Sunday, January 30, 2011

Le Weekend.

Sorry it's been a few days.  We've been uber busy lately with friends leaving Korea, the boy changing schools, and Master Sim becoming a daddy.

YES!  Our beloved Hapkido Master is now a dad to the most beautiful baby girl that I've ever seen.  She was born on Thursday and we were able to watch videos that Master Sim took of her an hour after her birth.  She was so alert and following everything with her eyes.  She's going to be a smarty pants, that one.  They still haven't named her yet, but I'll be sure to post pictures along with her name as soon as we find out. 

We desperately wanted to help out Master Sim and his wife Eri any way we could.  We asked if they needed anything and his response was, "No.  It's okay.  Wait, we need baby panty.  No flowers.  Never.  But many, many baby panty".   Ah yes, diapers. 

The boy and I headed to E-mart and found ourselves in quite the predicament.   There were so many different kinds of diapers!  There weren't any sizes, but they were all in kgs.  As in, grab a diaper that matches your childs weight.  It's hard enough being an American and working in the metric system, but add Korean on top of that and you've got one confused couple. 

We were finally able to use my phone to translate 신생아.  It means "newborn".  I now understand why Master Sim wanted diapers so bad.  Those suckers are expensive.  I think we decided then and there that if we ever have kids, we'll definitely try cloth diapers. 

When we weren't on the hunt for newborn diapers, we were sending off another friend.  We went out with some friends last night to send off Landis Lee.  She actually arrived in Pohang a month after we did and she's been on more than a few adventures with us.  We're sad to see her go but she left us a bunch of goodies.  We inherited a lovely couch and a sheet ton of spices.  Ares and I even tested the couch out today with a little nappy nap.

And yes, I'm sleeping with my jacket on because it's still freezing in Korea. 

I believe that the remainder of our weekend will be spent making plans for our big expedition.  We won't know what countries we'll be visiting until we have the letters in hand, but there's still so much that we need to get worked out.  We also want to incorporate some form of volunteer work with every country that we visit.  Please feel free to offer any suggestions.  We'd love to hear any of your ideas!

And one more picture, just because we finally captured Ares rolling his eyes at us. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

Today is the big term test at my school.  I was trying to stress to one of my younger classes that it was very important for them to take their time during the test.  I didn't want any of them to rush through it and end up making silly mistakes. 

Me: So remember, I want you to take your time.  Go slow.  

Julie: Yes teacher.  Like turtle.

Me: Yes Julie, slow like a turtle.

Emily: Not like rabbit.

Me: Exactly.  

Lucia: Not like eagle. 

Wandering Wednesday.

Oh yes!  One of my favorites.

This picture was taken in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  This was actually the 2nd time that they boy and I ventured to beautiful Thailand.  All the rumors are true.  The place is magical and we just can't stay away.  

The first time we went to Thailand was on a short vacation that we had thanks to Lunar New Year.  We flew into Bangkok (for peanuts), stayed there a few days and then caught a 3 hour bus to Kanchanaburi.  I remember the first time I caught glimpse of a sak yant.  It was on a beautiful Thai woman at the Chatuchat weekend market in Bangkok.  I thought her tattoo was simply stunning and I secretly made plans to get my own as soon as we arrived back in Korea.

Once we were home I started my research.  I discovered that there was no way for me to get an original sak yant as long as I was in Korea.  Yants are a sacred form of tattooing that's practiced by Buddhist monks in southeast Asia.   These tattoos are catered to each person individually and have many different meanings and connotations.  Each one comes with a blessing and they're said to have "magical powers".  They're traditionally done with a sharpened bamboo rod which is meticulously and repeatedly etched into your skin.

It didn't take much convincing to get the boy on board.  If I remember correctly, we booked our tickets back to T-land almost immediately after I told the boy about sak yants. It was around the same time as the Red Shirt's protests and we were lucky enough to get our Bangkok tickets rerouted to Chiang Mai up north for free. 

We found ourselves at the Funky Monkey guest house which is run by a British expat and his Thai wife.  They were gracious enough to take us to visit Phra Ajarn Gamtorn at his temple and it was there that we received our sak yants.

And please, be warned- these hurt.  Hurt real bad.  I did a ton of research beforehand and I read that a lot of people felt that they didn't hurt as much as a normal tattoo.  Well, they were wrong.  So wrong.  I was a little angry about it.  It didn't help either that the boy went first and he smiled throughout the entire experience.  The audacity!

