Us Wanderers

Most of the people I meet abroad in Asia are in the same boat as me. Not many are traveling for a few weeks; they are traveling for months on end or teaching English. So many of these people, myself included, are in their twenties and haven’t committed to a career path yet. Exploration is more enticing, and quite honestly we don’t know what to do.

We’ve been told to do what we love, but because our economies at home are in the crapper, to take what we can get. So, do you sell out and take whatever job you can if you can’t get a job that pays you to do what you love? Do you move back in with your parents? Read more

Top Cloud With My Love

Dave and I are frugal people. We have been very money conscious here in Korea because we want to have a nice chunk of travel money and lots of money to fall back on when we go home. Despite our stinginess we have still managed to eat quite well while in Korea. I love to cook and have used that passion and our thriftiness to make some good home cooking without breaking the bank. Our 2 year anniversary was this past weekend and we wanted to splurge on an expensive dinner at Top Cloud on the top floor of the Jongno Tower (one of Dave’s faves) overlooking the city. The restaurant has two sides, the dining room and the buffet. We made reservations at the buffet side because it was slightly cheaper and we thought it would be nice to taste a little of everything.  The food wasn’t super creative, but it was yummy. At Top Cloud you are paying more for the view than the food. We lucked out with a table by the window and the jazz band. The music, the lighting, and the view were incredibly romantic.

The restaurant has two sides, the dining room and the buffet. We made reservations at the buffet side because it was slightly cheaper and we thought it would be nice to taste a little of everything.  The food wasn’t super creative, but it was yummy. At Top Cloud you are paying more for the view than the food. We lucked out with a table by the window and the jazz band. The music, the lighting, and the view were incredibly romantic. 

I’m so lucky to have found someone like Dave, who shares my passion for travel. I know I wouldn’t have been as happy as I have been in Korea without him. He’s my rock and I’m thrilled that in 6 weeks we’ll be hitting the road to backpack through Nepal, India, Thailand and Malaysia together. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. Could I ask for anything more? Dining with the man of my dreams while listening to a lovely singer overlooking a much more panoramic version of this view (it was very hard to capture a good image between the glare and the lighting)…

Korean Thanksgiving and Our Second Trip to Sokcho

We are just finishing up our much appreciated five-day weekend for Chuseok aka Korean Thanksgiving. Chuseok is a holiday where families gather together, eat good food, honor their ancestors, and give thanks for the plentiful harvest. Gifts are exchanged on this holiday and the grocery stores are stocked with large gift set boxes of whatever you can imagine. One teacher recieved a gift set of shampoo. Eight bottles of shampoo is more of burden to me than a gift, but I’m guessing the idea is that you can share with friends. A very popular gift set is the spam and oil set. Yum. In case you don’t believe me I have some photographic evidence.

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My 6 Cardinal Rules for Living in the Tropics and Having to Coexist with Bugs

I started this post while I was living on Koh Tao last year. Today I dug it out of my computer and finished it. I left the intro alone even though I no longer live on Koh Tao.

I don’t like spiders. I know they are the good guys for the most part, but they are creepy. In my defense, I do have a somewhat legitimate reason to be wary of them, my house growing up was filled with spiders that used to bite me in my sleep. I guess it’s not just the bed bugs you’ve got to worry about. So this morning, when I was tying the bikini string around my neck and noticed a spider crawling on my top, I naturally freaked. I let out a pitiful squeal, hit my chest and sent the spider flying to the ground. I used to be a spider killer, but Dave has taught me otherwise, so in his honor I gently swept it outside to live with its spider friends in the outside world on Koh Tao in Thailand, where it belongs.

This entire scenario could have been avoided had I not broken Rule #1 of my six cardinal rules for living in the tropics and having to coexist with creepy crawlers. Read more

The Gangseo-gu Neighborhood Pesticide Motorcycle (or truck)

I’ve been waiting to post about this until I got some photographic evidence and today I finally was in the right place at the right time with my camera thanks to Dave and his keen ear. We’ve seen a motorcycle drive around our streets a few times spraying a white cloud of mosquito killing pesticide in the air. Every time we’ve seen it we’ve been almost at our apartment and have had to bolt up the stairs to safety. We don’t know what the motorcycle is spraying, but we know it can’t be good. Sprays that kill anything generally aren’t great for you to be exposed to. Read more

My Failed Attempt at Urban Gardening in Seoul

We got lucky as far as apartments go. We have the largest one at the school. Two bedrooms, a big living room, a large bathroom and a balcony we could sit on. In the early spring I decided to try my hand at some urban gardening on our balcony. I got sunflower, basil, and wild flower seeds. I also got some rosemary, lavender and daisies from the flower shop down the street. I made pots out of water bottles and set everything out on the deck. Every day I watered my plants and checked to see what was growing. I was ecstatic to see my little seedlings spring up. It was a great way to start my day. Then one morning, after it had been raining for a few days, I realized I couldn’t open the door to the balcony. My plants were trapped!!!

