Friends and surprises

The winter season has been full of new friendships and surprises. Wyll and I went snowboarding with some foreigners and not only did we gain new friendships we also took on bunny sitting. Tomorrow will bring about the end of our bunny having adventure. The bunny has acclimated to a very different life style. He eats raw/ fresh vegetables by the kilo and a few fruits. He has his own room where he generally runs around like a maniac. He now has a name “Rodeo”, when he runs through the apartment he sometimes kicks out his feet like a buckin’ bronco. He will probably have a hard time getting use to small quarters again, especially after having a whole room!

Last night we had a game night, hopefully the first of many. We played Ascension and Apples to Apples. Both games were well fought and closely won. There was also an expressed interest in play testing Wyll’s game. Let me back up a little. The night before Angus, he’s Canadian,  returned from his month long vacation, bearing gifts of maple syrup and deodorant. I am going to try to make maple people- apparently they don’t have them in Canada.We went out for dinner with Angus and James Murray. James is fascinating and awesome! He is a self-published author. He has a novel and collection of poetry. He has done conventions and promoted his book on the east coast. He is working on an epic looking graphic novel. James has qualities that remind me of family members, Delmar specifically. For the game night James gifted us with a copy of his novel and I am loving it!

On another surprising level one of the foreigners is leaving Gochang. She was the first we met. She chased us down at the Moyang festival. She introduced us to many other foreigners. After helping her by taking her HAMSTERS, she surprised me by “loaning” me her juicer. With the understanding that if she comes back I’ll hand it over willingly. Well after all the fun I had today, that might prove to be very difficult!

I was reading online about all the crazy things it can do- whole pomegranates, whole pineapple! So, I went out and bought everything I could find. I forgot a few things like ginger and there wasn’t celery. I made a juice: dino kale, red kale, beet, pineapple, carrot, apple. It was amazing, so I had to try my hand at tomato soup! The soup was crazy! I juiced half a cabbage, a carrot, green onion, garlic, a kilo of tomatoes and half a bell pepper. I sauteed some basil, salt and pepper. I tried the juice before cooking it and it was spicy! Garlic really gave it a kick. So simmered the juice and seasoning together until it looked like soup, 20 minutes or so.  

This could be life changing!

Seoul part 2

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Maybe we would have gotten there faster with wonkwang power!

So, the second day was spent worrying about the subway. We walked to the hub of Itaewon and looked for Vatos, a hot Mexican restaurant with wild margaritas. Down a skinny road, counting the shops and mini roads to find the right place to make a right turn. Did I say right? I meant left… Luckily the right turn was a quick dead end. We turned around dodging motor cars, mini trucks and motorcycles. Sadly what we found was closed. The door was open but on one was home. We agreed to have hot dogs.

(I think this was the moment when we decided that the trip was a wasted one. I didn’t put in the ARC request for a new ID. And our first day felt like a waste of time and now there were no amazing restaurants open in Seoul. We had started the day by walking a mile or more in the wrong direction. Dinner the night before was a bust- we looked for Greek, we got really excited about Greek- we ended up eating at a chain that served us a mediocre fried shrimp and chicken platter  and FROZEN seared tuna.)

We moped around the back alley looking for something. Really we were heading out to the street to surrender ourselves to Outback Steakhouse- however this was very much like the establishment we ate at the night before. We saw a sandwich board it read “The Alley: Gallery, Restaurant , Cafe”. Okay we glanced at the menu- has to be better than frozen fish.

It was phenomenal!

We had wine (from Chile!), a creative Caesar salad (with black olives and balsamic), incredible lasagna (mucho ricotta cheese!). We had an excellent time. Wyll and I talked about people and home. We laughed at the future and basked in happiness. It was an excellent way to let go and breathe.

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Not the most flattering picture but it was tasty!

