Showing posts from 2007


Well, we returned to America safe and sound after a long and sleepless flight over the Pacific. Neither of us did more than briefly nod off, so upon landing in Seattle we looked stunning. Justin quickly shuttle us to his apartment where I was viciously attacked my mother. She lunged from the darkness of the bathroom attempting to scare the crap out of me. It was actaully really sweet. We hugged and cried, and I did that annoying screaming thing that girls often do that I usually make fun of.

With all the excitement of having not just my mother surprise us but my dad and little brother also, we were no longer tired. I hadn't hugged my family, with the exception of Justin, in over 2 years.  I was blown away they conspired to surprise us.  We spent the next few days enjoying the company (including Andrea who is in Lynnwood), and ignoring our jet lag to the point of sheer exhaustion.

After Seattle, we hopped down to visit some of Alex's extended family in Arizona. Alex's…

Quickie Update: Vietnam

The nice thing about traveling without concrete plans or a schedule is the freedom it has given us to improvise and choose our own adventure. It's that freedom that allowed to us extend our stay in Hue after some nasty food poisoning, and may have found us the greatest way to tour the Mekong Delta region. More on that another time.

We're currently in the small central highlands city of Dalat. It was founded by some French dude looking to beat the heat of the lowland summers. While it offers a respite from the already seething heat, there is little else to do in the town. It's nice for that reason, too. I've been a bit travel weary after a month of constantly moving, and just needed a day or two to recuperate. The chilly nights have been excellent for sleep, and probably the last we'll need a blanket for the remainder of our trip. In mid-March, while we were in the North, Saigon was already registering temps of 90+ degrees F.

Tomorrow we leave for a beach town south o…


It's a relief to spend these last few days in Korea wrapped in the mountains of Gyeongju.  The mountains are very spiritual places, and I could walk all day for all the glorious views and surprises on the trails here. 

The reverence for history and Buddhism is thick there. I don't know if there's something particular about the region, but we greatly appreciate the contemplative nature of the town and surrounding mountains.

So far, so good

Well our adventures didn't start out as planned, but we've made the most of it. Missed our first bus to Gyeongju and ended up in Busan for two nights. But I enjoy Busan's flavor, so it wasn't that much of a setback. We wrapped up loose ends in Gwangju with a quickness on Monday, and the most difficult part was parting with Master Lee. I cried a bit, and I think he wanted to, too. He hugged me for quite some time. Beyond that, I'm happy to report Alex's contract was upheld.

We're doing well and enjoying our travels around Korea right now. Finally made it to Gyeongju on Wednesday. There's so much to see that we decided to stay until Saturday morning. We were also fortunate enough to run into a man that runs a budget hotel, AND he speaks excellent english. He drew us a great map of must-see attractions. Gyeongju is a large historical area with massive burial mounds of past kings. Lots of Buddhist culture, too. We were on Mt. Nam all day tod…

Audrey's (brief) Retrospective

When asked about my experiences in Korea, I’ve discovered that words escape me. In the grand scheme of things, Alex and I have become so accustomed to the society and culture of Gwangju that we have a hard time remembering the specifics of our lives before coming here.

Korea is a country of nuances, which is why I find it so difficult to explain. I simply do, and of that I am the most proud. Living here has been challenging and far from easy, as you’ve no doubt read on this blog. At no other time in my life can I remember being so calm yet so awkward, or so self-conscious yet confident.

The cultural differences, even those that irk us, are just a normal part of everyday life, as is Kimchi. No longer does anyone warn us about spicy food or linger over us to make sure we know how to cook our Sam Gyup Sal. Most people, with the exception of children, barely seem to notice us as we wander our neighborhood. We are familiar and comfortable faces to shopkeepers and restaurant owners,…

Alex's Year End Retrospective

Another year has passed and I guess I should write something about what I supposedly have learned over the last two years. Again I think it might be short, but I have learned some things. And even as I look forward to about two months of wandering, and no longer having to be responsible for other people’s children, I will miss much of Korea. But the one thing that I have learned that has the most lasting impact, the one that will stay with me long after the memories have become hazy, probably as it will be the cause of that haziness, is that I am becoming an old man, and faster than I would like. I can sense that you might now go look at our profile or mine at my defunct (due to my laziness) blog, and say to me that I am not yet thirty. Very true that is so I guess I should elaborate. These are the ten ways in which I am becoming an old man before my time:
Hair Lines – I am balding and quickly, and my body hair is increasing daily. I
know that this is not something too special, …

Nervous Nurse's Needles & The 2-for-1

I really don't have an issue with needles. I don't mind getting my blood drawn, and don't get nauseated at the sight of a syringe. Most of that ease comes with the idea that the person wielding the needle is a trained professional. That being said . . .

