Friday, February 25, 2011

The Final Countdown...

Holy balls!  We only have a little over a week left until the polls are closed for TripFilms Filmmaker of the Year award

Have you voted yet?  (Preferably for, you know... us)

And have you seen our competition?!  We were dumbstruck that Captain and Clark was even nominated under the category of Filmmaker of the Year, but it really hit home when we saw all of our competition.  They.are.amazeballs.  No joke.  I would love love love to win the grand prize, but in all honesty, just being nominated was an enormous honor.  High caliber people, high caliber.

But hey, it's not over yet and we'd still like to give our comp. a run for their money.  If you would please donate a few minutes of your time and approximately 5 clicks of your mouse we would greatly appreciate your vote.  And if by some miracle we win, I promise that I'll send you all a hypothetical cigar and/or unicorn.  Unicorns are congratulatory, right?

To vote for Captain and Clark just click HERE.

Our categories include:
Filmmaker of the Year (The big 'un)
Destination Profile Award
Getting Local Award

We really can't thank you enough! 

And this is just for reading... a little teaser of things to come, if you will.

The only Child...

that Chris likes.

Seriously.  The boy in enamored.   Annie has captured his heart and I've never seen him take so well to a small human being.  He normally can't handle little children, but I guess Annie is a anomaly.

Annie is the same Annie that said her eraser could erase my face and that her fist can break things... like my face.  She also told me that I am smart, but not as smart as her.  Her English is nearly flawless and she has quite the personality.  I spend the majority of our class together trying to convince her to stop picking up heavy objects (like her desk) to convince me of how strong she is.

If Chris had a child, it would be Annie.  She told me that she's a "local celebrity" in her town because all of the "old grandma people" think that she's oh-so smart.  To her credit, she is.  She hasn't even started elementary school yet. 



Yesterday, Annie revealed that it was her last week at Langcon.  She won't be able to come anymore since she is starting elementary school and won't have any time.  I told her that she was going to break Chris's heart and she just laughed in my face.

Annie will definitely be missed. 

Is this appropriate?



This picture does not adequately portray "shy".  There's nothing "shy" about this picture.  Embarrassed maybe, but not shy.  I could think of a million other words that this picture would go with.  "Flasher" maybe.  "Pervert".  "Awkward".  "Naughty". "Walk of shame".  But not shy.

I didn't get to review my flashcards before my class of 1st grade girls.  To be fair, they normally don't include pictures of buck naked men.  I was a little surprised when I unwittingly held up the card and all of the girls started wildly screaming and hiding under their desks.

"Teacher!  That man is dirty!  Very VERY dirty!". 

"Teacher why man no panties?"

"Teacher, what that?"

Let's just say that I learned my lesson. I now carefully review my flashcards before I take them to class.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Drinking Games are Fun for Everyone

Even small Korean children. 

Just wait a minute before you go and start judging.  I've actually taken a ubiquitous college drinking game and made it not only fun and appropriate for small children- but also educational.  I've started playing this with my 10 year-olds and they lurve it. 

The game is called Kings aka Kings Cup aka Ring of Fire.

So as most of you know, the game would usually be played with a deck of cards and a few beers.  You have one empty class in the middle and you spread out the deck of cards [face down] around the empty class.  Each card, Ace through King, has a specific meaning and/or action that goes along with it.  For example, the 9 card means rhyme.  I would get to choose a word and we'd have to go around in a circle taking turns coming up with rhyming words. 

Easy peasy, no?


I've obviously had to alter the game a little bit.  I don't need my kids running home to mommy and daddy telling them that Tawny teacher made them drink something that made them feel funny and sleepy.  I've been using a point system.  Each student starts with 25 points and I subtract points from there.  The first person to lose all of their points in the lah-hoo-ser.  Here are my child-friendly rules that I implement in my "Korean Kings" game.

Ace: "Ace in your face".  Each child has to take a card and stick it on their forehead.  The student whose card falls off first is the loser and gets -2 points.

2: "Two-You".  The student gets to pick any other player to lose two of their points.

3: "Three-Me".  If you draw this card then you get -3 points.

4: "Four.. uh, girls".  All girls get -2 points.

5: "I have never".  This one's pretty good.  Everyone holds up 5 fingers and we go around saying things that we've never done.  "I've never eaten kimchi".  "I've never been to the USA".  If you have done any of the things you must put a finger down.  The first person to lose all 5 fingers gets -2 points.

6: "Six is for... boys". All boys get -2 points.

7: "Seven Heaven".  (This gives me an appropriate time to teach them about heaven). Everyone has to raise their hands to heaven.  The last person to raise their hand gets -2 points.

8: "ABCs":  The student that drew the cards gets to go first.  They have to think of a work that begins with "A" (i.e. apple).   The next person has to think of a word that starts with "B" (boat).  Sounds easy, but when English isn't your first language it can be a little challenging.  I give the students only 3 seconds to come up with an answer and they have to make sure they use the appropriate letter of the alphabet. 

9: "Nine-Rhyme":  See!  I've even incorporated phonics in the game! The person who drew the card gets to pick a word and we go around in a circle thinking of rhyming words.  The student who cannot come up with a rhyming word loses 2 points.