He claims that it was because he expected it to be so much worse as it was his first tattoo ever.  I tried to act all calm, cool and collected, but I did not enjoy it.  I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the location of my sak yant, but still.  I resorted to counting everything in the room to take my mind off the pain.  I counted the tiles on the floor.  I counted the buttons on a woman's purse.  I even tried to count the leaves on a tree. 

After Phra Ajarn Gamtorn was finished with our sak yants, he blew a special blessing onto them.  As is the custom, he only accepts donations for his work.  These donations can come in the form of food offerings or baht, it's completely up to you.  

Five lines offering protection, prosperity, and health.
Blessings catered for a women.  Health and happiness. 
** Author's Note**

I had originally planned to post information regarding Phra Ajarn Gamtorn as well as the location of his temple in Chiang Mai.  As I typed his name into Google I was shocked to learn that he passed away in September.  I'm actually a little overwhelmed.  He seemed like such a spry young man.  He was so kind and generous and had a great personality.  I need to sit down and let this sink it, but I will leave you with  the article that I found.

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Phra Ajarn Gamtorn, Abbot and Sak Yant Master of Wat Nong Khem, San Patong Chiang Mai.

Phra Ajarn Gamtorn had suffered from Diabetes and finally succumbed to the disease on Tuesday 14th September 2010 at 2am.

Phra Ajarn Gamtorn, aged 38, was born Baideegah Gamtorn and was given the name Gitisopanoe when he ordained as a Buddhist Monk 17 years ago. Full of humanity and with a great sense of humour, he had become a widely respected Sak Yant Master in Thailand. Phra Ajarn Gamtorn has bestowed his blessings on many thousands of Thai men and women who had the privilege of receiving a Sak Yant from him and latterly, with the growing interest of Sak Yant in the West, his blessings have been taken all around the World by the many foreigners who have visited him over the last two or three years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Things that would not fly in the States.

Over the span of almost two years the boy and I have composed a nice little list of all of the things that happen in Korea that would never happen back home.   From parking (and driving) on sidewalks and hard liquor in claw machines to leaving your baby in their stroller while you have a coffee in Dunkin' Donuts and donning high heels while hiking; there are just some things that are unique to Korea. 

Today I bring you my top 3 things that I think would not fly back home. 

Corporal Punishment.

What can I say?  In Korea it's perfectly normal to see a Korean teacher hit a student.  Students are usually hit on the hands with some type of wooden rod.

At my previous school students knew when they were about to get hit and would blow on their hands and rub them together feverishly.  I never saw blood and I never saw tears.  In fact, it seemed to me that the teacher's who were known for hitting, were also the most admired and respected by the students. 

If you could see how my old co-teachers acted towards the students you would be astounded.  Almost daily they would have one backed against a wall, pretending to knee or punch him or her while frantically shouting in Korean.  It was all (mostly) in jest, but either way, if that were to happen in the States, the school would be slapped with a lawsuit faster than you could say "Jake Gyllenhall".

My direct and abundant use of the word "panties".  Just let me explain. 

If there's one important teaching technique that I learned from Aria it's that Korean children love the word "panties".  They love it.  It's kind of dirty and gritty, but still a little fun to say at the same time and the kids go nuts. 

It took me 3 months for my students at my old school to remember that the tricky little "y" has to be changed to "ies" to become plural.  Party- parties.  Berry- berries.  Ferry- ferries.  Nope.  They just couldn't get it.  There was no easy way to get it ingrained in their heads.

This year I used the word "panty" as an example, and let me tell you, these students haven't forgotten once.  Not once. (yes, I know that panties are always plural, but give a girl a break)

I even have a huge class of 6 year olds and there's one little girl that can barely read, write, or understand a word that comes out of my mouth, but you best believe that she'll randomly shout, "fire panties" throughout the class.  I'm hoping that "fire panties" will eventually lead to a more tactful exclamation, but I'll take what little I can get. 

Nude spas (Jjimjilbangs)

I'm not saying that it wouldn't necessarily fly in the States, I'm just saying that it probably wouldn't be nearly as popular or common as it is here. 

What do you do if you're feeling tired, stressed, and your muscles are aching?  In Korea, one would go to a spa. 

What is a spa like in Korea?  Let me paint you a picture. 

The boy and I went to a spa about a month or two after joining hapkido.  We were sore and tired and we thought that a relaxing day at the spa was just what we needed.  I thought it was awesome.  You pay about six dollars and they give you a nifty little outfit to wear throughout your experience and you get to stay there as long as you want.  You can even spend the night!  There are several different levels and men and women have their own floors. 