Thursday morning I was scheduled for Hep A & Tetanus boosters. I think the nurses drew straws to see who would have to poke me as they huddled around the vials in a tight circle. The unlucky nurse, looking nervous, brought in the two syringes. I did my best to alleviate her stress by pretending to be distracted by my cuticles or the chart of sport injuries on the wall. In other words, giving her room to do what she does without feeling the pressure of my eyes.

I vaguely remember the last tetanus booster I received. It was after I had been attacked by the neighbor's German Shepherd. The sensation was that of being punched in the arm over and over and over and over and over . . . and then a constant ache th…

More than green tea, though there's a lot of green tea.

Whirlwind is the only word that could possibly describe our weekend in Boseong. Maybe it’s the short winter days or our dwindling time in Korea that made it feel so brief, maybe it was the haste with which we moved through this tourist town’s off-season offerings that turned the quiet streets into a blur. Whatever the case, Boseong was certainly a good time.

Boseong is roughly 1.5 hours from Gwangju by bus, and after a restless night, I was certainly glad for the allotted snooze time. However, when we entered the mountains near Boseong, it was difficult to nap. Of course the scenery was gorgeous as is the case whenever you wander into the more rural areas of this country, but my sudden alertness had more to do with the winding mountain road and the bus seeming to hop its way around corners. Even a year after our bus accident, I still get jittery. Seung-gyun’s sister picked us up from the station, and whisked us off to their family’s restaurant where we were treated to a lunch o…

On Friendship

Friendship is a diverse endeavor; layer over layer of intensity, mercy, strength, and weakness. It has a rare quality in its fleeting or stamina. You will always remember. Years from now, when the name escapes your tongue, a sudden surge of nostalgia will reconstruct a memory, a glimmer of the eye, a subtle texture of differences, and regardless of the distance that’s grown between, you will always smile fondly.

Friendship is an education of the heart. It will teach you how far you will go, how willing you are to bend or break, and with what urgency you move through a particular time in life. I will have many moments in years to come that throw me back into the heart of my life in Korea. I owe the greatest debt of gratitude for rediscovering myself, and how much we all need each other, to my friend Ali.

Some of you have taken the time to read his website and comment on his ordeal. But there is more than what is posted on a page. Letter after letter, his face materializes in …

Back At It

I returned to martial arts this month, and lucky for me, my muscles have good memory. The break was nice.  The abrupt end to our tournament aspirations with our bus accident, coupled with the pressing training schedule and mounting injury... I had needed this break. 

The first three weeks back have been relatively painless, and it's been nice to be back in the dojang working out with Alex. I look forward to having my butt kicked into trekking shape by the time March rolls around. Hopefully we'll make one last trip out to Damyang to hack away at some bamboo, too.

Thank Goodness for Good Friends

With the help of our two closest friends, we negotiated with the landlady today for an additional month (our lease ends on February 3rd). It was rough-going for awhile. She was insisting we sign for an additional 6 months, sublet & give up our deposit ($3,000), then it was to pay double rent for the last month. At this point a mild panic began to overtake me as I thought of all the extra stress that would come from having to live with Alex's boss. A sweet offer, no doubt, but Alex may have actually lost his mind. 

Lucky for us, Seung-gyun and Ki-hyeok are well-versed in the art of haggling. Game faces on, calm, questioning the landlord very subtly until she came around to what they deemed a fair price. We will pay an additional ₩150,000 ($150) for our last month, which is more that reasonable compared to the first options.

With that mess out of our way, we divert our attention to selling furniture and the miscellaneous odds and ends we've acquired over the past co…