Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Turning 30

"The hell you're turning 30!" <-What I imagine my mother assertively telling the computer after seeing the blog title. Rest assured dear Marilynn, your little girl will be turning thirty on January 1, 2006. I see that you've all started counting on your fingers or scribbled out some simple subtraction on scrap paper. Most of you know (especially, my sweet mother) that I was born into this world in May of 1977, and am therefore, technically 28. However, you do not know Korean birthday math.

When a child is born in Korea, the first year of development where a parent boasts a child's age in months is completely forgone. No one does it, and thank the lord for it. People using months instead of years to describe a child's age after 11 months can spit-shine by butt. Is your child really 36 months?! ---- Can you divide by 12?

In Korea, at birth, a child is one (1). The only time a child's age is mentioned in anything but a year is at the doctor's office and the 100-Day Celebration. The 100-Day Celebration is the day a child is no longer considered vulnerable, and is ready to venture outdoors. It's also an excuse to throw a big party (or two), and get expensive gifts. Just imagine a very late baby shower. Moving on . . .

The grand-daddy of birthday celebrations is also the largest holiday on the Korean Calender, what the world knows as New Years' Day. There's a whole mess of information concerning the government moving the celebration away from the Lunar New Year when it was historically celebrated. Long story short, Angry People + Nervous Government= 2 National Holidays, one for the solar calender and one for the lunar. It is on New Years' Day (whichever you celebrate) that all Koreans add one year to their age. Large family gatherings are the norm as are trips to the east coast to see the sunrise. Much respect is paid to the family's elders, and their are plenty of foods and gifts.

There are no bowl games.

So there it is. By Korean birthday math, I am currently 29 years old. In four days' time I will be 30. It could be the short notice or loss of a year, but I'm not too apprehensive about turning thirty. Maybe the second time around I will be.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukah, Soltice, etc., etc. (and so on and so forth)


lub, a2

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

there's a one present minimum:


his muse: a fat man's sci-fi


the card . . . *sigh*


this IS my Xmas Joy.


Hanji: a traditional Korean art. Real cool gift, don't let my face confuse you. I'm camera-unpleasant (like camera-shy but with disdain).

Happy Holidays Bill O'Reilly!


P.S. If you do not find this picture cute, you have no soul.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gamers

Alex and I shared a fun weekend out with Na-Yeong. We took her bowling for the first time (she's a natural), ate a kickass lunch of Dwaegi-Kalbi (marinated pork ribs), and then she took us to a game room. A game room is an establishment where you "rent" your table. Then the customers choose board games from a game menu. Losers suffer a penalty which is determined by their friends. While at the room, 2 people had to approach Alex as punishment (if they only knew). One had to shake his hand, the other had to take a photograph with him. It was humorous and cute.


Alex as "Jenga Master"


We're preparing for the coming holiday. We appreciate all the thoughtful packages sent by family and friends. We have a substansial booty to open come Xmas morning. As suggested by our "Culture Shock" book, we are starting some new traditions including "The Evil Santa", and "The Christmas Carrot". More details and worthwhile pictures to come. Please remember to visit our Flickr photostream for pictures.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

winter storm

seclusion

Click the secluded pagoda for more Gwangju blizzard pics.

snow-love

Saturday, December 3, 2005

closing in

It's been two weeks since the bus accident that took us out of the national tournament. All of us still ache from the anti-climactic ending that comes from smashing into a cabbage truck, but so be it. Instead of resting on our laurels, we have forged ahead through another test.

We have passed the final 1st Dan test before our next degree examination. Master Lee, connections willing, will be testing a2 for our 2nd Dan in January. More to come . . .

Monday, November 28, 2005

fun fact

As of Sunday, November 27, Alex and I have eaten the Korean delicacy of pig intestines twice. . . and that would be two times too many. Let me give you this detail, it's texture is a bit furry. Chew on that.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Turkeys

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!


From l-r: Justin, 23 lb. turkey, Ross, Ross' beer


thanks for the pics Mom & Dad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

no trophies

I haven't the energy today to write a long, tell-all post. Forgive me.

For those who have not heard (Alex's family), we never made it to the National Tournament last weekend. En route to Seoul our bus driver decided to take a nap, so did not see the cabbage truck he was about to ram. BAM! Cabbage everywhere.

No one was seriously injured, not even Alex. Busted teeth and contusions were the worst injuries. That's the long and short of it. I hope Mom and Dad (Martin) do not read this while on their cruise. If they do . . .

  • We're fine. Go back to the lounge chair and drink a margarita for us.


Love you all. Peace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

in stitches

I know what you're thinking. It's been a long time since . . . Alex needed medical attention. It was that very topic that gave the following course of events a sense of whimsy that can only come from a storyteller discovering their story had come true.

It began a couple of days ago when Alex and I decided to take the night off of kumdo. He was worried about my left ankle and knees, all of which had begun to feel the trauma of training 7 days a week for almost three months. I was developing a mean case of shin splints, and my ankle liked to swell and look pretty frightening. My strained ankle, battered left shoulder, and patchwork of bruises led Alex to make the following fateful comment:

"Do you realize it's been almost a year since I've had any type of injury."

The moment the words tripped off his lips, we both put our heads down to stare at our walking feet. We both knew without saying, but Alex realized his mistake out loud first. "I just jinxed myself." Had we known how quickly fate can pick a pocket, we would never speak the ironies in our head, or gleen enjoyment from watching children run into fences on their bikes. We both passed off the sudden dread as silly and irrational, and though I cannot speak for Alex, a worry burrowed into the back of my head to the chorus of a reverberating phrase - "well, shit".

Two days later, we would laugh again, but only after the bleeding stopped. Class began with several of our teammates being absent. Because of this fact, the team was shuffled up, and some of us were not working with our normal partners. When I say some of us, I mean Alex. He was assigned to Moon Suk, an alternate who had just learned the form over the past two weeks. Moon Suk competes primarily in cutting, and has become accustomed to using an uncompromising amount of force to accomplish the task of slicing through sturdy bamboo. Alex is not bamboo.

Our first run-through of the form we did at a slow pace and one move at a time. This way we could all be sure to that we have the form committed to memory. When I say we could all be sure, I mean Moon Suk. The final series of movements in the form are a well choreographed and timed set of strikes and blocks. There is a great deal of movement that has led my partner to lose balance and deliver a square blow to my left shoulder. Those of us that are non-natives, Alex and I, assumed that we would continue the last series on a step by step basis, however, at the moment we began my partner whisper-yelled, "FAST!" Somewhere in all the concentration and coaching, our higher belt had forgotten that some of us are not fluent in korean despite the uniforms.

As you can probably guess, this is the point where shit went pretty wrong between Alex and Moon Suk. It was three steps into the final series when Alex, still going step by step, realized that Moon Suk was not. Alex reacted by trying to block the oncoming hit, Moon Suk did not react and swung away. When the rest of us had finished, I looked over to see alex with his hand over his eye, and Jae Oon ushering him toward the bathrooms. Being the inquisitive type, I looked for blood on the ground. That's exactly what I found.