The beau and I went on a Saturday and boy, it was poppin'!  There were women everywhere.  They were in the saunas, they were in the showers, there were at least 20 women in every pool.  There were women lined up along a river in the floor, sitting in between each others legs, scrubbing down their friends.

It was awkward.  Just a little.  Awkward for me and only me because I had never experienced anything like it before.  I had never really paraded around so many people with all my cash and prizes hanging out.  It was how I had expected Mardi Gras in New Orleans to be minus the booze and beads. 

But after ten minutes, all the awkwardness and nervousness subsided.  I had found a pool that was the perfect temperature and I didn't even have a second thought about my surroundings.

And there you have it.  There are some things about Korea that I will probably never understand, but that's the beauty of it all.  The boy and I yearn to question and be challenged and Korea certainly does both.  While I can't see myself incorporating corporal punishment into my classroom any time soon, I will be casually frequenting the local spas.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

Andy:  Teacher, if I die you must not go to my funeral.

Me:  Why can't I go to your funeral Andy?

Andy:  Because you are much older so when I die you will already be died. 

Me:  What if I live a really long time and I'm still alive?

Andy:  Sorry teacher, you are old.

Steppin' Out Saturday

Okay okay I'm late.  It's technically Monday night in Korea, but we live in the future so I'm really not that  behind.

Our weekend was awesome.  We are saving pennies for our big expedition, our 3 year anniversary, and our next big vacation so we've been attempting to lay low for the next few weeks.  We spent most of Saturday at home.  I cooked a little pasta bake (you can find the recipe here) and then the boy and I headed over to our friend's house for a big potluck and game night with all the other Pohang foreigners.  It was good fun!

We also managed to take a few pictures of us "Steppin' Out".  Here's what we wore.

Shirt: UGIZ
Tank top: Style Lab
Pants: F21
Jacket: Buckaroo
Beanie: Style Lab

Ensemble: Hapkido Katana Uniform

(Okay.  So he didn't really wear it all day but he did go out and practice in it)

Sunday was spent chillaxin' at home.  My friend Claire and I are going to try to get back into marathon training but it's just too frigid right now.  You think I'm making excuses, but really it's the coldest weather that Korea's experienced in over 100 years.  Take that.  I'm really just lazy. 

So there you have it, our weekend.  I promise that we'll have more to talk about over the next few days! 

Foreigners Unite!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Culinary Milestone

Something very exciting happened today.  The day that I never thought would come actually arrived and it took me completely by surprise.  Ladies and Gentlemen after 25 years of walking this Earth, I finally ate a whole bowl of cereal...

...with milk.

Now I'm sure a lot of you are confused.  But, don't you always eat your cereal with milk Tawny?

The answer is no.  Not ever.  I don't even really like milk.  The only person in my immediate family who can drink milk straight is my brother- and he's lactose intolerant.  My mom, dad, and I don't really enjoy it.  So instead of eating our cereal with milk, my dad and I would always pour some orange juice over the top.  Nom nom nom delicious. 

I love cereal.  I love orange juice.  Mix the two together and it's pure perfection.  I once shared my culinary concoction with my best friend in junior high.  She told me that she tried cereal with juice and absolutely hated it. When I asked what kind of juice she used she replied, "Capri Sun".  No no no.  For me, it has to be orange juice. 

This morning the boy went out to fetch something to eat for breakfast.  He came back and prepared his bowl of cereal and for the first time in my life, it looked delicious with the milk in it.  I decided that I would be adventurous and go in for a bite and hot damn!  Cereal with milk is where it's at. I can't believe that it took me so long.

The veil has been lifted people.  No cereal is safe.  I'm yearning to go out and buy a box of Lucky Charms to see how those crunchy, stale marshmallows taste with the sweet, white nectar that I've just become acquainted with. 

While I'm not sure that I'm willing to give up on my orange juice just yet, you best believe that milk will become a frequent supplement to my breakfast.  Three cheers for milk!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Moving Mountains.

The Disney movie "Cheetah" is what brought me to Africa.  It sounds ridiculous, but I remember being 8 years old and glued to the television whenever my mom put that movie on.  I was enthralled with the sights, and the people, and even the animals that were featured on the film.  There was something so mysterious about Africa and I wanted to experience it for myself so bad.  I remember swearing to myself that someday, someway, somehow I would get myself to Africa. 

