A Happy Accident: Jeyuk 제육볶음

Jeyuk

Time to wipe the cobwebs off my blog and start writing again. It’s been a while. How one maintains a travel blog after years of travel comes to a halt has floated in and out of my mind lately, but I’m not going to dwell on it too much and just see where things go. 

Last weekend we were supposed to have a potluck dinner with our friends and I was going to make “Korean Pork Bulgogi Baozi” from a recipe I found on Pinterest. Baozi or bao is more of a Chinese dim sum dish and I was intrigued by the title of the recipe. Bulgogi in my experience is usually a beef dish served over rice. I didn’t realize until I started cooking that I was most definitely not making bulgogi, but jeyuk -something I haven’t eaten since living in Seoul. Read more

It’s Raining Inside

apartment winter indoor condensation

One of the many quirks experienced while living in Korea is the variety of apartment issues that come with a typical Korean apartment provided to a foreign English teacher. Problem #1 is usually the itty-bitty size of the apartment. I was super lucky coming to Korea with my boyfriend because we were given a two bedroom apartment, so space wasn’t an issue. Others aren’t so lucky. I will say that we were very fortunate to be given the best and the biggest apartment in our building. In fact, after we left Korea, the director of our school moved into our apartment. I’m not sure he knew what he was getting himself into though… I think he was accustomed to a higher end of living, so I wonder how he’s handling all of the issues that come with living there. For the current teachers, I think they can add having their director as a neighbor to their list of nightmares. Here’s a list of the apartment troubles we did have to deal with and the ones our director is probably currently struggling with. Maybe he’ll actually fix them now that they’re his problem. Read more

Frozen and Frizzy in Korea

cold and cranky
Frizzy hair and unrelenting cold makes me cranky!

I’m cold. Not in an emotional way, I’m physically cold right now. We just moved to Squaw Valley and I kinda forgot how cold spring is in the mountain areas. So what do I do? I put on more layers. I’m sitting around in leggings, sweatpants, a long-sleeve shirt, a fuzzy-fleece and slippers. As I chill here (pun intended) all bundled up, I am reminded of our winter days in Korea and my problems of fashion versus warmth. I’m practical, so warmth won every time. But still, I couldn’t help but compare myself to my Korean counterparts.

cold korea
A typical winter outfit for me. I still felt cold despite my puffy marshmallow look.

Korean women are incredibly stylish. They run around in stilettos all day with flawless hair and makeup, toting designer bags while sporting fashionable outfits. Amazingly they don’t seem to be affected by weather unlike myself. In the winter they wear the tiniest mini-skirts with only a layer of pantyhose and a thin jacket protecting them from the harsh weather outside. During my winter in Korea, I gawked at every skinny Korean girl that ran by me oblivious to the freezing temperatures. I was layered in long underwear, jeans, a down jacket, earmuffs, and a massive scarf and could still feel the cold. How do they do it?

Conversely, in the summertime, Korean girls are able to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants and not lose a single drop of sweat. Meanwhile, my hair frizzes out, I drip with sweat and I struggle to maintain an image of being cool and serene. It’s not easy to stand next to Korean women with their impeccable style and inability to sweat. It’s actually downright frustrating. In the winter I looked rotund in my down jacket and in the summer my head looked like a schvitzing frizz-ball, while the girls around me looked trim, fashionable, and pulled together year-round. Read more

Dining on Dak Galbi – Stateside

dak galbi

What’s my favorite Korean dish? Dak galbi. Dak galbi. DAK GALBI! 

Yes, I might be a little over enthusiastic, but it’s seriously delicious. If you haven’t tried it, then you can’t judge. I love the occasional daeji galbi, but I consider that a once every two weeks kind of dish. Bulgogi is fantastic also, but doesn’t possess that special something that entices and excites me like dak galbi does. It’s a little more run-of-the-mill. Now dak galbi on the other hand, is just down right delicious, exciting and addictive. Read more

A Virtual Golf Experience

golfing

Golf has never interested me. My family plays while I drive the cart and soak up some rays. That’s how it goes. My only other golf associated memories are from Squaw Valley. I spent many childhood summer days hunting for golf balls in the creek that runs through the golf course in Squaw. My neighbor and I would make loads of lemonade and cookies to sell on the border of the golf course, right where the golfers usually ran out of balls. They couldn’t say no to two little girls selling cheap golf balls and snacks. We raked it in. That’s really the only thing I liked about golf; it made me money.

Dave convinced me to give the sport a try and we finally went this weekend. Where in Seoul did we go golfing, you might ask? In a basement down the road, of course! We went screen-golfing. For 15,000 won per person, you can golf nine holes at many courses form around the world, or at least their digital counterparts. We chose an easy course in South Korea for my first (and most likely last) try. The room is equipped with clubs, gloves, and popcorn. You hit while standing on a platform that tilts based on the slope of the course. Birds chirp in the background, and if you ever make the ball into a hole (which I didn’t) there is applause from the invisible crowd.

my golf swing

I am not a golf convert. I found it a little frustrating and I understand why people throw their clubs. It’s not an easy game, and I’m certainly not cut out for it. That being said, screen golf is a fun rainy day activity and I’m sure it’s great for avid golfers living in the city who can’t make it out to a golf course that often. If you get nauseous easily, I don’t recommend watching the screen as the ball flies and hits the ground. It made me feel a little dizzy, but that could be because I’m not used to video game graphics. Dave won our match since I couldn’t manage to get my ball anywhere near the putting green. Oh well!

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The Seoul International Fireworks Festival 2011

Last night we went to the Seoul International Fireworks Festival in Yeouido. I was very wary about the crowds before going. Seoul is home to many people and I knew it was going to be crowded. When we got out of the subway car it took us fifteen minutes before we could emerge from the crowd and breathe some fresh air. I don’t handle crowds very well. I’m small and get pushed around, plus I really don’t like not being able to see where I’m going. I imagine it’s more bearable for the folks who can look over the shoulders of the people in front of them. I’ve never seen so many people in one place. We’ve been to some pretty crowded events in Seoul, but this took the cake.

We found a spot on a bridge that overlooked the river and the park and waited for the show to begin. I put my camera on infinity burst mode and took over 500 pictures total. The show lasted about an hour and a half. There were three different displays by teams from Japan, Portugal and Korea. They used over 11,000 fireworks.

It was a stunning show and by far the most fireworks I’ve ever seen. The whole thing was set to music, but we only heard snippets here and there. At times there were so many fireworks that it looked like a huge blob of light in the sky, almost apocalyptic, which was fitting because walking out of the park seemed like a mass migration during a zombie apocalypse or something.

Here’s a time lapse video of pictures I took at the festival:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MozYqQGXs-Q]

 

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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

Getting Paid While Traveling: The Low Down on Teaching English Abroad

Please visit How To Travel For Free (or pretty damn near it!) to read my post comparing my experiences in Thailand and Korea. While you’re there take a look around. They’ve got great tips on traveling cheaply on their blog. They also sell an e-book if you want to know more.