Friday, September 30, 2011

Off to Hanoi

In just a few hours my plane departs for Hanoi. This is a trip I've long been looking forward to, ever since I visited Ho Chi Minh back in 2005. While I'll only be away for three days, I plan to cover a lot of ground and snap loads of pics.

See you again early next week!

(Oh, and in the meantime, here's a shot of a recent Seoul sunset. We don't see many like this around here:)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Oh, yes I did!

As locals know, buying toilet paper is no small purchase in Korea, and it requires a certain level of commitment. Unlike in the States, it's rare to find four rolls to a package. Instead, there are usually 16 to 24 rolls bundled together. Thus, every few months you face the monumental decision of which pattern to buy. Very tricky.

Pattern options that I've passed over include dolphins, teddy bears, and pithy sayings. And I've learned one must be very careful to avoid the scented batches which are plentiful (unless you're into that thing). 

Tonight, after two years in Korea, I broke down and went for Hello Kitty. It seems pretty natural. After all, Miss HK was probably my very first exposure to Asian culture, at least my earliest memory of it.

Have I crossed over...?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sun Protection

After two years of living here, I'm still amused by the sight of umbrellas on sunny days.  My foreigner friends and I are always rolling up our sleeves and aiming to walk on the sunny side of the streets, while the locals head for the shade and tug on their long sleeves.

The best sun protection of all, however, is that embraced by the ajummas^. Ahhh, yes. These ladies really know how to stay protected. With their huge visors, wrap-around sunglasses, face masks, scarves, long sleeve shirts, tracksuit pants or walking shorts, and driving gloves, they ensure that less than 3% of their skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Believe me when I say that I'd love to snap some pics. However, up until now I've been hesitant because these women are assertive and tough. The photo below was taken from a far distance, but I'm posting it anyway to give you an idea.

^a post devoted to ajummas is in the works, but there's just so much to say -so many angles- that I'm still trying to edit my thoughts... stay tuned.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Martyrs Shrine

Recently I had an opportunity to visit the Korean Martyrs Museum-Shrine located near Hapjoeng station. The Museum-Shrine was originally built in 1967 on land where thousands of Catholics were killed for their faith from 1866-1873. 

According to the Archbishop of Seoul, the Shrine-Museum was established to "reawaken and renew the faith" of every visitor (you can read more about the Shrine-Museum here: korean_martyrs_museumshrine). Indeed, it is a powerfully moving and unique place to visit, particularly here in Seoul, as peace and a spirit of reverence pervade the grounds -difficult to come by in these parts.

The photos below depict the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross (as Catholic readers may know, not all of these traditional stations have clear biblical foundation). During our visit, I learned that in 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new version of the Stations based entirely on Scripture (which you can learn more about here:  Scriptural Stations). 

As my friend wisely noted, there really ought to be a 15th Station as Jesus did not remain in the grave but rather was resurrected. His resurrection is in fact the historical basis for the faith and hope of Christians, myself included.     

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Shaken + Moved

Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see. Find your Calcutta.  -Mother Teresa
We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, but we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.  -Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

When was the last time you read something that really shook you to your core? For me, that time would be tonight. I've started reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, and it's felt like a swift kick in my gut -and heart.

Through the sharing of autobiographical nuggets, which he intertwines with quotes from St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Soren Kierkegaard (to name a handful), Claiborne presents a viable model of community that fits into neither Democrat nor Republican mold. Instead, he strives to demonstrate how to live out the Gospel as an ordinary radical [his term].

I'm more than half way through the book, feeling simultaneously convicted, frustrated, and inspired. Already I'd wholeheartedly encourage anyone lacking in motivation or sense of purpose to pick it up. But only if you're prepared to get shaken.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Garlic Galore

Yesterday while walking through Bukchon Hanok Village, I noticed a pick-up truck overflowing with garlic. Just being next to it made me feel healthier. 

I wanted to buy some garlic, but all I needed was a single bulb, not two dozen, which is apparently how this vendor prefers to sell his goods.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Feelin' Feelish

This sign hanging up at the Konkuk subway station confounds me whenever I encounter it. The poster itself is difficult to read given the way the lighting hits the glass which encases it, but it's the wording that really trips me up.