Fifteen years later I found myself on the plains of the Serengeti holding my breath while watching two cheetahs search for their next meal.  It was something that I had waited for my entire life and I was able to experience it with a group of amazing people.  I was on a J-term trip with a group of 18 other students from Pacific Lutheran University.  We were to spend 3 amazing weeks in Tanzania; going on a safari, reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, and soaking up the sun on the island of Zanzibar.  As an added bonus, we were getting Communications and English credits. 

This post is to celebrate a milestone.  Or maybe, milestones.  Three years ago today I was quite literally standing on top of the world.  It took us four full days of climbing, and 7 grueling hours of altitude sickness on summit day until we finally made it to the top of the highest free standing mountain in the world.  It's amazing the things that you learn about yourself when you're bound to your thoughts, unable to feel your fingers and toes, painstakingly working your way to a goal that you cannot physically see.

Not everyone makes it to the top of Kili.  Summit day was one of the most grueling days of my life, both physically and mentally.  Altitude sickness is a real buzz-kill.  Not only did it make me want to projectile vomit every ounce of liquid in my body, but it also made most of us hallucinate.  One person thought they saw someone in a hyperbolic chamber (turned out to be a rock), someone else (cough cough me) got it in their head that their camera was frozen and wouldn't work (which is why I don't have any pictures of us at the summit), and someone else had an amazing revelation.  This revelation was a saying.  This saying went something like this, "If you don't tie a train's shoelaces it will go around in circles until you get dizzy".  Bottle that shiz up and sell it people.  It doesn't get more amazing than that! 

We would have never made it to the top of Kili if it weren't for our awesome guides.  One man in particular found himself dubbed "Simba" for his warm personality and his lion heart.   He was ridiculously strong, he knew Kili like the back of his hand, and he was almost like a father figure for us as we carefully trekked up the mountain.  One night we asked him what nicknames he would give each of us.   He claimed that I looked like a "Duma".  He didn't even have to give me the translation, I had already known what duma meant.  I had known for 15 years.  Duma is Swahili for cheetah. 

On summit day we moved painfully slow.  We had only gotten a few hours of shut eye (at  best) and I wanted to sleep so bad that every time we took a short break, I'd jab my trekking pole into the ground and rest my forehead on top of it.  It wouldn't take long before Simba would shake me awake and yell, "Duma!  No sleep!".  There were a few occasions where I felt so sick and so cold that I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air and roll my way back down the mountain.   A few thoughts stopped me from doing just that.

1.) My parents invested way too much into me and this trip for me to just quit.  
2.) I'd be paying for this trip for quite some time and I better get my ace to the top.  
3.) I might never have this opportunity again.  
4.) Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro would give you some pretty awesome bragging rights  
5.) That douche of a boyfriend that I used to have will defecate in his pants once he finds out I that I made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

I also prayed my way to the top.  Boy, did I pray.  The first verse that came into my mind was Isaiah 40:31, Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.  They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  Pretty fitting, I'd say.  Even when I was so tired that I couldn't think, that verse continued to ruminate through my head. 

I can't believe that it's been three years.  I'm so grateful for the experience.  I was given the opportunity to push myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I met some truly incredible people on the trip and I have so many memories that even now, make my heart swell with happiness.   So here's to us; the group of us that held each other up, emotionally and even physically while climbing to the top.  Here's to challenging yourself beyond measure.  And here's to hoping that we experience so many more of these moments in life.  May everyone find and summit their own Kilimanjaro.

Day 3.
Day 4.

Making our way down from the summit at over 19,000 ft.

Coming this Spring

Alright ladies and gents, the following post is going to come not from me, but from the boy.  This is something that we've been waiting to reveal for quite some time.  It's actually one of the main reasons I started the blog.  It's also why we came to Korea.  We came to have an adventure of a lifetime, and to also save up money for this grand expedition.  I'll let the beau explain it to you for himself...

Why do we write home?

I think with most of us there is a deep and primal urge to explore; the thrill of mystery compels us all.
Equal to that desire however is a need to also have community. We want as much to be with each other as we do to find what lies outside the known boundaries of our lives.

With letters we can mitigate those needs and find some middle ground.
This has been going on since the romantic days of sea travel.

This Spring, it will happen again, in full style.
I've been planning this journey for years. 
I've been obsessed with this quest for years.

In the Galapagos there is a spot that sailors have been using to store letters. Originally British, Dutch, and Spanish vessels would drop their letters on the island. Post Man Bay as it's come to be known didn't take long to become an international hot spot. Vessels would come and drop their mail off and pick up letters bound for their next port. When they arrived they would deliver them.
Today the tradition continues. When people visit the Galapagos they drop a letter into the barrel on Post Man bay and take one out to deliver by hand to someone near their home.