10: "Categories": The card holder gets to choose a category.  Any category.  It could be "Disney Princesses", "Different kids of kimchi", or "Animals that are pink".  The person that cannot name anything that fits into the category loses -you guessed it- two points. 

Jack: "Jack Back".  You change directions of the circle and the person whose turn it is next loses 2 points.

Queen: "Queen Questions":  You basically go around in a circle and ask questions, but only questions.  If you answer a question instead of ask one, or if you can't think of a question, you lose 2 points.

King:  Whoever pulls a King gets to make up a rule and gets an additional 5 points.  The student's favorite rule is "Moose".  The person who pulls the king can say "moose" (and put their hands as their antlers) at any time throughout the game.  The last person to follow suit loses 2 points.  Another crowd favorite is the "thumb master".  Whenever this person puts their thumb on the table, the last person to notice loses 2 points.

I can't even tell you how much the kids love this game.  It keeps them talking the entire time and it's better than bingo, hangman, or go fish.  It also keeps them thinking on their toes.  Let's just hope that it doesn't dawn on them while at a future college party that "Tawny teacher" taught them this game when they were in 3rd grade. 

BAMF of the 2nd degree?

It's a little strange that I haven't had any Hapkido posts on here lately.  Things have been a little quiet since Chris injured his foot and Master Sim had his little baby girl.  This week was our first week back after a two week break so that the boy could mend his footsie.

I can't tell you enough how much I love Hapkido.  Never in my life did I ever really want to learn a martial art, but when Chris said he wanted to practice it I decided that he couldn't be the only one in the relationship with a black belt. 

I enjoy Hapkido for so many reasons.  I feel like I'd be able to put up a strong fight in any compromising situation.  If I happened to have my katana with me I'd be in even better luck.  I also like it because it's a pretty intense physical workout.  The first few weeks were rough.  My legs, wrists, arms, joints, every possible muscle in my body hurt.  Bad.  It's gotten better, but even as I type I have to rest my arms in a certain position or else I'll get a sharp pain in my arms.  It hurts so good.

Today we got a big surprise when Master Sim asked the boy and I if we wanted to test for our 2nd degree black belts before we left Korea.  Uh, is Anderson Cooper stunningly handsome?  Silly question.  We enthusiastically said yes and asked when the next test is.  His response?  "Oh.. next test.. next month".  As in, we'll be testing for our 2nd degree black belts in less than 30 days.

Whose got two thumbs and will be working her ace off?

This girl.

 Oh and look.  We even bought Ares his very own Hapkido uniform and katana.

You can stop judging now.   


Monday, February 21, 2011

Planning and Purses.

Our weekend was low-key at best.  The only time we left our little "village" was to head to the next "village" over to go to school.  That's right, school.  Thanks to the snowstorm/snow day we had on Monday we were forced to work on Saturday to make up for it.  No bueno. 

To make things worse, the boy's been battling the plague all week.  The local doctor claimed that it was just a sore throat (and administered a few shots to the bum) but we have our doubts.  I'm pretty sure that he had strep throat.  He couldn't eat, drink, or even sleep because it hurt so bad.  Needless to say, this weekend (aka Sunday) was spent relaxing on the couch, watching Korean reviews of the Grammys, and preparing a teaser for Message in a Barrel.   

We were also able to sort out a budget and make a list of things that we'll need for the expedition.  Since we'll be filming and producing videos and not just traveling I fear that we'll be packing quite the load.  We'll be carrying around a laptop for editing, our two hand held video cameras, my DSLR, our waterproof point and shoot, and our Polaroid along with all of their accessories i.e. mics, batteries, chargers, etc. 

Ideally I'd only like to take one [large] backpack and a little purse or satchel.  Speaking of purses- does anyone know where I can find a good purse-like apparatus for my camera?  I don't want to lug around a camera case that will automatically have me standing out as a foreigner.  I want something that's on the down-low but will also protect my camera. 

I'm a big fan of the Epiphanie camera bags.  They're stunning purses, but they also offer adequate protection for your camera and lenses.  I like the fact that they don't look like a bulky camera bag and they come in a variety of styles and colors.  I'm worried that they might be a just little too flashy for backpacking.  Still, the boy said that he would get me one as my Valentine's day present if I found one that I loved.  (I'm a fan of the "Lola")

I've also looked at Ketti Handbags.  They're just plain beautiful and a little more "natural" looking.  You know what I mean?  These have a more neutral look to them and I feel like it would blend in easier in say, South America or even Southeast Asia.  The only problem is that they're so popular that every bag I want is on back order.  Le boo. 


Still, I might just give up and buy an over the shoulder sling bag as we go and add in padding inserts that can be found here.  Any helpful advice is more than welcomed.  The least noticeable bag, the better.  I don't want to have a big target around me that says "tourist with a plethora of nice(ish) cameras". 

Phone Teaching.

Once a month, those of us teaching at Langcon English Academy are expected to call all of our students and conduct a 5 minute interview/conversation with them.  While it's always at the end of the day and I'm usually extremely tired, the conversations that I overhear are high-larious.  It's even better since I can only hear the boy and Claire talking and not the kids on the other end of the line.