Nothing out of the suspected ordinary happened next. The men, fearful that I would be angry, tried to keep Alex away from me while Alex kept saying, "Let me tell Audrey". I walked toward Alex, noticing that he was standing on his own and was looking at me with two eyes. Can't be that bad, I reasoned. "I'm going to the hospital. I need stitches, I think." Tell me something i don't know. I saw the blood on the ground.

cotton is no match
night before stitches


This led to our introduction to the wonders of the Korean medical establishment (tainted by our nervousness coming from the horrible mess that is the American medical establishment). The doctors in the emergency room refused to stitch Alex up that night, because there was no plastic surgeon available. Now, when we hear plastic surgeon, what we really hear is the wind ripping through the empty expanse of what used to be a savings account. Alex quickly asked if there was anything the equivalent to duct tape or chewing gum to put him back together, and everyone insisted that he could see the surgeon the next morning.

The following morning we met Master Lee. He took us to the surgeon where, without an appointment, Alex waited 30 minutes and was stitched up fifteen minutes later. The following is the pricing breakdown:
  • Emergency Room: $20.00
  • Plastic Surgeon: $20.00
  • Pharmacy (Painkillers, etc.): $1.50
  • Follow-up Appointments: $3.00


The government in Korea, on average, covers about 60%-65% of all medical costs (with employment). Not to mention, a great many of their doctors are educated in the U.S. For more information on the constantly evolving medical coverage in South Korea visit The Korea Herald.

That's the story. Alex didn't lose an eye, and managed to meet his quota for hosptial visits before the alotted time had elapsed.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

One year down . . .

1st Anniversary. . .

Saturday, October 22, 2005

An amazing day to climb a mountain.

thirsty?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

autumn's keepin' in real

seeing reddish-pink
Ch-ch-ch-changes . . .


more colors @ Flickr set "for a walk".

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

a respite on the pebbled beaches of Ulsan

Moon III
moonrise over the east sea


for more pictures from our trip to Ulsan, Gyeongsangnm-Do click on the above photo or visit a2's Flickr photo page.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

NUMBER ONE! GOLD! CHAMPION!

By the time the award ceremony rolled around at 3:30 in the afternoon, all of us had been up and in uniform for about nine hours. Several kids (7-14 years old) smacked the sleep from their eyes with steaming cups of coffee, and were tearing around the gymnasium floor oblivious to the honors and accolades being carefully bestowed to the days' champions.

From our small area of the floor the scene wasn't any different. Students, too tired to sit at attention, leaned awkwardly on one another half awake, some slumped in disappointment, others nervously anticipating results. During the award ceremony my mind wandered through the day which felt stretched cellophane thin.

The damn alarm clock taunting us at 5:45 AM after a brief five hours of rest, a shower and bowl of ramyon before our half an hour walk to the school, and the beginning of a long wait. Hour upon unexaggerated hour of waiting. Why so much waiting? In a regional tournament there are 20+ schools with many, many competitors. the process of competing becomes a darwinian enterprise. The group starts off large, and is carefully widdled into a bracket of top contenders. Now after a day of waiting intermixed with flurries of activity, the noises around us became a lulling drone. As my mind replayed the competition, I cringed at mistakes made, and Alex and I shruggingly conceded that 'what is done is done'.

"AAAHHHHHHH! VICTORY!!! NUMBER ONE!!!!!"

Holy crap, what just happened? Alex and I looked at one another, and then the smiling faces of our team. Our school's Team Form (alex and i are part of) was just announced the winner. The elation and validation resounded throughout our squat on the gym floor. Smiles, fists ("fighting") and victory salutes continued as our team captain accepted the award raising the trophy over his head. Then we waited. Pictures were taken, and the crowd grew hush. Well, hush except for the spastic, coffee kids.

The next series of events are bizarre and dazed. The announcements began for awards in Kyokkum Form (Sparring Form), it was an event that Alex and I had competed in as a team. Wearing armor and being glaringly foreign drew a lot of attention. My first recollection after getting into the armor was seeing little boys point and scratch their heads. they were confused by me. Women do not typically compete in this event, especially against a male teammate. The judges smiled nervously as we took the floor, kids pressed up against the railings looking on anxiously . . . for our part, Alex and I looked menacing and strong. And then we began . . .

What we lacked in dramatic acrobatics (which the another teams used with gusto) we made up for in realism and intensity utilizing the martial art more than the other teams. As I mentioned, the other teams did a lot of acrobatics, but had very little swordplay. Our entire form was swordplay, two carefully placed cartwheels, and a jump kick. We made, what we considered, some horrible mistakes. Our initial response being that of disappointment, Alex actually saying, "What happened?" We were distraught, and felt that we let everyone down. The crowd, however, cheered loudly.

As we unsuited and prepared for the next event, Alex tapped my shoulder and pointed up. A group of little girls were leaning over the railing with outstretched hands. I reached up and they took my hand, all of them smiling but with little to say. More little girls continued to collect above to wave and smile. It made me feel proud that they were able to see a woman take such a strong role in the martial art they studied. In my heart, I hope that a seed of inspiration was planted that day. The memories made a vibrant collage in my head.

I heard Alex's name, or I thought I heard his name. It's hard to say. I looked at Alex, he didn't seem to have taken notice of anything. I assumed my mind had played tricks on me, so I settled back into my quiet.
"GOLD! GOLD!! NUMBER ONE!!! CHAMPION!!!!! VICTORY!!!!!"
Holy crap, it happened, again! I have to stop checking out. I turned to see Alex being shaken by another student. I looked up to find everyone looking at us. "GOLD! VICTORY! FIGHTING!" We stood up, probably with a look of "What the hell?" on our faces. Then we walked to the podium and took our position as the winning team. Master Lee gave us an enthusiastic smile, and I can't speak for Alex, but I had to fight back an ear to ear grin.

That night we went on to celebrate our win and our hard work with members of our school. You can see pictures from our dinner and visit to a norae bong (karaoke) at The Victory Celebration Page on Flickr.

Alex and I go on to compete in our Kyokkum Form, as well as with our Team Form, at Korea's National HaeDong Kumdo Championship next month in Seoul.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

bizarre autumn

Fall has officially arrived. The signs are everywhere. The stores are overflowing with squash, children wear brand new jackets and sweaters, women wander the park in cardigans and wool pants, and the leaves wiggle into clothes of red, orange, yellow, and brown.

On my, now daily, walks through the park i enjoy the smells of autumn under a continually clearing sky intermittenly cloudy and full of sun. On these walks, i find myself scratching my head . . . "How can they wear sweaters and knit caps when it's 79 degrees outside?!" It is officially autumn by any calenders standards, but by my estimates, it isn't yet cold. While temperatures at night are dipping into the upper 60's, the days are still bright and warmer-than-cardigan-weather. As i scratch my head, the koreans likewise scratch their heads about me. "How can she wear a t-shirt in this balmy weather?"

You say "po-tay-toe", i say "po-tah-toe" . . . you say "it's cold out", i say "cold if you live in Africa."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

skinny minnies

October 2nd. Alex and I will be competing in a regional kumdo tournament as part of a team. Along with six other students, we will be performing a form exercise. In preparation we have been training 6 days a week, with the bruises to prove it! Last year the students from our school won in the team form division. I hope we can do the same this year.