This spring Tawny and I are traveling to South America and out to the Galapagos by ship.
When we arrive we will go to Post Man Bay, claim a fist-full of letters and deliver them across the world.
As we go we will be taking the traditional modes of transportation unique to each country that would have been available during the time period when Post Man Bay was established.

 Join us for a journey around the world.
By ship.
By train.
By camel.

Across the globe delivering your stories.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yes to Coca. No to Cocaine.

CNN recently posted this little gem online.

I get all giddy inside when I hear this kind of news.  The unintended consequences of coca eradication in South America was the topic of my capstone (i.e. dissertation) in college.  It's something that I'm very passionate about.  This passion was fueled by the time that I spent in Bolivia and Peru.

It wasn't until my trip to Bolivia that I was able to see firsthand the integral part that coca plays in Andean society.  Coca has so many uses; traditional, medicinal, and even religious.  For example, the second we stepped off the plane in Sucre we were given cups of coca tea.  The coca tea was to calm our stomachs and to also prevent us from suffering the effects of altitude sickness. 

Coca leaves are also used in wedding ceremonies, burials, and even to celebrate the purchase of a new car.  Not only that, but coca is widely used to stave off thirst and hunger pains.  With Bolivia being one of the poorest and least developed countries in South America, the coca leaf is almost essential for the survival of many Bolivians.  When we went to visit the mines in the town of Potosi we were told to bring gifts to the miners that were tirelessly and tediously working inside.  What were their main requests?  Alcohol, dynamite, and coca leaves.  Quite the combo.   Because coca leaves are used to stave off hunger and thirst, it allows the men to work longer and harder.  The longer they work, the more money they can take home to their families.

Took this in 2007 in the mines of Potosi, Bolivia
The Bush administration believed that the best way to combat the war on drugs was to stop these drugs at their source.  It was thought that if one simply eradicated all of the coca in South America, the U.S. drug problem would be solved.  Erm, no.  Not only would it destroy the livelihoods of an entire nation, but it would only displace coca farms and force them move to another country. 

It's just not fair.  Believe you me, I did not see one Bolivian cracked out on cocaine the entire time I was in the country.  These people aren't using coca to get high, they're using it to survive.  And yes, I acknowledge that there are coca farms in Bolivia, and these farms produce coca that will later be refined into cocaine and inevitably make its way to the States.  However, I don't think that complete eradication is the answer.  And (I should stop myself before I get too heated), IF we were to completely eradicate coca, we should replace it with something else.  Provide Bolivians with another source of income while keeping their traditions and values at the forefront. 

So what exactly am I getting at?  I think that taking coca off the U.N. list of banned drugs could be a positive step in the right direction.  This would allow Bolivians to legally sell products made with the leaves, thus providing another option for them to make a steady income.  Coca tea, coca toothpaste, and even a fizzy drink aptly named "Coca Colla" might be new things to go on the wish list.

Bolivian president Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and a huge proponent for the legalization of coca.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wandering Wednesday.

Wordless Wednesdays (the only one that I've done so far) will now be "Wandering Wednesdays".  Why?  Because quite frankly, I'm never really wordless on Wednesdays.  Plus, this way I can still choose a travel picture at random and insert some sound advice that someone, anyone might find useful. 

This one comes with a lot of memories.  This was taken back in January of 2007.  Has it really been four years?!  whimper.  This group of awesome girls and I had been traveling through Bolivia with Florencio, our amazeballs 4-wheel driver that played Michael Bolton remixes and Titanic on his 8-track.   There was a little language barrier between Florencio and ourselves, but we managed to get across that we liked being ahead of the rest of the group by exclaiming excitedly, "numero uno!"  And boy, Florencio delivered.  It was one of the best (and longest) rides of my life. 

I believe that this picture was taken after a one night stay at a  solar powered hotel in the middle of nowhere, Bolivia.  It was miles from any town, but located in close proximity to Laguna Colorado (google it.  seriously).  The name of the hotel is Hotel Tayka del Desierto and it was very basic with limited heating and electricity, but so worth it to be sheltered so close to Laguna Colorado.  

I'm not sure if the hotel is the same as it was back in 2007, but when our caravan arrived at around 11 pm we were greeted by a little smiling man in a tuxedo.  They had a big dinner prepared for us and we ate by candlelight (since all electricity was off by 8).  I remember showering with my headlamp on the toilet seat so that I wouldn't hurt myself while bathing.  As Spartan as it was, I remember experiencing one of the most restful sleeps of the trip. 