A few of my favorites of the night were...

Chris:  How are you? .... You are "yippy kai yay"? 

Claire:  Yoboseyo!?  No Korean, Louis.  Louis?  What are you doing?  Louis?  (As I hear someone randomly screaming through the receiver).

Chris: Who do you love?  [long empty pause.]  Do you love your mom?  No.  Well then, do you love your dad?  No, not him either?

I also had a few gems with my kids.  My first was when I called little Andy.  I told him that it was Tawny teacher from Langcon and that we had phone teaching.  His response was, "Yeah yeah yeah.  So what?"

I also had 8-year old Jenny tell me that she hadn't eaten dinner yet because her parents were on a date and they didn't bring her back food yet.

My favorite of the night was when I called Leon's house.  I thought it was strange that there was a loud echo in the background.  I asked what he was doing expecting him to tell me that he was eating dinner like the rest of my students.  Instead he nonchalantly responded with, "Teacher.  I'm cleaning my body". 

Phone teaching might secretly be one of my favorite things to do at Langcon.

Oh!  On a somewhat related note- little Jacob had a wee little temper tantrum today while we were learning our "ph" sounds.   He threw his book and started flailing on the floor because he didn't want to spell "Philippines".  He claimed it was "a bad one" because it was too long of a word. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

Wow.  Haven't had one of these in a while.  To be honest, the kids are still as hilarious as ever... I think I'm just getting used to it.  They come up with the most random sayings and I usually find that I'm chuckling to myself in almost every class. 

Yesterday my student Andy was talking about how my beau (who happens to be my co-teacher for the class) gave everyone nicknames.

"Jenny is called 'Princess Jenny' because she is very kind and pretty.  Isaac is called 'Sir Isaac' because he is smart and like a king.  I am called 'Trouble' because I am very silly.  I'm so very silly.  You can call me Steve."

Um, what?  I tried to ask him what he meant, but to no avail.  He just repeated that his name is Andy but I could call him "Steve".  I even asked Chris if he had anything to do with it and he was just as surprised. 

Silly Andy.  Or is it Steve?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bahrain.

Bahrain is a country very close to our hearts.  The boy and I had the opportunity to visit the intricate country for ourselves a little over a year ago and we instantly fell in love with it.  With all of the turmoil that is happening over there right now, we've tried to stay in close contact with our friends who live there.

Our good friend May has taken the time to write out her thoughts on the whole ordeal and agreed to let me share them on here.  These are her personal thoughts and opinions.  For me, I would much rather hear what's happening from a local and not an over sensationalized news station.


This is my take. I'm sure you'll find many who disagree with me. I have to generalize here or I won't ever finish writing. I think the most important thing you should take away from this is how complex the situation is and how very divided we are on the answers. 

Bahrain has always had sectarian divisions, having traded hands between the Arabs and Persians for centuries. The country is maybe 70% locals 30% expats. Say 60-70% of those locals are Shia. If we're going to generalize, we can say many of the Shia are poor, and many of the Sunna are well off. The Shia complain of unemployment, saying they are discriminated against in government positions, they don't get public housing and live a family to a room, and they're targeted by the security forces and accused of terrorism and plots to overthrow the state. 

How true is any of this? Fairly true. There are many wealthy, prominent Shia families like Jawad or Hawaj or Al Aaali. But for the most part, Shia villages are ghettos, with bad access to public education and health. Why? I think it's analogous to the situation in American inner cities. It's a cycle of poverty and ignorance. It needs to be addressed. They do get rounded up every once in a while and jailed and there are claims of torture in prison and forced confessions -- again, something akin to Guantanamo or the various CIA secret prions around the world. The police force here is mostly naturalized Sunnis from other countries. Hired a) to increase the Sunni numbers and alter the demographic, and b) because there's the fear that a Shia police force will declare allegiance to Iran and instigate a coup or something. These police -- they're brutal. 

These grievances are real, no doubt. Nobody will tell you these issues are imagined. The question is how to deal with them. Here in the Gulf, most locals feel entitled. People feel the government should look after them. We pay no taxes, we get outstanding bills pardoned every once in a while, many people get public housing, and there's just a general expectation that the gov should look after you. If you can't find a job, it's cause the gov won't give you one, not because you're stupid or lazy. It's the sort of attitude that makes companies hire expats over locals, because many locals are not good enough and because their attitudes are worse than their skills. You'll meet many locals who resent this: Why are the expats taking our jobs? We're good enough. We also have degrees. Why do they get jobs and we don't? Notice I say locals and not Shia or Sunna. 

The thing is, Bahrain is trying desperately to create an economy. We're not Kuwait or the UAE where they're just sitting on money and they dole it out and everybody drives a Land Cruiser subsidized by the government. We don't have oil and we're not sitting on a large surplus. In fact we're probably the only Gulf state to have suffered a deficit last year. Well Dubai defaulted on its loans. Anyway. Expats run the GCC, whether it's the privileged variety or the indentured servant variety. Bahrain is no different, except we also have a real population that's fallen between the cracks, the underprivileged Shia. They regularly burn tires in the street to remind us that they're still here. 