The Weigh-In. For registration, Master Lee had to take our weight. For many in the class this seemed like a judgement (the girls especially growing moody), but i was very curious having not seen a scale in some time. As it turns out, eating smaller portions and exercising does help with weight loss. While Alex didn't actually lose any weight, he did lose inches. We already knew this, though. We are going pants shopping this weekend, because none of the pants he came with fit him anymore. I, on the otherhand, have dropped 15 pounds!

I do not attribute the loss solely to martial arts. I see more of a benefit coming from the amount of walking we do (on average, about an hour+ a day). It's also been easy to eat healthy here with snacking foods like roast squid and fish jerky. Even eating out, the majority of food that is put in front of us is a vegetable of some sort (kimchi, marinated turnips, seaweed, corn, zucchini, etc.). We've come to appreciate a good apple, bunch of grapes, or banana, too. I hate to disappoint the masses looking for the miracle-of-all-fad-diets, but it looks like exercise and a balanced diet do actually work.

what're you looking at . . .

Saturday, September 17, 2005

the palace

here are the long-awaited photos of our living space. . . we cleaned and it was sunny. hard to find a better photo-op.


the kitchen, living room, and study in one picture



a clearer shot of our "study" which consists of a computer desk, fish tank, books, and usually a chair. also included in the photograph, alex's bike.



the other half of the "palace" as seen from the kitchen. bathroom's on the left.



the bedroom, and our paul bunyon size bed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

clearing skies

nabi's edge

we were subjected only to the very edges of Hurricane Nabi as it made its way to Japan. here are some pics of the interesting cloud formations that covered the city for an afternoon.





Sunday, September 11, 2005

update

i apologize for the randomness, and lack of information in the blogs of late. let me assure you that all will be corrected, and you will find yourself fondly recalling the ease of august's entries. . .

entering september a calm has crept into a2's apartment. with my long-awaited return to domestic life and writing, the place is starting to look downright homey. a space this small is easily overwhelmed with laundry, dishes, paper, etc. through july and august, it has seen its worst. i was reliving my first college apartment sans cigarette butts and empty bottles of southern comfort. small word of advice ROSS: when having a large party never let smokers discard their butts in the garbage disposal, or the next day you will be surprised and angry at the results (especially when running the dishwasher). thankfully, quality of life is on the rise with the addition of houseplants and fish.

it's been difficult to re-establish a writing routine after being away. these first couple of weeks back in the fold will be devoted to finding a schedule that works. i'm optimistic, actually envisioning more than one project finding a place in the mess of things. thanks for the continued encouragement (especially from mr. gladden).

alex has actually entered the realm of blogging. no, i'm serious . . . in the next week or so there will be an official link from this page. WARNING: it's not for the weak at heart or under-opinionated. the title is "For Arguement's Sake", and as you've probably gathered, will be his own voice on controversial/sensitive issues. those of us who have ever had it out with him, know that he's not one to shy from these things. it should be an interesting and educational ride.


  • let me clarify for everyone freaking out about alex's blog. first of all, he's not going out of his way to look for trouble. his blog will be counter-arguements to fellow-bloggers. if a racist can have a blog, why can't someone tell them how inappropriate their comments are? OR what if something as simple as a figure of speech drives him crazy? he might blog about that. he's not putting death wishes out into the blogsphere, so just take a deep breath. relax.


as for korea. the fall is near arrival, foreshadowed by a clearing of the skies and high visibility. the horizons have been amazing; bright blue days, starry-dark nights. the temperatures are still hovering in the mid-80's, but humidity is down. the evening cool is ushered around the city by brisk winds. fall blooms in white and purple are beginning to paint hillsides, and before long, we should see the turning of leaves begin. the 3-day Chusok (Harvest Moon) holiday is this coming weekend. we also have the Annual Kimchi Festival to look forward to this fall. more to come on that subject . . .

TO BE CONTINUED (aka time to go grocery shopping)

Monday, September 5, 2005

Typhoon Nabi

We are in the shadow of Typhoon Nabi (Nabi means Butterfly in Korean). The typhoon made landfall in Kyushu (Japan) this morning where 47,000 homes had to be evacuated. Last night winds were picking up substantially, but Nabi is breaking northeast losing strength as she passes over the cooler waters in the straits between Japan and Korea. The Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA) has issued flood/thunderstorm warnings, and we are expected to get quite a bit of rain. Mild compared to the beating Japan is taking right now.

To our worried parents . . . don't. The weather is actually downright pleasant, and we've yet to see the rain that has been predicted. Most of the weather is expected within the next 24 hours, and in all actuality, will probably be a lot tamer than predicted.

Monday, August 22, 2005

nothing much

Well, the weather has finally broken, and we are enjoying milder temperatures. The ease in heat and humidity is much welcomed, as is the clearing of the sky. All summer a haze has nestled into the nooks and crannies surrounding the city making it impossible to see the mountains. Whether a shift in winds or a Korean mystery for the ages, the haze has lifted and the sky is beautifully clear. The blue expanse dappled with clouds is set afire at dusk with amazing color, even the city's busy construction cranes and building frames look glamorous in the orange-red shock painted by our asian sun. However, it is the later wash of greens, purples, and yellows dissolving into night that create a lasting sense of peace as a cricket-sonata accompanies the light evening breeze.

In the park, families and friends are strewn across the grounds, resting their feet on picnic blankets. Children ride bicycles, couples play badminton, and the older boys try their hand at baseball. It is a Rockwell-esque vision of togetherness sans the saccharin.

Alex and I are still muscling through kumdo. The health and fitness are worth the physical pains we sometimes endure, and it keeps us focused when we feel overwhelmed.

Our social life has been pretty mild since we’ve been here, but it looks like things are changing. We are going to venture to a noraybong (a place with individual rooms for karaoke) with Rachel and Ki-Yoon sometime soon, and we recently met Min who wants to take us hiking. All and all, there are no complaints as life continues to be one big adventure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

the details

day two: dehydration, an arboretum, and projectile vomiting

after a night with cement pillows and an unforgiving mattress, we groggily rolled into a hot, summer morning already dehydrated and sunburned. alex was a bit worse for wear, mumbling “water . . . water . . . . .” (a sentiment reverberating in my head). we looked over our maps of Wando, marking all intersections with churches, temples, strange houses, and smiling people with easy-to-read pamphlets, before wandering into the sunny, sidewalkless street outside our hotel.

where are we? where are we attempting to go? are you thirsty?

i am thirsty. we hobbled along in the unrelenting sun toward the corner MINI STOP for snacks and water. i cannot describe the intensity of the sun we have experienced while in country. imagine yourself at 5 o’clock in the afternoon with the sky still pushing a noontime sun onto your back. it’s so damn hot, you later check your shoulders for brands.

it was at this point that alex began looking less than up to task for the journey. his head appeared unhinged as his chin reached for his chest, and his walk was that of a man trying to deliver a full martini glass to a table on rough seas. not that i was grand, but i knew i wasn’t struggling with the same demons, and was grateful when we arrived at the mart.