I know what I want for Valentine's Day...

Erm, so... I've lived in Korea long enough to miss certain things.  Certain things like Thanksgiving dinner, real bacon, and good ol' Western baked goods.  It's slightly ridiculous just how much I miss the smell of simmering bacon on Sunday mornings, being able to bake cupcakes in a real standard size oven, and Thanksgiving.  Oh Thanksgiving.  My favorite holiday of all time.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, fresh warm dinner rolls oh my!

Luckily for me, a little website exists that can cure my hunger longings.  This website is  Here is what they have to offer...

Gimme gimme gimme.  Thanksgiving bubblegum?  Are you cereal?  All of my wildest dreams have come true.  I feel like Violet Beauregarde minus the whole turning into a blueberry fiasco.  They also have bacon and cupcake bubblegum (not together, silly), astronaut ice cream, civet crap choice coffee, and canned unicorn meat.   How can my day get any better?  Oh, if only I had some of this tasty and strange goodness right meow.

Your Daily Gem.

Today in class we were going over our new vocabulary words.  One of the words was "kidnap".  I asked the students if they knew what it meant. 

Jenny explained, "Teacher, kidnap is like "Andy come in my van and I give you candy".  That is kidnap". 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Hunger Years

There are days every now and again that the boy and I get unreasonably down.  These are the times when we don't know where we're supposed to be in life and what we should be doing.   We don't know if we're making an impact, we don't understand why we aren't more successful, and we feel as if we're going around in circles.   Sometimes it can get so frustrating that I find myself in tears.  Luckily, we seem to alter these feelings of self doubt so that one of us is in a better mood and can slap the other one out of the dumps. 

We're young.  We're not supposed to have everything figured out.  In fact, I'm not sure if I know of anyone that does have it all figured out.  That's what makes life so wonderful.  That's why I love to travel.  There's the unknown and the sense of endless opportunities.  These years are not supposed to be easy, and they haven't been, but I've grown so much and not only that, I've gotten to get to know myself better.  

We've dubbed these "the hunger years".  These are the years where you should explore and question.  These are the years where you're supposed to take the time to figure out who you are and what you want out of this life.  These are the years where you live in a tin can while living life to the absolute fullest.  These are the years where you question, have doubt, and find the peace that you need to move on. 

I have to remind myself that I'm still (kind of) a baby. I just turned a quarter century.  I remember back when I was sixteen, so young and naive.  I thought I was going to marry the equally naive boy that I was dating at the time.  I thought I'd have kids by the age of 23.  I thought that one day I would just wake up and be older and wiser and more mature.  I thought that once you were out of high school things would magically fall into place.  I even thought that once you graduated from a university you were pretty much guaranteed the job of your dream.  Ha. Haha.  Hahahahaha. 

I quite literally thank God every night that he didn't give me what my little 16 year old self used to pray for every night.  I would be

I've deemed the 20's for myself.  It's my time to figure out who I am and what I want.  I'm in the position where I don't have any children and little responsibility, that I can take the time to travel and spend a significant amount of time away from home.  There are those times when I look at all the adorable, chubby faced children that my friends have and yearn for one myself.  I wonder if I should be "settling down" or thinking about marriage.  I just know that I'm not ready.  I'm way too selfish to have children and I'm perfectly happy with where the boy and I are at right now.  I deeply admire the women that have devoted themselves to loving and raising their children and I envy their unabashed selflessness.

We live in a studio apartment with one monster of a cat.  We don't have unlimited funds that we can spend on expensive champagne and caviar (who really eats caviar anyway?).  I don't get to go on a huge shopping spree every month.  I still have a pile of student loans and one silly credit card that hold me down. 

But even with all of that, I find myself blessed beyond measure.  When I take a step back and look at all that Chris and I have accomplished since graduating college (or even high school) I am amazed.  Together we have traveled to over 30 countries.  We are able to support ourselves and I am even able to send money home every month to pay off my student loans.  We have our own place, albeit a ridiculously small one.  We are in love.  It's disgusting and I don't even like to talk about it, but we truly are head over heels in love.  gross.  We can travel, and because we're in Korea, it's a lot cheaper than it would be if we were back home.  We have a business that is slowly coming together and it's something that we both love.  To top it off, we both have such amazing family and friends that it quite literally makes my head spin. 