In the late 90s, there were riots. There was burning and vandalizing and it got bad, and then Amir Isa died and his son Hamad became Amir, declared himself King in 2002. He introduced many reforms, the most important of which was the creation of a bicameral parliament system. We didn't have one before. Now we have two houses of Parliament: the lower elected house (18 0f 40 seats currently held by Shia) and the upper Shura house, appointed by the Prime Minister, the same dude who's been PM since Bahrain gained independence in 1971, and many Shia take issue with him. In the 10 years since the reforms were started, I think things have improved. But not enough, then there was the naturalization scandal. 

I am naturalized. My parents are Egyptian but I was born and raised here and I consider myself as Bahraini as everyone else. Yesterday I went to the protest to see what they were about because I couldn't decide just reading the news. I found some interesting things. 

1) It was a sectarian protest. It was like walking through a azza (shia mourning gig). The people were all one class and one sect and it was by no means representative of Bahraini society as a whole. 

2) The protesters were first demanding reforms like an elected upper house of parliament. Things that made sense and that I could get behind. Then I went and saw that they were chanting "the people want the fall of the regime" -- the exact phrase that was used first in Tunisia and then in Egypt. They were singing the national anthem of EGYPT, not Bahrain. They had the same signs and slogans. It was like someone took the Egyptian revolution template and applied it to the place. Suddenly the roundabout was a "square" and suddenly the royal family had to go. They said the demands had increased as a response to the two killed the previous day by the police. 

3) It was peaceful, like a giant street carnival. But they were also handing out literature calling for the removal of the royal family. I myself saw people in tents watching videos calling for armed struggle, complete with AK-47s. Some kind of promo / demo video of the kind Hezbollah make. I wish now I'd stayed longer and talked to the guys but I was a little rattled and left quickly. 

4) I was treated like a foreigner. There was not one person who took me for a local, even when I insisted, and not one person I felt an affinity to. When I asked "what are your demands" they said stop the injustice, when I asked what injustice, I got very hostile "where the fuck have you been" responses. It felt like a different Bahrain. I will be the first to admit I live in my little bubble here, associating with people with similar backgrounds and education levels. But I am NOT the only one. Everyone in this country lives in their own bubble, it's hard to believe we all live on the same 100 sq miles. I'm not making a judgment, I'm saying what things are like. 

I left the protest with the feeling that it wasn't my protest. There were no proposed solutions. There was an airing of grievances and a blind embrace of the Egyptian slogans and demands. This is a monarchy. It cannot go. The entire GCC is composed of monarchies. Saudi will intervene before the monarchy is ousted. Imagine the Tea Party trying to start a 'revolution' in the States and rewriting the constitution. It's not a plausible demand. 

I left that protest and went to check out the pro-government rally. It was equally big, and equally homogeneous. Families in Land Cruisers and BMWs honking horns and waving flags. A different demographic, a different world. 
The protesters want jobs, homes and freedom of expression. Legitimate demands that can be achieved through better government. What do they have to offer in terms of government, though? How can you 'hand power' to society's poorest and most ignorant and expect them to turn things around? If you think the MPs now are worried about too much nonsense like banning concerts and segregating the university, wait till we have stupider ones in power. I know I shouldn't be using words like 'stupid' but this country is going backwards. We had normal internet two years ago, but after enough pressure from the conservative public now the internet is censored and we can't get any porn or human rights websites. I don't particularly care for porn but it's the concept. Who knows what's next, newspapers? 

We need a government interested in real economic policy. Real social liberties. Maybe I'm being unfair but I think if we lose the current monarchy we will be trading one kind of oppression for the other. We'll have political parties but we won't have dance parties. I can say I love Iran on a blog but I can't say I hate religion on a blog. We'll have blasphemy laws. We'll lose the tolerance and openness that makes us so unique in the Gulf. 
The current regime needs fixing, no doubt. The response of the police last night should make that clearer than ever. But there is no plausible alternative to the current monarchy and Bahrainis are by no means united on the way forward from here. Egypt demanded the departure of a head of state, not the state all together. They were unified, rich and poor, young and old. Bahrain is not unified. There are MANY MANY people who don't want the monarchy going anywhere. I think we can all unite around our outrage at the police response though. 

This is not a revolution, not yet. Al Khalifa are not dictators, they are monarchs.  We can get rid of some important people and change a few things but we're not getting rid of the family. The government could have made some concessions, released the prisoners, deposed a minister or two and turned this into a great PR opportunity for Bahrain. Instead we're getting a repeat of the draconian tactics and media blackout that turned Egypt so nasty. The police have escalated the situation to a dangerous point. Local TV is showing footage of hurt police officers and weapons confiscated from the protesters. So you found 10 swords in a crowd of 3000. Yeah, some threat they were. Shoulda let them have their say. 

Where do we go from here? I have no freaking clue. For now I'm staying home and thinking. 

I'm sure all the Bahrainis reading this will have a lot to say.... Go for it, hit me.  I'm sure I have a few things wrong....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wandering Wednesdays.