Is that like a hybrid of feeling + foolish?

Or feel + English?   

Or [your thoughts here]...?

Oh, Konglish, how you bewilder me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hairy Legs

Recently I gave students an assignment to write about their friend who was least like them. The most memorable paper, written by a male student, went something like this (I wish I'd made a copy!): 
My friend has hairy legs. I never thought I would have a friend whose legs were like a primitive man's. The first time I saw his legs, it was so shocking!
Days later, I'm still cracking up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Umami Fest

Tonight's dinner was a tribute to umami. An umami fest, if you will. 

Prompted by the huge box of laver I brought home (a Chuseok gift, courtesy of my employer), I decided to jazz up my typical dinner of tofu and cucumbers and toss in some dried seaweed. Actually, what I really did was wrap the laver around cucumber slices and chunks of cooked tofu (seasoned with smoked sea salt + soy sauce). Messy but tasty! 

I'll deal with the sodium overkill tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Raw Meat

Like other foreigners who have relocated to Korea, I've noticed that there's something very different in how restaurants promote their meat dishes. Big outdoor banners featuring photos of raw meat are ubiquitous around here. I try to block them out of my mind, but the truth is, they're everywhere. 

Unless meat is meant to be served raw (e.g. sashimi), it just doesn't look the least bit appetizing to view it in its uncooked state... does it?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Produce Shopping

Not far from my apartment is a market which sells incredibly cheap produce, in addition to other grocery staples. Tonight as I was passing through, I didn't have my camera with me; these photos shot with my iPhone don't do much justice to the place, but at least you can get an idea.

The market is open everyday from 9am - 9pm. I've visited it before and once again found myself marveling at all the activity that takes place in this most random of shopping venues. Random in that it's not easy to find -wedged between rows of apartments off the main thoroughfare- and there's always a sensory-overload experience awaiting -bikes darting around shoppers, scooters whizzing by, nuts roasting in an old-fashioned contraption, crabs for sale flopping on the ground, and vendors calling out their daily specials.

If you happen to be fortunate enough to stumble upon this place, you'll be glad you did. And afterward you'll probably feel pangs of guilt the next time you pay exorbitant prices buying produce from anywhere else (ahem, E-Mart!).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

730 Days = 2 Years

Today marks my two-year anniversary of living in Seoul. In thinking about what to post to commemorate this occasion, I must say that Time has a funny way of playing tricks.

In many regards the days have flown by, but from other angles it's been the exact opposite. 

My mind keeps track of so many events -both past and future- and I was fully aware that this 2nd anniversary was approaching. I guess I thought the right words would come to me just in time, and afterward I'd know exactly how I'd want to sum up two years. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. It's as though I've been saying to myself:  Be reflective! and now I can't.

A few things to consider:

I may not have learned how to read or speak Korean (yet!), but for every day I've been here, I've gleaned an insight about Korean culture.

Paper is the traditional (UK) gift for 2nd anniversaries (wedding anniversaries, but why not apply it to this situation...?). So, I'm thinking about the possibility of taking the last two years of observations and compiling a book. Any interested publishers out there?

As always, I'm grateful for you -an audience that's here willingly and provides meaningful interaction, which ultimately motivates me to continue learning and writing.

Thank You.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Isn't this one of the kookiest, most fun benches you've ever seen? Found it today as I was walking through Bukchon-dong. Love it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Romance Optional

In class this week, we've been focusing on brainstorming. As I told my students:  no matter how silly or crazy your ideas may seem -to others or even yourself- the objective is to transfer everything in your head onto paper and get your creative juices flowing.

Based on the results they generated, I'm fairly certain they got the point. 

One topic for practice:  Gifts to commemorate 100 days of dating (a popular local custom). Students' responses spanned the conventional -a love letter, necklace, ring, and flowers, to the more unusual -plastic surgery, a break-up, and a yacht to name but a few.

It seems romance can assume all sorts of forms.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall Beauty Preview

My favorite season is rapidly descending on Seoul. From flowers to trees, Autumn appears on its way and looks to be a good one. 