I am overwhelmed with a sense or gratitude.  I don't know what we did to deserve the amazing life that we lead.  It may seem that we're climbing Everest on roller blades, but in all reality, we're doing alright.  We're doing alright.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Steppin' Out Sunday

Korea is brrrr cold people.  très cold.  I layered up before we ventured out today.  We've had a surprisingly super lazy weekend.  It was fantastic.  After the boy made two failed attempts at getting to Seoul, we decided to have lunch and lay low.  And while it may seem like the boy and I see each other all the time, we really don't get to spend quality time with each other.  It was a much needed Captain and Clark weekend. 

Here's what we wore...

Dress: F21
Leggings: F21
Jacket(s): Nordstrom
Boots: Random store in Korea
scarf: A birthday gift

Hat: REI
Jacket: Coax
Pants: Army surplus

Ares Kitten
Fur: His own doing.

Wild Wild East/West Whopper

This Burger King commercial has been playing around Korea for quite some time and I am addicted.  It's HI-LARIOUS.  It features Korean comedian Yoo Sae-Yoon and I might have a teeny little crush on him.  It's okay, the boy is already aware and okay with it.  I can't find the original version that's featured on our tv programs, but this one is pretty close...

The lovely boy found the original.  Yesssss

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

My 3rd graders had their language arts pop quiz today and the word "shiver" was in one of the answers.  Now, the way that Korean children pronounce "shiver" makes it sound more like "shibal" which is an extremely bad word in Korea.  This whole coincidence led one of my students to ask me to tell them naughty words in English.  I gave the usual speech about how they shouldn't learn them because if they go to America and say bad words people will cut off their fingers one by one. 

Sweet and quiet Clark was sitting in the corner concentrating pretty hard.  You could tell that he was desperately trying to remember something.  I saw a light bulb go off and he eagerly raised his hand and asked, "Teacher, son of a bitch?"

Don't know where he learned that. 

Call Me Crazy...

When the boy and I decided to pack it up and move to Korea we were told by numerous people that we were insane.  Why would we want to be anywhere near Kim Jong-Il?  Why would we want to stuff our faces with spicy fermented cabbage?  Why leave everything we know and move to a place where we don't understand the language or customs?

Don't know if you've noticed, but we are a little crazy.  And extremely passionate about travel.  Not that anything could really shock my family or friends anymore, but I was inspired by fellow blogger,  Dangerous Business to make a little list of "the 5 places I want to visit that mom and dad don't know about".  Well daddy, I know you're reading this and I'm sure you won't be too surprised but here they are:

#1 Saudi Arabia

Why?  Um, because it's Saudi Arabia.
You can blame my grandpa.  The man spent a significant amount of time there during his years as a Green Beret.  He has some crazy stories from the place and a HUGE hookah that he bought while he was there.  (Seriously.  I thought it was a coat hanger when I was young)  It's a country shrouded in mystery and deeply rooted traditions and values.  I like danger.  I like mystery.  I've got values.  Plus, while the boy and I were in Bahrain we heard a few little birdies talk about all the underground partying that happens there.   Le bonus.

#2 Antarctica

Well it's not ridiculously crazy, but it's cold.  Colder than Stalin's balls.
I had never really had any extreme urge to go to Antarctica until I met the mister.  It's been calling to him all of his life.  He had the opportunity to either go to Antarctica or travel to Tanzania during our senior year of college.  He chose Tanzania, and good thing too- it is where we met after all.  Regardless of just how ridiculously happy I make him (ego boost), he still has a void.  One that can only be filled with a freezing trip down to A-town.  It's also the only continent that he has yet to step foot on.   (bonus: penguins)

#3 Syria

Aleppo.  Damascus.  Swoons. 
The food (hummus, falafel, baklawa.. oh my!), the souks, one of the oldest human settlements in the world.  What's not to love about Syria?  And really, how many people do you know have been to Syria?  It also helps that I'm obsessed with anything that has to do with the middle east.  There's just so much to do and see.  I'm sure I could easily spend a year or two just trying to take everything in. 

#4 Mongolia.

Oh the steppes of Mongolia.
We've had our eye on Mongolia for quite some time.  It's just a tease really.  It's only a short 3-hour plane ride from Seoul and it's relatively cheap.  We really want to spend a few weeks out on the steppes with a host family; living in a ger, hunting with eagles, and collecting yak dung for our fire.  Well, maybe not so much the last one, but I hear it's pretty necessary.  We're trying to get everything worked out so that we can actually make this trip a reality before we leave Korea.   Please for the love of Anderson Cooper, let this happen!