After we were fed and properly watered, we headed over to find What the Book?, the only all English bookstore in Korea. We spent a good block of time there and found some really wonderful reads. Yes, we got a Korean language book! And cookbook, along with two history books (France and Language- both anticipated and showing to be good reads) and a Korea Rough Guides. Cashing out we took our books over to Starbucks where I got my first caramel macchiato in what felt like years. I studied up on Korea. I read my new language book and actually perused the cookbook. It had been covered in plastic at the store. I looked at Korean foods I would want to eat! Oh man, Grace was in trouble. I was going to be speaking her language and eaten her food in no time! I think I deserve another caramel macchiato, thank you very much!

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Wyll after a long day at the Suncity Hostel

That idea (another coffee) was quickly voted down… We headed back to the hotel to drop off the heavy stuff and out to Dongdaemun, a shopping mega district. What were we thinking? It was fine. We took the subway like pros and didn’t get lost. Of course, we were very careful and used our smartphone app. Our first challenge was finding our way out of the subway. My biggest fear was that we would end up in the homeless section of the sewer system. While I don’t know if these are real, I have seen them on many shows from Law and Order to Bones. I pretty sure even Batman has sewer people. I think it was to our disadvantage that we were shopping at night. I might not have been scared with the sun on the surface.

During the trip I never successfully shopped underground.  Someday, soon I’m thinking, I will. We got very turned around and walked the place several times. We found an information booth with English speakers. While probably not uncommon it was a very friendly and welcome sight. We got directions to an ATM from our branch and were told that a jimjilbang (sauna and hot tub) was in the third level of the basement of the same building. Leaving the booth we crossed the street in the wrong direction and had to immediately turn around.

Let it be known that separately, Wyll and I are great with directions.

While the ATM charged us a 1,000 won fee, the building had a jimjilbang in the basement and Wyll was delighted. He gave me a large sum of money and told me to spend it. I left him with my coat, gloves and other bulky belongings. Two floors of women’s clothing, one floor of handbags and headbands, one floor for men. I took the elevator to the top (where the movie theater is) and noticed that many of the floors were closed or under repair. Awkwardly for me, the women’s sections were like Forever 21. Yes, it is a store that I hold near and dear but sadly it is for teenagers. Korean teenagers are typically much smaller than their ten years older American counterparts. Korean fashion is something that I love, so I had no problem with looking at everything many times. Pearls and rhinestones cover sweaters, dress collars, handbags. Clothes are fuzzy, silky, gaudy.  Leggings are currently the only kind of pants! Giant sweaters are worn as dresses. Korean fashion is is also covered to the neck and long sleeves while skirts barely cover your butt.  I was tempted to buy a free size (one size fits all) dress but the last one didn’t fit so I stood my ground.

There was also a fantastic gate. Dongdaemun means East Gate, it is very lovely and after several tries we got a photo in the dark that wasn’t to blurry.

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Seoul part 1

Winter break was not terribly long and yet full of surprises. We didn’t end up doing what we had planned. Instead we made a spur of the moment decision and took the early bus to Seoul. There was one rest stop- Wyll picked up some steamed Korean sweet potatoes (which were amazing) and I got Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee. I ate many of the sweet potatoes. 🙂

We journeyed to The Immigration Services Office in Seoul only to discover you have to go to your county office in my case: Jeonju.  Since Jeonju only offers a snow activities, we ditched that plan. (To quote the Genie from Aladin ‘boy, do I feel sheepish.’)

So, we are in the big city. Ready for action and fun. First we needed to find a place to sleep at night. WHAT!?! I hadn’t booked it before we left. Oops. 😀 WHAT!?! And the phone is almost out of batteries!

We left not entirely in a slight panic in search for the famed PC Bang (pronounced P-She Bong). Interesting that there were none in the direct vicinity of the government office. We walked eyes peeled for a computer with internet. When we found one Wyll had the know how to get a computer. We searched for hotels and hostels. Veto-ing the others suggestions. Finally Wyll gave in. We got a cheap hostel 50,000 won a night 2 minute walk from the subway station and one stop from Itaewon, beloved international district of Seoul.

Seoul has a very efficient subway system and since we had already taken it to the immigration office we were pros.  Who needs to look at the map again? Not us. That’s for sure! I mean us! Definitively us! There are so many lines that there is a brown line and a light brown line. There are like 16 lines. WHO KNEW?