the main street in Wando isn’t too much to speak of. it’s wide lanes are set back from the waterfront about 1/2 a mile. all the roads into town twist and converge toward a single road that leads to the ferry docks. everything about this street made it seems as though this town was a mistake, why else would all the roads lead you out? a manmade waterfall rushes over nature-made rocks on the hillside near the bus station, and is bookended by plain, flat, and unimaginative store fronts (save the Tiki-esque local dive bar).

after staring at the depressing, main street scene for thirty minutes, we wandered in search of transportation to Wando’s Arboretum. finally opting for a cab once the bussing situation became too confusing, we drove around the island toward the park. the countryside was beautiful, a patchwork of rice paddies and pear orchards right up to the base of the mountains. a single lane, two-way road lead up to the park. Marilynn would not have enjoyed this part of the drive.

while at the arboretum, we roamed in the virtually shadeless expanse of the new park. we had not bargained for an arboretum without protection from the sun, but still muscled up the paths determined to see the damn place.



alex had grown very quiet during out walk, and by my estimates wasn’t faring too well, so because you can’t always sense the stupidity that is in front of you, we decided to visit the giant greenhouse. pushing the envelope on what was possibly heat exhaustion, i enjoyed the greenhouse immensely, while alex did not.



later, outside the greenhouse, alex rested in the shade while i explored a bit further. upon my return, alex promptly vomited the most incredible force of water i had ever witnessed. if i weren’t so sensitive (smirk), i would’ve yelled “LANDSLIDE!”

as you can probably guess, we headed back down the mountain, and towards the bus station (which was a good 3 mile walk). i had read somewhere that hitchhiking was safe in Korea, and just as i was about to thumb it, a car pulled up and offered a ride. how fortuitous! they took us to the station in town, where we easily bussed the rest of way back to Wando.

the remainder of our stay, we walked along the waterfront, ate a delicious dinner of Maeun-tang (hot fish soup), and spent time remarking on the difficulties of the trip. all in all, even with the frustrations, it was nice to leave Gwangju. it was even better, the following day, to return and feel like we were home.

next expedition:

Wolchul-san National Park (as seen from the bus window)


Wando Arboretum Pics

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

the details

day one: the jehovah's and pink chicken

the particulars of our misadventurous vacation in the south sea may be in order. Alex is a bit more succinct than i, and knowing that, i don’t feel too bad embellishing on his portrait of our excursion. for starters, our friendly ambassadors to Myeongsasimni (the beach on Shinji-do) were cultists. that’s right, just your standard, run-of-the-mill followers of some bizarre “faith” revolving around absurd theories about the earth’s axis shifting. to save you from too much detail, this cult preaches meditation and the prophecies of Nostradamus and some guy from Butthole, USA. THANKFULLY, we had the pesky language barrier preventing them from sucking our brains through our nostrils in an attempt to convert us (a la Jehovah’s Witness [yep, they have those here, too]).



our companions plied us with alcohol and fish while asking us to sing meditation mantras and to peruse their written material. like i said before, we had the “barrier” to protect us from their constant barrage of crap-slinging. even they had to eventually bore of pointing at the same two pictures, and saying the same 3 sentences English. whew!


Alex did rupture his eardrum, and was assaulted by a violent, vengeful and submerged tree stump. i, on the other hand was a body-surfing maniac, attacking the sea with a force found only in a person who (A) loves the water and (B) is seeking to escape an uncomfortable situation. let me say, before coming across too harsh, that our two hosts had the best intentions and were truly considerate and generous people. they were also, unbeknownst to us, harbingers of the awkward and often anxiety-ridden following day. Urgh.



sunburned and exhausted we headed back to Wando, and the comfortable, quiet of our hotel. after a nap, a shower, and a gallon of water, we headed to town. Wando is like any american town on the outskirts of a tourist destination. so many people pass through, no one stays for any respectable amount of time, and the kids love that shit. i honestly believe that we heard more English attempted on this trip that at any other point in our stay in south korea. the girls all thought alex was hot, and people wanted to TALK.

we ventured to a familiar resto-hof, for a pitcher of beer and, what would turn out to be, possibly undercooked chicken. i say possibly, because the lighting was poor. it was probably my imagination considering that only Alex felt ill later on, but . . . . ANYWAY, we sat in a private booth, ate & drank & enjoyed one another’s company. Lights out . . . it was a long dehydrating and sunburned day.

click for vacation pics

Sunday, August 7, 2005

vacation: a blog by the other one

How to have a stressful vacation:
1) Injuries are a must.
2) Drinking Helps
3) Sunburn
4) Uncomfortable situations
5) Massive language barriers
6) Food poisoning, maybe
7) Sunstroke, also a maybe
8) Illness

First, we went to the beach and met some Koreans there who wanted to show us how to be on the beach in Korea, which involved a lot of drinking and eating fish. On my fist venture into the ocean I was hit by a wave in a strange way and ruptured my eardrum. I knew it right away. Luckily, I had the same thing happen about five or six years ago and I knew there was nothing to do about it but keep it dry. So I wasn’t too worried. On my second time in I was attacked by a submerged tree and nearly lost my package. I escaped with some nasty looking but shallow scratches on my inner thighs. I decided it was best to stay out of the water for the rest of the day. We eventually extricated ourselves from the Koreans and headed home, sun burnt, bleeding (on my part), and dehydrated. We had a very nice taxi driver and the ferry trip back was quite beautiful. In fact all of Wando is beautiful, mountainous, wooded, capped by blue sky and ringed by ocean. We decided to have a nap and go out later that night, when we had fried chicken, which might or might not have been undercooked, and beer. We went to sleep with big plans for the next day.
Unfortunately, we both slept terribly. I woke up feeling okay and we decided to go ahead with our plan of visiting the arboretum. After getting ready to go I started to feel a little sick to my stomach, but I figured a little food and some water would help me. It did help for a bit and we tried to find the bus that ran to the arboretum area, eventually we gave up and took a taxi. The Arboretum was beautiful; they had a new greenhouse, which was really great. It reminded me of Garfield Park. The Arboretum was relatively new, meaning less shady trees, and the sun seemed to be much more intense. I needed to rest for a bit, so I slept in a little shade and Audrey went to take some pictures. When she came back I got up and promptly threw up. I thought that I would feel better, but I didn’t and we decided to head back. We were in for a long walk, fortunately some more generous Koreans gave us a ride to the bus station and we got home relatively easily. When we got back I slept for two more hours.
Getting up after the nap I felt a lot better, but there was still a knot in my stomach. We decided that we couldn’t leave Wando without trying some seafood, so we set out in search of a good dinner. There was a good-looking restaurant with a number of semi private rooms, and we went. It was amazingly difficult to verbally communicate our desires and eventually the waitress came back and wrote out some options that we recognized. We ordered hot fish soup for two. It was delicious. We ended the night with a walk and some ice cream. We returned home to Gwangju early the next day.
Ultimately, the vacation really left us drained and discouraged about our lack of language skills and inability to communicate, but also more determined to learn Korean and adapt to this country. Now it is back to school and hopefully an end to Audrey’s stress over teaching. Last week, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

polls are closed

even with Mokpo making a late surge, Wando still held the edge and will be our vacation destination. three, hopefully sunny, days and two nights on the southern coast. i will post pictures when we return, lots and lots of pictures.

love you all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

vote





where should a2 spend their upcoming long weekend?