Here's a quick preview, taken with an iPhone at Children's Grand Park: 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Today while out exercising, I came across this group of ducks. It fascinated me that they conducted their preening activities all while being together in community. Oh to have duck-language translation superpowers and eavesdrop on their conversation! Are they like humans, sharing good news and bad? Do they gossip? Encourage one another? Build one another up and/or tear each other down? 

The power of community is undeniable. It's a force that can be used for good or not, depending on the members.

I experienced the power of community in myriad social contexts over this long Chuseok weekend, and the timing was significant. Given that I've felt waves of fluctuating emotions related to the 9/11 anniversary, I was really grateful for the companionship. 

More than ever, I realize the importance of actively embracing community; it's too precious to treat passively or take for granted. 

Take initiative, get involved, make a difference.
Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  -1 Thessalonians 5:11

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years ago today is one day I'll always remember. It's the only day of my life that I've thought about daily since it happened. 

A few things I remember from September 11, 2001:
  • around 7:30am:  talking on the phone with A. on my way to work; It's by Grace we've been saved, she said. We'd been discussing a personal matter which seemed like the most important issue in the world to me at that time.
  • around 8:30am:  arriving at work later than usual.
  • around 9:00am:  rescheduling an interview for a woman who couldn't meet; A plane hit the World Trade Center, she said. Thinking it was only a little prop plane, I thought that was a poor excuse for postponing an interview.
  • a few minutes later:  checking to read about the plane; feeling shocked to learn it was a commercial jet and not a little prop plane like I'd assumed.
  • soon after:  calling my parents in CA to say I love you. Shortly after, the phone lines went dead.
For three hours, we were stuck in the office, not allowed to leave our building which was two blocks away from the WTC. I remember feeling surprisingly calm and reading a bit from my Bible which I kept on my desk.

When we finally were able to leave the building, I tried to walk up Broadway alone, wanting space and anxious to see what was happening. A police officer stopped me though. Too much wreckage, he said.

Walking along the east side, past South Street Seaport, through Chinatown, continuing up to my apartment in midtown, I kept looking behind me where the WTC once stood. All I could see was a giant mushroom cloud of smoke. It didn't seem real, and I kept thinking -hoping- maybe it was some David Blaine or David Copperfield magic stunt. If only.

I turned on my TV when I got home and watched endless hours of news coverage. It finally got to be too much. I wanted to do something to return to a state of normalcy. 

And so I baked cookies. I needed an activity that I could control. Something that would make sense at a time when not much else did. Funny how we humans like to manipulate the smallest of circumstances to feel in charge. I still do this even though I know it's illogical and silly. 

But I did change in a profound way that day. The fleetingness of life was never more real, and I grasped more clearly how important it is to build and nurture relationships. We're either here by accident and we die by accident, or we're intentionally here for a purpose and thus live and die for a purpose.
What do you believe?

                                 -dedicated to AN and MCN who were with me in NYC

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Baby What...?!

Can someone please translate what this is all about? There's got to be a better English expression than this one.

Friday, September 9, 2011


It is a privilege to study the Bible without fear of persecution. And to do so openly, with friends, is a real blessing.

Tonight a small group of us began our study of the book of Daniel, as presented by the incredibly gifted Beth Moore. I am excited about this study for several reasons but one in particular is that Daniel and his three friends were men of integrity and adhered to their principles under the most challenging of work/life circumstances. 

As part of our kick-off session, we each made a pledge to learn over the next several months. I can't wait to see what God teaches us through the lives of these brave men!

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—  young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians [... ]

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah:  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  -Daniel 1:3-4;6

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to Baking

Those who knew me back when (pre-Korea), know that one of my hobbies is baking. That may surprise those of you who know me since moving to Seoul as up until last night, I'd yet to bake anything. But I suppose it was only a matter of time before I'd return to this love. I'd really started to miss it -the chemistry involved in mixing liquids and solids and producing something so fragrant and tasty...

