I had no option but to confess:  Yes, we do make that gesture to emphasize something, but often it's to indicate sarcasm. [Pause] Which was what I'd intended.  

A lesson on sarcasm is a tricky one to explain to native speakers, let alone non-native ones. Think I'll look for some mittens over the weekend to minimize the potential for another air quote flare up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spot the Difference

Sure, it's easy to spot the difference when they're side-by-side. Or when I'm not walking absentmindedly through E-Mart with dinner on my mind. 

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of picking up a bundle of the wrong ramen (the one on the left). However, even after I got home, it took me awhile to figure this out. 

It wasn't until I began eating dinner that I clued in. As I took my first bite, I was overwhelmed by an unfamiliar taste. Thinking I was just being oversensitive, I had another bite whereupon I encountered the distinct and terrible taste of fishy kimchi. At that point, I scurried to get the remaining ramen out of my apartment so as to prevent the place from filling up with the increasingly strong fishy smell.

Lesson learned:  it pays to read Korean. Or at least take note of pictures on packaging.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's a Small Face, After All

The other day I gleaned a new insight on beauty from the locals' perspective. 

Students were talking about a peer's girlfriend and mentioned that she was pretty. Then one added something to the effect of:  her face is even a little smaller than his. This comment piqued my interest, and I asked them to elaborate. According to my sources, apparently the aim over here is to have a small face -either naturally or through plastic surgery. The gold standard is for your entire face to fit behind a CD / DVD.

I'm not sure what else to add, except that I'll probably never look at a DVD the same way again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Someday My Prince

Any time I visit Children's Grand Park, it's sure to be a surreal experience. Tonight was no exception.

Eager to keep on track with my renewed fitness goals, I stepped out for a light jog after work. No looming typhoon was going to deter me, although I did keep my iPod safely at home. While it felt strange to exercise without my favorite tunes, the sprinkling rain and blustery wind were a nice trade-off. 

By the time I arrived at CGP, I was feeling pumped up and even more so as I noticed only a handful of people in sight (mental note:  far better to visit on a rainy day than any sunny one). But the most surprising and surreal thing was jogging through the park and hearing Someday My Prince Will Come blaring overhead through the loud speakers. Such an unanticipated cannot invent this stuff.

The song's now stuck in my head. If you want it in yours too, here's a clip of Snow White singing her heart out on YouTube:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Go, Eagles

Last night I attended a baseball game (LG Twins vs. Hanwha Eagles) to celebrate a friend's birthday.  Since I had no allegiance to either team, I decided to cheer for the birthday boy's team (the Twins).  Unfortunately, it was not their night, and they lost decisively.

After the game, we went to dinner. Next to our table was a group of middle-aged men, several of whom were wearing Eagles hats and jerseys. One guy from our group said to them in Korean congratulations on your victory, and a conversation ensued. Turns out the men were very big fans of the Eagles. One was the team's current president and another was a legendary pitcher for the team. 

We all smiled and chatted for a while, and then it was time to go. When we went to pay our bill, we learned that the men had already covered it. More smiles and some newly converted fans to boot. Go, Eagles!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back on Track

One of the most difficult things, for me at least, is to begin working out after taking off extended time. However, as the saying goes:  a journey begins with a single step, and today I was finally able + ready to take that 1st step.

Always hard at first, but worth it every time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Go-to Stress Reliever

Regular readers know that my go-to stress reliever is cooking. It's an activity that I enjoy immensely, whether doing so for others or solely for myself. 

Tonight I experimented with some standards and was pleased with the results. In addition to roasting eggplant, I sauteed a chicken breast -after dousing it in olive oil, black pepper, honey + lemon juice- and then baked it until cooked through. I also whipped up a veggie dish of finely diced oyster mushrooms, garlic, and cherry tomatoes, seasoned with salt + pepper.

Nothing too crazy, by any stretch, but oh-so-liberating to be off-book... no directions or recipe in sight.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Variety Hour

Today I felt like a one-woman variety show, wearing multiple hats and portraying a range of characters.

As it is, I'm currently teaching 6 different subjects every day, Monday through Friday, which requires possession and utilization of certain chameleon-like qualities. However, today took things to a new level. Among the various roles I played:  enthusiastic teacher; scolding disciplinarian; cheerleader; taskmaster; cool and collected HR professional; encouraging friend; keen-eyed proofreader. 

I should add that depending on the class, I morphed into several of those roles in the span of an hour. 

Something tells me that this experience is not unlike being a mother... What say you, moms? 

Monday, August 1, 2011


Today we had midterms at KIEP, Konkuk's intensive English program. This summer session is flying by.

Anyway, tonight as I was grading exams, I saw that one student had written sorry to me on his paper. It's something I've noticed previously in other classes, and it's just now dawned on me to write about it. Is this a practice among students around the world or is it a Korea-specific etiquette custom? Either way, it's kind of sweet, albeit unnecessary.  

My college days are too far behind me to remember much of anything with accuracy, so I can't recall writing an apology to a teacher about my performance on a test paper. Oh, to go back in time and check!

Incidentally, in the photo above, the two carets (^^) after my name represent a type of smiley face, Korean-style.