Free polls from Pollhost.com

for information about the destinations:
Welcome to Mokpo City
Busan Metropolitan City
Welcome to WANDO

online for the first time

Hello Grandma Rosie!!!

international intern

last night walking home from KumDo class alex and i were stopped by a Nepalese man. the three of us stood clustered in the middle of the street in an unusual moment of levity, a moment of loose conversation between strangers. how odd to be stopping in the middle of our neighborhood as though we were stopping on lincoln avenue in chicago!

anyway, it turns out that Ram (full name: Ram Prasad Sharma) is a human rights' lawyer serving as an intern in Gwangju. the three of us talked for fifteen minutes about a wide range of subjects from Nepal's government and civil war, intolerance between religions, and general observations about living in a foreign country. we listened through his thick accent as he told us of his daughter and wife back in Nepal, and how hard it is to be away. He also shared his difficulty in having english as a second language in a town where no one spoke english. like us, Ram came with the idea that people had a basic knowledge of the english language, and learned quickly that very few actually do.

Ram offered each of us his business card before continuing to the park for a beer. i realized in that moment that no matter how frustrating the language barrier has been for us, that alex and i always have each other. if i ever make mention of difficulties due to language again . . . crush me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

off track

my writing time has been cramped lately, but i promise to actually write about, or at least post pictures of, Korea soon. i'm sure my sarcastic commentary on reality tv is exciting for everyone. so sorry. maybe it's time for an alternate blog for those bits of whimsy.

Part I: reality tv recap

Are you sexy?

Newest in the line of smarmy, appalling and what-the-hell-were-they-thinking-tv, comes Are You Hot? The Search For America’s Sexiest People. There I was on another sleepless night, channel-surfing without destination, and I land on a show just as they are introducing their esteemed, celebrity judges. Needless to say, when I saw that Lorenzo Lamas was considered a celebrity, I had to see what the hell required his “expertise”. Did anyone else know he was considered an international sex symbol? Have the women of the world gone blind, or are they so desperate that they find a fake-baked, over-bleached, badly-botoxed shell of a poorly aging man attractive?

(international sex symbol with a laser pointer possibly taking his “title” a bit too seriously?)


Anyway . . . I cannot tell you the rules of the show without sarcasm, which wholly ruins the effective seriousness of the competition that makes viewing it hilarious. Therefore, I will simply regurgitate the producers’ words.

“From coast to coast, thousands of hopefuls gathered in recent weeks to get the chance to compete for the crown of the sexiest man or woman in America. Talent, personality and strategy were not required, just physical beauty and innate sexiness. Now TV viewers get their chance to vote on the Hot Zone Participants from each region as they face a celebrity panel of experts, including Rachel Hunter, Randolph Duke and Lorenzo Lamas.”

That’s right, this is a real show, including interview vignettes in which every contestant, and I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE, kept whining about what a great personality they have. Really? These people have personalities so great and uncorrupted by ego that they seek validation from Lorenzo Lamas about the salability of their bodies. Going out on a limb, but their mothers must be darn proud!

Top three phrases from female contestant interviews:
1. “I have a great personality. I’m funny and down to earth. Guys really like that about me.” (It couldn’t possibly be that you’re willing to whip out your assets just to hear someone tell you you’re good looking.)
2. “I know I’m good looking, that’s why I’m not in front of the mirror all the time.” (Said while nervously playing with hair, looking down, or biting lip.)
3. “I’m the whole package, good looks and a great personality.” (Spoken like a personal mantra a la ‘I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.’)

Top three phrases from male contestant interviews:
1. “I’m the whole package, what can I say?” (Spoken plainly without a smile. Okay psycho.)
2. “I have a great personality and I think that will come through.” (Yes, especially when the camera focuses only on your abs and chest. Is a man’s personality directly related to his nipples?)
3.“I don’t just rely on my looks.” (Said most by aspiring models.)

You many be wondering why I have watched it long enough to collect the information to criticize it. Why not turn it off? There are two reasons. First, I like to criticize crap, especially narcissistic crap that further highlights the American obsession with looks and celebrity. Secondly, for the show’s following catch phrases that made me laugh out loud.

*Your HOTNESS will now be judged.
*Each contestant must make a one minute DELCARATION OF HOTNESS.
*Now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Each contestant will stand under the
HOT/NOT sign.
* The Countdown to HOTNESS begins.
*Let’s take a look at their SIZZLING journey down the road of HOTNESS to become the HOTTEST person in HOT-merica.
*The road to HOTNESS is paved with tears.


So the journal of life in korea has taken an obnoxious turn for this post, BUT there is some relevance. This is the crap that America exports to other countries. This is what they see, and is sometimes all they see. I find it disturbing that the best we have to offer in creative broadcasting are blatantly, over-sexualized reality tv shows, programs that emphasize the egomaniacal, inarticulate, ignorant and self-absorbed segment of our population. C'mon President Bush, is PBS really all that bad?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Korea's love for Steve Martin


"Oh, this is the best pizza in a cup ever. This guy is unbelievable. He ran the old Cup 'o Pizza guy out of business. People come from all over to eat this."
-Steve Martin's character Navin Johnson from The Jerk




Tuesday, July 12, 2005

not a teacher

for those of you keeping track of my employment history and search for the perfect job, you can scratch teacher off the list. it’s not that it wouldn’t be fantastic to be an educator, teachers are fabulous, brilliant, selfless individuals (well, for the most part). my memory has canonized several men and women who fostered my will to seek an adventurous life, and the tools to do it with (shout out to Carol Varner). however, as with all else in this wide world, some are simply suited to the task better than others.

QUESTION: Audrey, how do you know that you wouldn’t enjoy teaching?
ANSWER: I’m doing it right now. Not this minute exactly, but through the month of July to help out Alex’s school. Part time work with 8-13 year olds is full time work.

QUESTION: Is there something specific that you’re not so keen on?
ANSWER: Teaching. Yep, that about says it all. If I were to have to narrow it down, I’d say the portions of a class where everyone is staring blankly, and also when I simply run out of things to say. That’s right, I run out of things to say.

QUESTION: Is there anything you enjoy?
ANSWER: Sure, some of the kids are real sweet, and they try very hard.

QUESTION: Shouldn’t you be a good English teacher being that you’re a writer?
ANSWER: You would think so, wouldn’t you? As it turns out, not so much. The school manager says I’m doing a great job, but I’ve learned something quite disturbing about myself through this experience. I don’t know English.

QUESTION: What?
ANSWER: English. I don’t know English.

QUESTION: Yeah, I heard you the first time, and again, WHAT?
ANSWER: Listen, I speak it and write it, but when I think about it I may as well be speaking Swahili.

QUESTION: You know Swahili?
ANSWER: No, dumbass. It was a figure of speech. I’m just saying that as I am teaching past/present tense verbs, and when and how to use the correct articles/pronouns that trying to make sense of it through a language barrier can be a bit daunting. It makes the brain tingle, and my knowledge of my native language starts falling out of my ears. Here’s a fun fact, knowledge looks like molasses peppered with candied beetles. Strange.