See that back there? You might have to squint.  See it now?  If you look far, far off into the distance you can catch a tiny glimpse of North Korea.  I think that's Kim Jong-Il flashing the peace sign from the top of that peak. 

This picture was taken during Chuseok, also known as Korea's "Thanksgiving" (although there were no turkeys or mashed potatoes to be seen.  weep).  We had a 5 day holiday weekend and decided that it was time that we took a road trip.  And what better place to road trip to than North Korea? 

We packed up a heavy supply of food (and light artillery) and vowed that our only direction would be North.  Our beautiful friend May was visiting from Bahrain and our fellow travel partner Ryan Sheldon came down to Pohang from Ansan.  We rented a car and didn't looked back.

We actually went to the lesser publicized DMZ area with public access.  It was also far more scenic than the dire and claustrophobic caves in Seoul.  The heavy tension that we heard so much about was almost non existent.  Instead, there were families paying respect and tribute to their family members living on the other side of the line. 

It was still a very sobering experience.  The war has never been resolved and so many families remain separated.  The DMZ is a reminder of how far the Republic of Korea has come since the war, and how far we have yet to go to find peace.


Watch more South Korea videos at tripfilms.com

The Big Reveal

Well after much deliberation and a few consultations with close friends, we finally came up with a name for our RTW expedition.

Drum roll please...
 


I love it.  LOVE it.  Almost more than cheese and Anderson Cooper and Thanksgiving and puppies.  Almost.  The boy actually came up with the title and I came up with the tag line.  How's that for team work eh?  "Message in a Barrel" is the perfect name for our trip as we'll be taking messages from a barrel that are addressed to various people (see: strangers) around the globe.  Those that have put their letters in the barrel do so in good faith that someday they'll be delivered to their rightful owners.  "Destination Delivery" is a very fitting tag line as our main goal is to make sure that we hand deliver these letters to whatever country they're addressed to- and we won't know where that is until we have the letters in hand. 

Oh I'm so excited.  Things are starting to fall in to place and now I have something to distract myself from our imminent departure from Korea.  We've got budgets to set, flights to plan, things to pack, and samgyupsal to eat.  Yes.  I fully plan on stuffing my face with all things Korean before we leave.  Judge me not.

Thank you for coming along on our journey.  Who knows?  We might be able to deliver a letter for you!


Oooh! And if you would be so kind, could you pretty please with a turkey on top vote for Captain and Clark over at Tripfilms.com?  We've got some stiff competition in the Film Maker of the Year, Destination Profile, and Getting Local arenas.  Being nominated was definitely honor enough, but I would literally cry tears of sweet joy if we were to win.  We wouldn't be anywhere without you.  Thank you so much for your support.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's in a Name?


We are stuck. 

The boy and I have yet to determine what we're going to call our expedition around the world.  We need something catchy... and relevant to what we're doing.  We've come up with a slew of names but none of them feel right. 

Here's what's on the docket for now.  We have...

"The Maverick Expedition" (the boy has called it this from the start)

"Letters Home" (ya know, cause we're hand delivering the letters we pick up)

"From Sea Mail to E-mail" (eh, wee bit cheesy?)

"Post Modern Post Script" (I don't get it?)

"Letters in a Barrel" (Not bad... not bad at all)

and my personal favorite...

"Letters from a Broad".  Get it?  Cause I'm a girl... and I'd be global.  (insert roaring laughter here. please?)

Just remember, we like puns and alliterations.  We'll be taking letters addressed to various strangers located around the world and hand delivering them.  We won't know exactly where we're going until we have the letters in hand.  We've got one name that we're rolling around on our tongues but I don't want to give it out just yet.  Hopefully we'll have a name to reveal in a couple of days.  Until then, any input would be greatly appreciated. 

Keep on keeping on.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spread the Love?


 As February is a month jam-packed with love, we were wondering if you'd show some love to Captain and Clark on Trip Films.  We were nominated as film makers of the year with a trip to Brazil and Argentina (swoon) at stake.  We would love if you would take a few minutes out of your day and spare a few clicks for us.  You'll need to register but believe me, you'll be happy that you did.  Trip Films is one of the leading websites for travel videos and travel related information.  You can even  upload your own travel videos. 

Thank you so much for all of your love and support.  We appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts!

To vote (after registration) click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love is in the Air.


The picture above is just a sampling of some of the random love notes that I've found hidden around our apartment over the last two weeks.  Each note has a number accompanied by a reason why the boy loves me.  Even after three years, he still makes me swoon.

That's right, three years.  Well, kind of.  We don't really have a concrete date as to when our relationship came into existence, but we've decided to just make our anniversary the same as the lunar new year.  This way it'll always be different and exciting.  Plus in Korea it's a 3 day holiday- as any relationship anniversary should be.  

I love the tradition that we inadvertently started of being in a different country for each anniversary.  Our first anniversary was spent in Spokane, Washington.  We had a wonderfully lazy day.  We had coffee at one of our favorite spots, brunched, did a little thrifting and antiquing at Ruby Street, and ended the day with a wonderful meal that was cooked at home by Mama Staudinger. 