This building is only two years old and it’s already falling apart. Buildings are made quickly, but not well here. It’s not about quality. The property next to our building was a hole in the ground when we first got here and in nine months they’ve managed to build a large apartment building that is almost ready for people to move into. When the buildings start to fall apart and are too crappy inside to occupy they just remodel.

Our building was certainly made quickly and cheaply. The wood boards on our balcony and the entrance to our apartments weren’t treated and as far as we can tell they aren’t really nailed into anything in particular. The boards are warped up and some are on their way to popping off. It just so happens that the boards that warped on our balcony are the ones right in front of the door. Read more

Inspiration

While flipping through summer vacation photos from our trip to Busan and Boseong, Dave pointed out a common theme in all of my pictures: wherever I go, I always come home with a significant amount of pictures of the intricate artwork I see at palaces and temples along the way. It’s surprising I hadn’t noticed this trend myself since I consciously take pictures of the details I like in hopes of using them for inspiration some day. Not sure what I will use them as inspiration for, but the colors and designs seem to speak to me.

Dave suggested I post some of my favorites, so here ya go! Below are pictures from temples and palaces in Korea, China and Tibet. Despite all my time in Thailand, I really didn’t manage to take very many temple pictures and the ones I did take don’t quite make the cut. I guess I’ll just have to go back! Read more

Green Tea Getaway

Our first hour in Boseong was more than a little confusing. We asked a taxi driver at the bus station to take us to Nok Cha Baht which is what we thought the name of our hotel was. Everything seemed fine until our taxi driver had already dropped us off and left. We walked with our large backpacks along a crowded tree lined path to a front gate where a woman was tearing ticket stubs for what looked to be a park entrance.

When we approached, I made the universal symbol for sleep and she shook her head. I showed her our map and said pension to which she said no and then proceeded to spend what felt like ten minutes looking for a map in English as we stood at the entrance looking like lost fools with our large packs. Not that a map would have helped us that much anyway. We were off the side of a highway in the countryside with heavy-ish backpacks and it was hot. I wasn’t about to walk around looking for our hotel. We walked back to the parking lot to find another cab. Read more

A Five Day Escape from Seoul

Photo taken by David Domagalksi in Boseong

Summer vacation was a mere seven days at the school where we teach. It was supposed to be nine days (a week wedged between two weekends), but our director decided to make it a few weekdays bookending one weekend. We were all already peeved about this fact and had resigned to them not changing it, when they came to us a month before vacation and asked us if they could go back to the original plan. They wanted to do a summer intensive program over vacation, as if the students don’t have enough on their plate already, but could only do it if it was a full week. Half of the foreign staff had already bought plane tickets months prior, so the school not only screwed the teachers and staff out of a nine day vacation, but also screwed themselves out of a potential money maker. Welcome to Korea.

Irritating politics aside, we considered many potential destinations before deciding to stay in Korea. Our first plan was Japan, but as we were thinking about buying plane tickets, the tsunami and earthquake hit and we decided it wasn’t the right time. We knew we needed to buy plane tickets months ahead of time and we weren’t ready to commit to expensive plane tickets to a country that was in the middle of some serious problems. Plus Dave grew up close to Chernobyl and we figured that the last thing he needed was to visit a country emitting serious radiation.

Then we thought about going to Malaysia or Singapore. We decided against traveling to either place for several reasons. I was afraid of going there, meeting other backpackers and coming down with a terrible case of wanderlust. That would make coming back to Korea too difficult. We also thought that it wasn’t worth spending the airfare to go there and back when we’d be in the area in the winter anyways. Why not just wait. Lastly, we realized we hadn’t traveled south at all and weren’t sure when else we’d be able to do it. What a shame it would be to leave a country we’d been living in for a year having not seen much of it at all.

So, we decided on two destinations: Busan and Boseong. Read more