QUESTION: Does Alex have the same reaction and feelings toward teaching?
ANSWER: No. He actually likes it. I’ve asked him many times, and keep asking because I cannot believe that a person could enjoy watching their sanity slip away from them. We may have already lost him.

to sum up, teaching hurts my head and I much prefer to plug away at the writing. we love you all. peace.

Monday, July 4, 2005

To Spineless in Ottawa, Canada

Dear Spineless, your lack of maturity & integrity could bear the brunt of fault for your sudden cowardly flight. like refugees fleeing oppression, you hit streets of Gwangju with only suitcases and a stolen mobile phone, sidestepping responsibility in the form of contractual obligation and common decency. beneath the cover of night you left the country with fingers a-pointing and an aggressive lack of accountability,

it’s pathetic really, your blaming of everyone but yourselves for what i’m certain you’ll recount as a “horrible and harrowing experience” of life in korea. for your future reference, allow me to offer you some advice on living abroad:

1. don’t. that’s right, simply don’t leave home. c’mon you two, your self-admittedly “anti-social”. to enjoy a culture or simply have some good old-fashion fun, you’d have to risk interaction with other people in an environment outside your comfort zone and/or apartment. ask yourself, are you willing to sacrifice the solitude of your anti-socialism? if the answer is “NO”, then don’t leave home EVER.
2. take some time to educate yourselves on the cultural, political, and social differences of the country you are moving to. this step may raise red flags that warn of difficult challenges, and may also tell you what you are not capable of (i.e. not pissing off your boss with self-righteous, smart ass behavior).
3. people may not speak your language. i cannot stress this one enough. you cannot blame the difficulty of a language barrier for your lack of enjoyment of a place or the people who live there. a little effort goes a long way, and merely extending yourself (aka leaving your apartment) is a big step in the right direction.
4. to further elaborate on #3, food is key. you can learn a lot about where you live (i.e., livelihoods, family dynamics, traditions) if you indulge in the local cuisine. though tempting and familiar, restaurants like Outback Steakhouse, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds will do little to comfort you beyond the ease of ordering. the one Vietnamese restaurant downtown also does not count since you had it on an every-other-weekend rotation, and to point out the obvious, NOT KOREAN.
5. try not to make questionable comments about your host country and its people. this makes, and has made for that matter, you look like an ass.
6. don’t lie. you know exactly what i’m talking about.
7. finally, if you do leave opt to live abroad again, when you leave the next time (which you will), please think through you’re decision to leave and how you are leaving. this choice effects not only the two of you, but everyone you so selfishly screwed over.

that about raps up the cliff notes of living abroad. i do hope this will help with your future travels, Spineless. one last thing to consider, some people are simply hardwired with the perseverance, and oh how do i say this . . . BALLS to survive and thrive in foreign situations. ask yourself if you’re that person, but before you answer, take out your passports and inspect your korean visas. about 8 months left, huh? looks like there was a short in your wiring.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

김밥 (kimbap)

mcdonald's is to america as a kimbap house is to korea. except for the fact the kimbap is good for you, and the prices are much more reasonable.

an inexpensive, tasty treat at the bargain price of ₩1,000 (about $1.00) a roll, kimbap is just as cheap to make as it is to buy, and is a cost effective meal for those looking to save some $$$ (₩). the ingredients vary by restaurant, but are limited only by your imagination when making the rolls at home. for my first go, i used a combination of crab meat, smoked ham, carrots, cucumber, green pepper, and marinated turnip. next time around, i'll try smoked fish with kimchi.


the finished product


Monday, June 27, 2005

Jangma

beneath a long veil of low-ceiling, gray clouds Korea waits in the shadow of Jangma. today officially marks the beginning of the country’s rainy season. the days are as dark as dusk, the humidity has comfortably stabilized in the mid-eighty percentile, and haircare has become something of a nightmare.

coming from the night culture of bar employment, i am used to quiet days. never waiting for a dressing room at stores on Michigan Ave., being one of five people at a matinee, seldom passing another person on walks through the park . . . in Gwangju, a city so densely populated, you would think that these things would be a rarity. until Jangma, they were. since the temperatures and humidity have soared, the world rests indoors. streets, businesses, parks, they are all vacant. an eerie silence drags the day kicking and screaming through sporadic downpours and light mists.

like a wonderfully alien sunrise, imminent nightfall seemingly peels the city from its hiding, thrusting the population into the streets, restaurants and taverns. traffic is thick, street markets are teeming with mothers bringing their children home from school, shopping centers are full, and in the parks, the avid walkers are shoulder to shoulder. it is a remarkable transformation that words cannot do justice.

from the dull hush of morning, through a slumbering afternoon, and into a bustling evening, life adjusts for the weather. what else will the season bring? damp socks? innovations in haircare? a really big umbrella?

a T-Storms would be a nice start.

peace.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

good times

it has been an eventful week, so today has been a wonderfully lazy, sleep-in kinda sunday. a load of laundry quietly grinds behind the growling blues of tom waits while i type and alex paints. the world outside our open windows is bizarrely hushed. i’m enjoying the stillness, so will stop typing about it.

a surefire way to ruin tranquility is to notice it, and any moment now the neighbors upstairs will start with their obnoxiously loud sex thus waking the baby next door whose mother has decided the remedy to an upset child is frying meat and turning on all available lights. it’s actually pretty humorous, the domino effect of sounds around our corner of the building. after the baby’s meat-fry comes a series of slamming windows that trigger yapping-squeaks from tiny dogs which in turn wakes their owners (more lights). the yapping-squeaks turn into yelps as the football-sized terriers are tossed, bounced or “reasoned” with. once awake the dog owners decide a meat-fry or some other sustenance is in order, so they talk loudly rousing their sleepy partners while preparing a midnight snack. finally, the men step outside for a cigarette or a deep, meaningful spit before retiring to a full-stomach sleep. there is a natural rhythm here, but it definitely isn’t always a spiritual thing. although i did see a little granny blow a tremendous snot-rocket. that’s an image that makes a profound impression.

i was invited to help chaperone a fieldtrip to Gwangju’s Coca-Cola Factory on friday. it was a fun opportunity to see alex interact with his students, and i took several pictures of the little monsters.


saturday morning was an early start. alex and i spent the better part of the day hiking with one of alex’s co-workers and her husband.



it was wonderful to venture outside the city into the calm landscapes of the Noryang Mountain Range, Damyang Lake and the gentle steppes of rice paddies. the hike was invigorating and challenging requiring careful navigation on ropes and loose rocks that lead to a small buddhist temple and wonderful views.


saturday night we hit a new part of town, and found ourselves in a resto-hof for beers, fried chicken and soccer. it was like being at the sports’ bar all over, again. we came home and crashed, making way for sunday, and the beginning of a fresh week.