Earlier this week, a co-worker dropped a travel magazine into my hands featuring articles on the Carolinas. A recipe for Peach Praline Cobbler caught my eye, and I'd been kind of obsessing over it since. Finally, last night, I couldn't stand it any longer, and thus set out to bake the dessert.

Armed with the recipe, I headed to E-Mart to pick up ingredients, namely peaches, butter, sugar (brown + white), and pecans; I had flour already at home. As is often the case here, what I thought I was purchasing and what I actually got were not necessarily the same. Case in point:  the peaches, already pre-packaged in a bag labeled peaches, turned out to be nectarines. And the butter -marked butter on the box with lots of other words in Korean- looks, smells, and tastes like margarine. Oh, and my search for pecans turned up empty.

Nevertheless, I was determined and not deterred. Good thing, too. Within 90 minutes, my apartment was filled with the sweet aroma of freshly baked goodness, and I had a highly-edible pastry-like confection to boot. Very rewarding and exciting.

Tonight I feel inspired to do it again. A rendezvous with friends tomorrow is my excuse for indulging in this rediscovered hobby (after all, I need something to bring to the event), but at this stage, any reason will do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

End Malaria Day

Thanks to Internet technology and social networking, I learned that today is End Malaria Day. Believe it or not, there are some easy yet powerful things you can do right now at your computer to support the cause. Here's a few that I've done in the past 15 minutes: 
  1. Read up on World Vision's End Malaria Campaign here: 
  2. For just $6, you can buy a long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net that will literally save someone's life:
  3. Get inspired and check out this new book, End Malaria, a compilation of short essays by some of business's sharpest minds. For every paperback edition sold, $20 will go to Malaria No More, an organization committed to ending malaria by 2015. 
  4. Copy and paste a link to this blog posting into your Facebook status (or put the info into an email and send to 10 friends).

Thank you for reading and for your willingness to at least consider how you can make a difference in the fight against malaria. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Recently a friend of mine returned to Korea from a trip home to the States. She brought back some goodies for me, including a variety of seasonings from my beloved (and dearly-missed) Trader Joe's. One seasoning has especially enraptured me.

Smoked Sea Salt. 

How have I lived without this stuff? It is so good. I've been putting it on everything -cucumbers, tofu, eggs, tomatoes... Am now contemplating using it on sweet things, too. Peaches, perhaps?

Monday, September 5, 2011


There are a few songs that manage to elevate my mood whenever I hear them, but one in particular I'll mention here. 

Regardless of what my emotional baseline is -be it content, glum, happy, or anxious- when I listen to David Crowder Band's song O Praise Him (All This for a King), I am instantaneously boosted to a (significantly) better mood. The melody is infectious, and the lyrics are stirring; the song literally gets me every time.

Tonight I was out exercising, and the song popped up in a playlist I'd created a few days ago. Although I was already in good spirits, listening to the song lifted me higher. So, for those interested, I'm including a link to YouTube where you can sample the song: 

I encourage you to take the challenge:  play this song at any time and enjoy insta-elevation. For full effect, try it out on different occasions, as you're experiencing various emotions, and feel the boost.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I swear I wasn't seeking it out... 

The other night in Sinsa-dong I spotted the sign above. The English reads: 
I love you. IOU. Plastic surgery clinic.

So, I've gotta ask:  What's love got to do with it?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fell + Cole

Gotta give a shout out to Tristan, a fellow MBA and the enterprising founder of Fell + Cole, home of gastronomic ice creams. I love to see people follow their entrepreneurial passions, and I really want to see his business succeed.

Located in Hongdae, the newly opened store carries a variety of creatively crafted flavors, including:
  • salty caramel
  • hokey porky (vanilla base w/maple, cinnamon, brown sugar + bacon!)
  • lemon ginger
  • rum drunken raisin
  • strawberry red wine + Szechuan pepper
Sure to delight your taste buds, Fell+ Cole's ice cream is a perfect way to keep your cool in Seoul. 


Friday, September 2, 2011

Statement Hat

This has to be one of the most bizarre statement hats I've seen in Korea:
Let's talk this over. It's not like we're dead.

I love my hooker headers.