Celebrating anniversary numero uno @ Ruby Street Antiques.  3 months before heading off to Korea.
Our second anniversary was celebrated on our first trip to Thailand.  woot woot.  We decided to go all out and get ourselves a fancy hotel for the first couple of nights.  Thailand's just amazeballs in general so I don't know how we could have had a bad time there even if we tried.  We spent our [3-day] anniversary stuffing our mouths with pad thai, petting tigers, sleeping in an Ewok tree house, and wandering through the eclectic Chatuchak weekend market.  My heart is just swelling with the love I have of Thailand... and the boy of course. 

Leaving our bungalow in Chiang Mai, Thailand on anniversary numero dos.

This year we spent our anniversary in Seoul.  It's easy to forget that you're in Korea when you're in Seoul.  There's a vast array of different kinds of foods and there are even MEXICAN restaurants complete with real cheese and guacamole! There are also major chain stores like H&M and Forever 21.  I was so overwhelmed.  I was anticipating going on a mini shopping spree but I'm so used to little Korean boutiques that the 4-story H&M literally blew my mind and all I walked out with was 3 pairs of leggings. 

It was a mini-vacation for us and we decided to mostly spoil ourselves on yummy food.  We went to a little French bistro (with an actual French server) and had dessert.  We also stocked up on Haribo gummy bears and sour skittles.  All food aside, it was exceptionally nice to spend quality time together, just the two of us. 


These past three years have just flown by and I'm so grateful that I've been able to spend them with Chris.  I'm hoping that we'll continue to grow together and that our next anniversary will be just as special as the last three. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where did this come from?


 I was out to dinner and coffee with one of my good friends tonight.  Sarah Willey and I have known each other for years.  We met while attending Pacific Lutheran University and she's been a close friend ever since.  She actually moved to Korea (Pohang, no less) only 3 months after the boy and I did. 

Tonight at coffee we were talking about all of our plans after Korea.  As you know, the boy and I have a big expedition planned that'll hopefully take us around the world and back.  Sarah is actually planning her own trip around the world with intermittent teaching stints in Thailand and Vietnam.  We were both so excited about all of our plans and were discussing all of the amazing things that we'll be able to see and experience when all of a sudden, it hit me.  I was overwhelmed with sadness and maybe even a little grief.  I'm going to be leaving Korea... and relatively soon.

Korea has been our home for almost two years.  It's no longer foreign to us.  Our first 12 months living in Korea I would often have to stop and remind myself that I was living here.  Living in KOREA!  I would revel in the fact that we're living in this exotic land that we knew so little about before we came.  The smells were new and I still hadn't found myself craving any of the local Korean dishes. 

Now I feel like I know Korea like the back of my hand.  I know that I'll see exactly four red crosses beaming from the tops of churches on my way home from work.  I know that chamchi kimbap costs exactly 2,300 won at our local kimbap restaurant.  I know that the 109 bus from our little village will take you to two opposite locations if you're not paying attention.  I've learned that Korean grocery stores sell their vegetables fresh out of the ground and to not be alarmed when a mass of dirt still clings to them after their initial washings.  I know to accept things with two hands as to not offend anyone and to strive to wear matching socks as you'll be shoeless more often than you'd think. 

It's not only what I know now, it's also what our friends and neighbors have discovered about us.  The local shabu shabu owner knows that we like extra pineapples and two ciders with our meal.  They always accompany our meal now, whether we ask for them or not.  Our Hapkido master knows that we absolutely adore taking hapkido but are not too good about keeping our uniforms clean.  My students at school know that I have a love affair with cheese and when little Leon caught me eating a banana in the teacher's room the other day he pointed at me accusingly and said, "Tawny teacher loves cheese but is eating a banana!". 

I have fallen in love with Korea.  Sure we've had our ups and downs but to be completely honest, it's going to be a little heartbreaking to leave this place.  I don't want to leave our hapkido master and his brand new baby girl.  I don't want to give up my weekly trips to our favorite Fish and Grill restaurant.  I like being able to ride our motorcycle wherever we want and that public transportation is a cinch.   I'll definitely miss the food.  Kimchi, samgyupsal, kimbap, mandu, ramyeon, galbi, samgyetang.... I'm already drooling!

I know that it's time to move on.  I'm aware that we have one hell of a trip planned for us.  It's just that.... damn.  I love Korea.

And now I'm going to take this little pity party and shove it back into the kimchi pot from whence it came. 

whimper

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Should Be European.

Yeah yeah yeah.  I'm sure that all of my European friends are scoffing, but it's true.  At least according to an article that I found on CNN.com.  The article was titled, "Why more Americans don't travel abroad" and it brought up some interesting points.

I think the point that I most identified with was the U.S. differences in work culture compared to Europe.  The article stated,

Many Americans follow the same pattern: work hard in high school, go to college, accrue a load of debt and get a job right away to work it off, Arndt said. The United States doesn't promote taking a year off between major life phases like New Zealand or the United Kingdom.
"Up until recently, having a gap year was a job killer, so you chose work," Kepnes said. "And that work, work, work mentality makes it much harder to leave."