Friday, June 10, 2005

food obsession

i bought tomatoes for the first time in 7 weeks yesterday . . .

tomato love

Thursday, June 9, 2005

$5 t-shirts

this one goes out to ross. . .

i would never peg myself a stereotypical female shopper. i hate crowds, i abhor overpriced clothing (can you tell me how a bikini can cost more than blue jeans?), and condescending, flakey, overly-friendly sales associates (“oh ma’ god, you are the cutest thing in that outfit.”). it would stand to reason then, that i would become the queen of resale shopping. does anyone remember my senior pictures, ripped up blue jeans and a second-hand, men’s sweater? that was a great sweater, and jennie blom’s brother’s pants. i'm sure grandma rosie recalls me buying resale dresses, shredding them, and sewing new ones from fabric fragments. reaching for a point . . .

ross, remember when we started resaling together? you love the t-shirts with strange sayings and pictures. well, at e*mart, they have sales bins with $5 t-shirts that are hilarious. the artwork is pretty cool, but the comical part is the poorly translated and inappropriate english that makes up a lot of these shirts. It isn’t at all uncommon to see children (6-13) sporting shirts that are emblazoned with the F-bomb, “shit”, “damn”, “porn”, and terrible grammar (“Is there any something to play?”). for all these shirts would seemingly have going against them, they are still pretty sweet.

every trip to e*mart is an investigation into weekly shipments in an attempt to locate a gem. thus far, 2 shirts have made the cut. they lack poor grammar, but have cool graphics. the point being (finally), I have found ross’ t-shirt heaven, and am on the lookout for his ideal shirt. Until the shirt is found, check out the pics of my finds.



the quest for the perfect $5 t-shirt continues . . .

long weekend recap

the weekend passes somewhat uneventfully. could it be we’re finally at ease in the east? the following is a detail-lacking recap of our nothing-special, long weekend.

friday night begins late, our class ending from anywhere between 10:00 – 10:30 pm. a2 ambles through the walkways overgrown with weeds and popsicle wrappers. should we stay or should we go . . . to the coast? the PROS: neither of us has been to the yellow sea, the weather is beautiful, it would be (by our estimates) a relaxing escape from the crowds of gwangju. the CONS: it’s a holiday weekend, we’ve learned that everyone is going to the beach. staying in gwangju seemed right not only because of the masses of people traveling to the coast, but mostly because of the masses of people traveling to the coast. the yellow sea will have to wait. friday turns out to be a perfect evening for cards and a chilean cabernet sauvignon.

saturday morning is a sleepy one, probably due to the fact that friday night ended saturday morning. you can take the girl out of the bar, but can you truly take the bar out of the girl? let’s just say i’m definitely NOT the control group. the languid day passes in a mess of ramen noodles, naps, and sporadic cleaning. later we’re upset that we wasted away a day of seething sunshine and 95 degree temperatures. what were we thinking staying indoors?! ugh.

luckily, we had saturday night to make up for our lackluster day. a substantial dinner is in order, so we venture to the “Pork Place”, a corner restaurant near our apartment specializing in pork bulgogi. we’re pretty sure that it’s not actually called the “Pork Place”, but neither of us has bothered to read the hangul on the sign next to the cartoon pig. dinner was the one of the best i’ve had since being in country, probably due to our growing familiarity with korean cuisine and our ability to order it. you can’t beat the prices either. our big dinner out was a whopping $14, and the sweet waitress gave us free coca-cola with our meal. i always enjoy eating out because it’s a chance to intimately observe couples, friends, and families in a relaxed, everyday situation. truly a reliable way to learn social graces that cannot be taught through book-learnin’.

the rest of the evening is spent bar-hopping with alex’s canadian coworker, Chris. we have a few beers at Wa Bar, a bar that’s referred to as a “western ice bar”. it’s a trendy place, offering a decent assortment of beers from around the world and loud korean pop music (aka k-pop). the décor is very “western” in influence with pictures of iconic Hollywood stars like Cary Grant and Marilynn Monroe, a wall mosaic of backlit beer bottles, and other random oddities. there is only one coed bathroom, which is not uncommon, and can be humorous when there’s a drunk man puking in the urinal, and you have to try not to laugh in the stall as he regrets that last beer.

a few pints later, we venture back to the neighborhood for a nightcap at our local dive, Seven Face. by the time we wrap up our evening, it’s nearly 4:00 am. again, you can take the girl out of the bar . . .

let’s just say that sunday could’ve been a slow start, but Mom & Dad Pecott called at 9:30 am. regardless of our antics the night before, we would never pass up a chance to hear a voice from home. then we ate ramen. you may be worried, now that ramen has been mentioned twice in this blog. have no fear, whereas ramen in the U.S. is “poor man’s grub”, here it is almost as much of a staple as rice. it’s a great, fast meal, so we ate it fast, and then got to our lounging. i will save you from the boring details of sunday’s labyrinth of horrible, american, reality television, just know that you won’t be safe forever.

later that night we ventured out for a bite at a kimbap house, followed by a 2.5 hour walk along the river running through gwangju. it was quiet and pleasant, fisherman dotting the banks where the water was higher. i had a bug fly up my nose, and another into my mouth, which was not very exciting or entertaining, except to my husband. he apparently has no concept of the hundreds of way I could make his life hell. laugh it up, smart guy!

monday was cleaning day (aka where alex made up for laughing at the previous night’s bug-up-the-nose), and then *poof* the weekend was over. like i said in the beginning, the weekend was nothing special, but believe me when i say, that’s fine by us. we’re still taking in unusual sights, and ordering our beer in another language. that’s certainly different enough some days.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

coming soon

  • $5 t-shirts
  • construction cranes and dangling cars (a blog in pictures)
  • 7-face
  • reality tv recap
  • rocketships, ferlinghetti, and an aptitude test

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

thursday's been worthwhile

the rain has been wonderful, easing the temperatures dramatically. it was supposed to be 90 degrees today, but is has barely made it to the upper 70’s. refreshing beyond explanation.

-AND-
thanks to the downpour this morning, the demolition crews weren’t able to start until 8:30 am allowing us a sleep distrubed only by the shouts from produce vans.

i love thunderstorms. regardless of where i am, storms always remind me of beaver island. last night while walking through an empty park in the rain, the damp trees and grass had the smell of the island. a peaceful respite from the usual GO-GO-GO pace and loud sounds of gwangju.

p.s. alex and i tied in our rematch of gin rummy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

postscipt on falafel & swedish meatballs

i'm pretty sure that "you can't always get what you want . . .", but it's raining, so i'm feeling pretty happy. i don't even crave that soggy burrito. bring on the monsoon season!

falafel & swedish meatballs

despite a solid week of martial arts training, an adventurous weekend out with new people, and serving alex a handy ass-whooping playing cards, I’m feeling a bit low this week.

homesick? well, i do miss the diversity of people and FOOD, and i do miss my families, but I haven’t the desire to leave Korea. is it homesickness if the want to return home is absent? i’m not sure if it qualifies. besides, sometimes all i want is garlic bread that doesn’t have sugar on it. and one of these days, i’ll break down and buy butter or tomatoes ($$$).

no job? alex is concerned that my lack of employment is dampening my mood, but work would just interfere with my script. i haven’t had this type of freedom to write since early in college, and the results have been more than worth the “unemployed” status. besides, i’ve never been the type to allow a job to define me (obviously).

insomnia? i have been suffering a bit from lack of sleep, which i attribute to the population density (like sardines) and building materials (concrete). every sound is amplified and reverberates at lightening speed. especially construction, which begins at 6:30 am. koreans are also late, late, late night people (out until the construction begins). there are always lights flicking on and off, and drunk girls in high heels plodding up the stairs with yapping ankle-biters (aka lapdogs) at their feet. then again, haven’t i always had trouble sleeping? this weekend the quest for earplugs is on.

the weather? it is effen hot! what i wouldn’t give for a solid week of rain!

so, there you go. i guess, it boils down to a need for a soggy burrito before a good night's rest. thanks for listening. sometimes that’s all it takes to sort this type of mess.