Once we realized how off track we were, it was time to have a juice, eat another donut and watch animals-made-out-of-donuts-eating-donuts commercial. I mean they were light and funny. For example, a cat ate a cruller and became a lion!

I think in Seoul it only takes two lines to get anywhere you want. So, once we rested it didn’t take long to get to the hostel. We were greeted by Charlie Brown. (Sorry, I never managed to get photos.) The rest of the night was boring in comparison. The rest of the trip however was not!

 

Winter break!

Winter break is finally here. Tomorrow we hop the bus to Jeonju to run some errands and make our way to Muju resort! So far our break has consisted of lounging around the house finishing seasons of various shows- NCIS, CSI, Newsroom, the Sarah Connor Chronicles… ect. Yesterday we hit the local scene for some winter fun. We walked the wall (even though we weren’t suppose too!), I fell really hard on the packed ice, so we went to coffee. Wyll left me at the coffee shop and went to get asprin. He came back with drugs and a bruise patch. 🙂 This patch I’m wearing on my elbow has created a dark blue fuzz and will not be removed. The asprin are huge! Anyway we got some photos. Some are from a brisk walk on Saturday, most are from the Moyang Fortress. Enjoy!

 

There is a funny fact at the coffee shop:

1668 Coffee replaced beer as New York’s favorite breakfast drink!

 

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Kabocha Squash Soup

If I learned anything last year (2011) it was making soup. While I was working at Bloomfield Farms, I had mountains of produce to play around with. I ventured into all sorts of veggie dishes from stir frying to soups. One of my favorites is a squash soup that uses lime and cashews. You can find the recipe here. When I saw the squash at the market (and with the help of the recent snow) I thought SOUP!

It might have been easy to create the same soup again, however I like a challenge so I set off to create lunch in under an hour with only the thing we already had in the house.

Total ingredients include:

3 baby Kabocha Squash- cut in half, with the insides scooped out

2 yellow onions – one quartered, one chopped small

1 apple- chopped small, with peel, without seeds and core

handful of peeled garlic cloves

salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, Bragg’s liquid aminos

Plenty of Water

First boil water with squash, quartered onion and salt. I was hoping to use boiling water for broth but I ended up throwing out the remaining onions and water. Once squash is soft and cooked put in bowl of cold water to help separate from peel. Put yummy goodness in bowl and set aside.

Do a quick rinse of your pot and fill 1/3 with water, in the vicinity of two quarts. As you bring to a boil add  chopped onion, apple, garlic, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of cayenne, and a squirt of Bragg’s probably 3 Tablespoons or less. Cover. Let it boil and cook all the veggies. When soft add squash and smash everything together. Enjoy hot!

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December Snow

When Wyll and I first arrived in Korea, the test prep period had just ended. Abby and Grace were beginning the evals for the students. These last two weeks Wyll, Grace and I have been muddling through test prep and hoping that it all makes sense when we get to the other side- meaning that our students do well on tests we have little to no idea what will be on them. Yesterday we saw the first results of student testing, our youngest student received all A’s! YEAH!!!!!! Granted he is an excellent student, but his dad was very impressed so we had a pizza party. If all our students do that well I’m looking forward to eating a lot! 🙂

 

This week has also brought with it the snow! Some might even say a blizzard. And with the attention I received about dressing warmly there are a few Korean outfits I noticed that I really want to point out here. Some of our students (the older men) wear sandals with socks. I’m talking Nike flip flops with colorful blue and purple socks. This student accompanies us home from school every night. Meaning he has to walk in the same freezing cold as we do. I am not supporting his decision to be so fashion forward. I will continue to wear my three layers of long fleece underwear, multiple sweaters, socks, even my ski hat and scarf (which has given me the title of little matchstick girl). I have noticed the girls bring fleece blankets with them to class to cover their legs sometimes the blankets are worn around the waist like a skirt. Most of the time they are carried over the arm or in a backpack- short skirts are the envy of all.