#5 North Korea

I know what you're thinking.  "Why go to North Korea when you have all of the kimchi you could possibly want in the South?"
Well my friends, the answer is simply because of curiosity.  Before Kim Jon-Il completely lost his marbles and decided that torpedoing ships and bombing small islands was a good idea, we actually had looked into a few trips into North Korea.  After living in the ROK for over a year a half it would be really interesting to see how things are for those that live on the other side of the fence.  The one drawback was the price.  It was absurdly expensive and there was no way that we were going to put our hard earned money directly into KJI's pocket.  I'd like to not fund terrorism and mass starvation (is funding starvation even possible?), thank you.  Also, we'd have someone following our every move for the entire duration of our stay.  Not really how we role.  I do sincerely hope that one day there will be an easy way for people to cross back and forth.  There are countless families that have remained separated since the start of the Korean war and there are only so many that get the opportunity to be reunited every year. 

So there you have it, our not-so-secret list of places that are a little absurd or off the beaten path.   Let's see if we get to any of them over the next year.  Here's to hoping....

I think I've got myself an admirer...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday.

I haven't necessarily been "wordless" today, but HEY... I do what I want.

I've decided that my "Wordless Wednesdays" will be randomly generated by my computer.  "Vintage-y style" as they say in Korea.  This picture was taken back in January of 2008.  I was traveling though Tanzania with fellow students from Pacific Lutheran University.  We had just reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro only days before.  This is on Paje beach on the island of Zanzibar.  I was young[er], tan[ner], and had just met the boy.  Le sigh. 

We've got a new addiction...

Here you have T-ara's new single, "Yayayaya".  I do not possess the words to adequately describe this song or their music video.  You'll just have to watch it for yourself.  It's been stuck in my head all day.  The boy and I have been trying to figure out who should be more offended- Native Americans or overweight men?

A Day in the Life...

of a hagwon teacher.

There are really three types of English teachers in Korea.  You have the public school teachers who get more job security and significantly more vacation days.  You have the teachers who teach private lessons and make bank but risk getting deported back to their homeland because it's illegal.  Then you have the ubiquitous hagwon teachers.  These teachers work at after school academies for slightly more money but fewer vacation days.

I am the latter.

My school caters to elementary school students.  These kids have already spent their entire day at public school and then they come to us for 2 more hours- sometimes more.  Classes are either 2, 3, or 5 days a week.  It's insane just how much Korean children attend some form of school.  I fully plan on threatening to send my future children to Korea if they misbehave in any way.  That'll teach 'em.

So what is a typical day like at my school?  Why here, let me show you...

First things first, don a face mask.  Swine flu's been wreaking havoc on our school and little children tend to spread disease faster than I can say "holy swine flu batman".   Also, all of the teachers share one large teacher's lounge where we spend a few hours of our day.  If one gets sick, others will surely follow.

We get to work at around 1 pm.  Our first class starts at 2:30.   It gives us a good hour and a half to get all of our lessons planned and prepared for the day.  It's also when we usually eat our lunch.  Something about our school makes us hungry all.the.time.  The second I walk through the door I find myself instantly famished.  We also usually teach all day with only 5 minutes in between classes.  We normally take that time to stuff our faces with cereal or peanut buttered bread.  nom nom nom.

At 2:30 the bell rings (Pachelbel's Canon, mind you) and I spend the remainder of my day forming young minds like these...

Sweet Emily
Showing off their work.
Jenny giving me her pose
Jenny wanted to take my picture & even told me how to pose
Silly Andy
My biggest class boasting some of my youngest students.
These are just a handful of the classes that I teach.  I can have anywhere from one to ten students in a class.  You must meet Jacob.

Jacob holds a special place in all of our hearts at Langcon.  He's notorious for his little tantrums.  Most of them involve throwing his backpack and trying to rip his school books.  Lucky for me, I get to teach the handsome little devil.  Don't let this picture fool you.  I had to tame him with that cup of valium cereal.  He comes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but he hates, nay- despises Wednesdays.  That's when we work out of his least favorite book.  I usually spend the majority of the class trying to talk him out of eating his book.  Today I told him that he'd have a real hard time trying to find a girlfriend if he kept up with his bad attitude.  His response?  "Teacher is ugly."  Head meet desk. 

At 7:35 the last bell rings and all of us teachers head back to our lounge to unwind and get things in order for the following day.  The day actually flies by, especially with back to back classes.  It's also nice to work with the co-teachers that I have.  We can usually find the humor in any situation and having them there makes the "work" more enjoyable. 

And there you have it.  A little peek at my work days.
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