Monday, May 30, 2005

gin rummy

just your typical saturday night of soju, gin rummy, and dried squid tasties.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

memorial weekend bbq (korean-style)

if you’re looking for an alternative to your usual grilling routine, i recommend a nice heaping plate of bulgogi. It’s a delicious meal, and is the primary way meat is consumed in korea. bulgogi restaurants are like the starbucks of korea, one on every corner. by the way, there are starbucks in korea.
necessary equipment: a grill of any kind (i guess, you could cook it in a skillet, but it just
wouldn’t taste the same.)

bulgogi
servings: 6
calories: ?
ingredients:
1.25 lbs sirloin or rib steak
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 scallions, white part only, cut in 2-inch long julienne strips
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
10 large lettuce leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

cook: cut steaks into thin slices, 3 inches long and 2 inches wide (easier if the steak is
half frozen). mix steak with salt, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and the pepper; rub
seasoning into meat. set aside for 15 minutes.
soak scallion slices in ice water for 15 minutes and drain well. mix together
remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil and soy sauce, toss with scallion slices.
set aside.
mix red pepper powder, sugar and sesame seeds together. rub this seasoning
on the inside curl of the lettuce leaves. set aside.
Grill steak according to taste.

eat: take 1 lettuce leaf, put several slices of steak in the center, add about 1 tablespoon
of seasoned scallions, a sliver or two of garlic. fold the lettuce like a taco and
eat. usually served with rice and a couple of sides.

YUMMY!

p.s. works with ground meat, too.

the cuisine

on the stove: a large skillet or wok
ingredients you’ll search for: doenjang (soy bean paste), small ginger root and tilefish
(can substitute whitefish)
what you’re doing: making 2 tasty side dishes (pan chan) and one incredible soup to
serve with rice or with a simple main course

fried green peppers
servings: 2
calories: 77
ingredients:
1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
2 green bell peppers, cut into strips
1 white onion, cut into long, thin strips
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1.5 teaspoons soy sauce

cook: in your wok/skillet heat oil over high heat. add green pepper strips, onion
strips, and ginger. stir-fry for 2 minutes. add soy sauce and stir-fry 1 minute
more. serve hot or cold.


fried red pepper potatoes
serves: 4
calories: 181
ingredients:
1.5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large or 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite side cubes
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
4 green onions, green and white parts chopped
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon korean red pepper powder or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspooon salt

cook: in your wok/skillet heat oil over med-high heat. add potatoes and stir-fry until
the potatoes are a light golden brown. add onions, bell pepper and sesame
seeds, and stir-fry one minute more. In a small bowl mix together soy sauce,
korean red pepper powder and salt. Add the mixture to the skillet, and cook
until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 1-2 minutes. serve warm.


fiery fish and tofu soup (one of alex’s favorites)
serves: 3-4
calories: ?
ingredients:
6 cups water
1 cube beef bouillon
2 tablespoons doenjang (soy bean paste)
1 medium-size tilefish, cut into steaks
8 ounces watercress
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1.5 tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 pkg. extra firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts coarsely chopped
salt/pepper to taste

cook: in a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add bouillon and deonjang paste
stirring until both are dissolved. next add tofu, onion, garlic, watercress, and red
pepper flakes, and bring to a boil. finally, add fish steaks and bring to a boil,
again. lower heat to a simmer and cover. cook another 15 minutes, giving the
fish time to cook through and the flavors to blend. serve hot, salt and pepper to
taste.

i always add more red pepper for a spicier soup. simple enough, wouldn’t you say? have a nice dinner.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

caucasians with mokkums

nestled into a modest studio three stories from the streets of chipyung-dong, we cautiously tapped the frosted-glass doors of Master Lee’s dojang for Haedong Kumdo. both of us admittedly nervous, with a desire to resume training that outweighed all else, entered the school.

Master Lee rose from his small, over-furnitured office with a curious look that snapped into a smile. he nodded . . . that means we should speak. (panic) what do we say? would he understand us? will we offend with our directness, a characteristic "fault" of americans? we said nothing, following our gut instinct to bow instead. not that our speaking would’ve upset him in any way, but bowing definitely makes a favorable impression especially on a master.

after a slow, hobbled discussion in broken english/korean of our want to train, Master Lee agreed to take us on. he then gave us the grand tour of his school. the main room’s green floors and fluorescent lights are lined on one side by a cracked, mirrored wall, on another by rack upon rack of swords, and finally a wall of windows facing the street. the closet-esque locker rooms, packed full of students' uniforms, are stuffy from the lack of air circulation. overall, i’d say it was pretty homey.

what does it cost to train in south korea, you ask? for the opportunity to experience the culture of training in a martial art in its native country, a whopping $60 per student/month. amazing. simply amazing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jeungshim-sa

new pictures posted of a2's trip to Mudeung-san (05/22).

temple
click on photo

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

certifiable alien

it's official . . . look, i have a card and everything.

alien

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

E*Mart= Meijer + Crack Cocaine

Packed into a four-story megaplex complete with underground parking, kids’ playland, a flea market, an eye doctor, a photographer, a pharmacist and a Lotteria (Korean McD’s) is our friendly, efficient, local one-stop shopping.

E*Mart

The E*Mart squats like a dumb, yellow dog of unimaginative architecture stretching out to the pathways of Jungwoi Park. Windows framing a crisscross, hatch-weave of escalator ramps, allow a brief bit of sun into its maze of bellowing saleswomen, brightly lit produce and people unable to control their shopping carts. It is a quintessential homage to the western capitalist world complete with super-happy, la-la music.

The women bookend grocery aisles. These saleswomen are disturbing caricatures of their former Korean selves. Theatrically dressed as housewives, schoolgirls, anime cartoons, or whatever will sell the product, they throw themselves at you with a form of pressure sale that would make an American blush (and does). Power struggles between various women and products . . . who can yell louder, who will try to put an unwanted product in a cart, or who will continue talking to you even though she knows you have no idea what the hell she’s saying? Above the sales’ wars and customer assaults, a bouncy chorus of “LA, LA, LA’s” strive to lull you into a prozac-esque coma, but fail miserably. Instead of the senses being numbed, the shopper is introduced to a form of bi-polarism that has in the past created killers for clock towers.

Fortunately, I’m possessed by a bit of madness, so I enjoy my trips to E*Mart. I long for the quiet, humming therapy of the frozen pizza freezers at Jewel sometimes, but how often does capitalism-via-circus come to America’s grocery stores? So for now, I’ll relish the squid-pushing fish guy, the Dove girls in legwarmers, and the chili paste lady in mother’s kerchief.