A one-year break in your resume could make an American employer question your commitment to a company, whereas not taking a gap year in New Zealand would be considered crazy, Kepnes said.
"We're not a travel culture," he said. "Countries are travel cultures when they put more of an emphasis on leisure time, and Americans tend to choose money over leisure time."
Even those who do receive a nice chunk of vacation time don't use it all, and those who do seem to take shorter, more frequent trips, Arndt said.

Well, they're right on about the debt.  It does make perfect sense to me that most Americans my age feel that they can't travel.  The boy and I are lucky that we are able to travel and live abroad, but the reality is that it might not be so easy for everyone else. 

If I had my way I would make it essential that everyone take a gap year after college to travel.  It should be a little reward without the burden of student loans breathing down your neck.  It would be a time of self discovery and exploration.  Hell, if I had my way college would be FREE... or at least relatively affordable but we'll leave that post for another day.

Changgyeong Palace on Video

And here's the video that my talented beau made of our brief time exploring the Changgyeong Palace in Seoul, South Korea. 


Watch more Seoul videos at tripfilms.com

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wandering Wednesdays.


BAHAHAHAHA! This picture slays me.  This was a looooong time ago back in 2006.  It was my first time ever leaving the country (well, besides Canada) and I was on a month long study abroad program in Martinique, an overseas region of France located in the Caribbean.  We were given full course credits for our French degrees and were able to live like the locals. 

We were each assigned host families and my family was pretty awesome, if not unique.  I lived with a single mother and her two daughters.  Mme. ChĂ©nard, Marlène, and Carole all made me feel so welcomed and at home.  I had my own private bedroom complete with bath and every morning I would walk into the kitchen and find some form of tropical juice and a pain au chocolat waiting for me.   It was heaven.

As you can tell by the photo, I was able to catch a little bit of sun.  I ended up getting so tan that I was often mistaken for a local.  There were numerous occasions where I was stopped in the street by someone who swooned over my hair.  So many people asked how I got it so smooth and straight and they would also ask to touch it.

On this particular night I let my host sister Carole do my hair and makeup- Martinique style.  I was also trying to show off with the only song that I can play on the guitar.  Just one of the many memorable nights that I spent in their living room.  I would so like to go back sometime in the near future.  Le sigh.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Changgyeong Palace

On the last day of our vacation the boy and I found ourselves outside of Changgyeong Palace nestled in the heart of Seoul.  This particular palace was the third palace compound built during the Joseon dynasty.  It was another foggy day in Seoul, but it gave the palace an almost magical and mystical feel.  


The Changgyeong palace was built in the late 1400s and has gone through two major restorations since then.  The first was due to the Japanese invasion in the 1950's and the second was brought on by a fire that destroyed most of the buildings on the property.




The palace grounds are massive and I'm pretty sure that we didn't even get to view them all.  My favorite part by far was that you were able to see the buildings of Seoul towering outside the palace walls.  The modern buildings standing outside the historic walls showed a snippet of just how much has changed since the palace was originally constructed.





Admission into the castle is 1,000 won/person.  Groups of 10 or more people can get admission for only 800 won. 

How to get there.

By Subway:
Get off at the Hyehwa Station (lines 4 or 5) and follow the station's maps.

By Bus:
Blue Bus #'s 101, 104, 106, 107, 108, 140, 143, 149, 150, 161, 162, 171, 172, 272, 301 will all take you to Changgyeong Palace (eventually).

Green Bus# 1018

Red Bus# 9410

Monday, February 7, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

So today I had my class with the lovely Jacob.  If you don't remember him, you can take a little peek at this post

He was being his usual melancholic self.  He was pretty upset that he couldn't find his eraser and so I let him borrow one of mine.  It took me a while to notice the initials "A.T." on the bottom of the eraser.  I know that Jacob's a little scared of my fellow co-teacher Aria (who happends to be on vacation back in the States) and I told him to be careful because it was Aria Teacher's eraser. 

Jacob stared at me for a long while.  I was just about to ask him what he was thinking when he grabbed the eraser and slowly licked it from top to bottom.  He then smiled creepily and said mischieviously, "Thank you Aria teacher". 

And he continued to lick the eraser every time he needed it.  Ohhh Jacob.

Bringing you N Seoul Tower in HD Video.


Watch more Seoul videos at tripfilms.com

Sunday, February 6, 2011

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower is a beacon in the city.  It stands 479 meters above sea level and is an awesome way to see breathtaking views of Seoul.   In Seattle we have the Space Needle and in Seoul we have the N Seoul Tower. 

The boy and I didn't exactly plan on visiting the N Seoul Tower on our trip, but after making the boy endure an hour of shopping I decided that he could pick out what we did next.  We figured that it would be pretty quiet since it was a major holiday and most Korean families would be celebrating at home.

We arrived at the trail head to the tower and thought that the hike itself seemed a little daunting.  Especially since we wanted to have a relaxing day.  We decided to take the gondola up instead.  That is, until we saw the line for it.  We would've been waiting in that sucker for hours. 

We decided to be hardcore and hike our hineys up to the top.  It was a strong choice my friends.


@ the trail head.  Can you see the tower in the FAR OFF distance?
It was an extremely foggy day but the hike was surprisingly wonderful.  There were plenty of families hiking it with us.  One lady even stopped us and made us take handfuls of dried squid.  Korean people are perpetually nice, especially when they hike.  The last time we went hiking we were forced to take a bazillion cherry tomatoes and an equal amount of soju shots from a group of hikers.  


I completely underestimated just how far the tower was from the trail head.  We walked (more like climbed) for about an hour and a half before we finally made it to the top.  Once there we were greeted by vendors selling everything from silk worm larvae to cotton candy.  There were families playing yut, a traditional Korean game on boards that were set out around the perimeter. 

We were also able to see a few families out in their traditional Korean dress known as hanboks.  I was shocked at the sheer amount of people that actually made it to the top of the giant hill. 







Below are pictures of locks of love.  No, I'm not talking about hair.  These are actual locks that couples take with them to the top of the mountain.  These locks are supposed to symbolize a commitment to be together and never separate.  It makes sense to me.  If you and your lover can endure the extreme hike and still love each other, it's probably meant to be.


We didn't bring a lock, but we still love each other.  Maybe next time.

After playing around at the bottem of the tower, we paid 8,000 won/person to go to the top.  I'm so disappointed at how foggy it was because I'm sure the view would have been spectacular.  Along the windows were various countries and their distances from the very spot you were standing in.  I was able to snag a few shots, but Seattle was blocked by a huge pole.  Le lame. 

The tower boasts a cafe and restaurant where you can chillax and grab a delicious meal.  But wait, there's more.  You can also use the restrooms and do your business in the highest bathrooms in all of Korea.  Chris told me that the urinals in the little boy's room all face the window.  Lucky. 






We've decided that we're going to have to make the trek again in order to see the view in all of its un-fogged glory and to also bring our own special lock of love.  Until then, anyone in Korea should have a look for themselves. 

How to get there.

By Subway:  Exit through Exit #2 at Chungmuro Station (lines 3 &4) or Exit #6 at Dongdaemun Station and transfer to Namsan Circulation Bus.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Seoul Food.

Well we're back from our mini vacation to Seoul.  We had a blast and are so grateful for this time away from work.  I'll have to write about our trip in sections since we were able to do so much.


One of the highlights of our trip was when we stumbled upon a foreign goods store.  You always see the foreigner's markets back in the States.  The ones where you can buy all different varieties of Asian spices and goodies that are not as easy to access in the U.S.  I thought the role-reversal was pretty hilarious.  Here was a shop where we could buy all of the yummy western goodies that are so hard to find in Korea. 

Before Korea I would have thought someone was batsheet crazy if they told me that the highlight of their day was stumbling upon a packet of gravy and a can of refried beans, but that was exactly the case for this girl.  I might have even gotten a little teary eyed when I spotted a lone Butterball turkey in the freezer at the market.  A TURKEY people, a turkey.  I probably would've bought it too, you know, if it wasn't a hundred dollars and if I had an actual oven that it could fit inside. 

We walked out of the store with a packet of Haribo gummi bears, a can of refried beans, a packet of gravy mix, and one box of peaches and cream Quaker oatmeal.  The grand total was about $18 USD.  And yes, I'm well aware that back home it probably would have cost us under $5 for everything, but sacrifices had to be made.  I came this close to buying a box of strawberry Poptarts for $6 and a bottle of ranch dressing for about the same price.  So all of you out there with easy access to any of these items, enjoy them.  Thoroughly enjoy them for me. 

I amazes me the things that one misses when they're away from home.  I miss my mother's home cooking no doubt, but I also miss silly things like oatmeal, sour cream, cheese (oh cheese), sourpatch kids, and limes.  Korea has made me appreciate the little things in life in so many ways, and western food is just one of them. 



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

... again!

It's been a little quiet over here as the boy and I are on a little vacation.  Thanks to Lunar New Year we have 5 days off.  Whoop whoop!  We didn't really have the funds to go anywhere exotic (although we tried) so we decided to spend some time in Seoul.  It's actually like being in a different country.  It's so different compared to Pohang.  Any kind of food you could possibly want is just a short subway ride away, if not closer.  I'm pretty much eating my way across Seoul.

So I'll have a ton of updates as soon as we get back, but for now we're going to enjoy this rare vacation as best we can.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Your Daily Gem.

Well, the boy has been transferred to my school.  We now get to be coworkers again!  Today was his first day and I was so excited for him to be able to put names to the faces of all of the students that I've been talking about over the past five months.  He actually co-teaches little Annie with me.  Yes, the same girl that says she's going to "erase my face" and that her "fists can break things".  I'm her first teacher and the boy has her straight after me.  He was able (with her help) to contribute to today's daily gem.

The boy and Annie were discussing the characteristics of mammals today.  They went over the facts that mammals give their babies milk, and that they have fur, ears and teeth.  The boy was quizzing Annie on different animals and asked, "Well, is your dad a mammal?"

Annie responded with, "Yes.  My dad is a mammal because he has many, many, many fur" as she points to her crotch. 

Gross?  Definitely.  But I couldn't stop laughing for about 10 minutes.  She's funny, that one.
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