Friday, September 30, 2011

Random Things I Miss (and some I don't)

Just a few random photos from my last few days in Korea.  Some things I'll miss...some things I won't.

I'll definitely miss Korea's public transportation system.  It's cheap, reliable, and convenient.
 I'll miss and won't miss the halmonis selling fruit on the corner.  It's great to buy cheap, fresh produce straight from the farmer but these ladies get pretty upset if you stand in front of their stand and block it!
 I WILL NOT miss the icky bar soap in public bathrooms or just public bathrooms in general.
 From the moment I got on the plane, I missed these amazing chocolate waffles!
 And even more, I'll miss Edita's text messages to go down and get a wapple at Cafe Soho.
 I won't miss a certain individual who made this for me!  I came to work one day and a certain person made these and gave them to everyone.  Everyone was so happy and wore them all day at work except Rebel Katie.  Come on, this is the biggest scruucie on the face of the planet!
 My second-to-last night I wanted to order McDonald's while I cleaned.  I was bummed when I called and McDonald's doesn't deliver to my neighborhood so I got Domino's.  
 Comes with hot sauce...
 "We Know The Pizza."  One would assume an American company in Korea would have correct English grammar...but there is no such thing in Korea.
 I WILL MISS MR. KIM SOOO MUCH!  I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye:(  Mr. Kim was my neighbor and one of the most amazing Korean man I met.  He would give me apples and vegetables from his garden.  One time he chased me down to give me two walnuts:)  Such a sweet guy!
 I ALREADY MISS dak galbi!!  Chicken mixed with spicy sauce, cabbage, rice cakes, pumpkin slices, etc.  My favorite Korean meal!!
 Who knew I'd miss fish that was so much work?  Learning how to de-bone fish with chopsticks was a challenge but after time - it soon became one of my favorites.  Usually a fish restaurant will have fish tanks outside of the restaurant and you can chose which fish you'd like for dinner.
Chili Chicken and Kimchi Fried Rice.
I loved skipping out on school lunch and running to the kimbap place a block down the street.  When I wanted something spicy - this pork deop bap was the best!  It was the spiciest thing I had in Korea.  Usually when I ordered it, Koreans would watch me eat it - surprised that the foreigner could eat spicy food.
 DUCK!  I love Duck!
 My last week in Korea I went to see the performance JUMP.  It was great - it was a comic martial arts performance.  I laughed a lot and enjoyed watching the taekwondo.

 I like bi bim guk su minus all the vegetables.  The sauce and cold noodles are good - but it's weird to eat lettuce with cold noodles...just saying.
 Mix it up - just like bi bim bap!
I most definitely miss this girl and other friends I've met in Korea.  It's pretty cool to meet so many people from all over the world.  No doubt, there are a good mix of foreigners in Korea who act like jerks and misrepresent - but there are so many amazing foreigners that want to get as much out of their Korean experience as I did.  Amanda is like my Canadian sister and I have no doubt our paths will cross again sometime soon.

 Lastly, I miss these guys like crazy!!!  My students made my time in Korea unforgettable.  They made me laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time.  They impacted my life more than they'll ever know and I didn't even get to say goodbye to them.  I never thought I'd like teaching - these guys made me realize the impact a teacher makes in his/her students' lives.  

The guy in the middle is Bob!  My BOB!  Everyday he gave me a huge hug when he first saw me.  And it wasn't just a quick hug...I'd usually be sitting on the floor waiting for my students and he'd come and sit on my lap for ten minutes or so.  We called him Teddy Bear because I loved hugging my teddy bear:)  We also called him - bi bim bob and bob-o (both names that are funny if you understand some Korean).
Like any culture, there are positives and negatives.  The important thing is that we can laugh about it in the end.  Korea was good to me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Last Night Out in Korea

I spent my last weekend out with good friends and neighbors.  We began with Korean shabu shabu...hmmmm....I miss shabu shabu!

First, you pour cabbage, mushrooms, and other vegetables into a boiling broth.

 And then you add the delicious meat.  You only allow the meat to cook until just about done - it shouldn't be overcooked.
 Dip the meat into a delicious, spicy sauce.  Soooo gooooood!
Once your meat and veggies are finished, add noodles to the soup.  My favorite are when the noodles come as one rice noodle sheet and you rip it apart and put into the broth.  Those noodles are a bit dumpling-like, but these noodles are good too.

Once the noodles are finished, it's time for bo-kum-bap (fried rice).  Add the rice, egg, seaweed, and some other things into the original bowl - the broth should be gone by now.

 After our delicious shabu shabu dinner we headed out and found this amazing sausageya sign.
 And this amazing guy with the light-up suit outside the bars near Suwon Station.  You never know what you'll find at Suwon Station!
 We headed to the "Rooster" - a fun, hookah bar near Suwon Station.  Andrea and Adam just got back from visiting family in the States - they had amazing gifts!!
 When you come in, you take off your shoes and relax on the floor filled with several rugs.

I love the decor and the silhouette of the rooster on the wall.

 Enough beer?

 Adam's ghost hand...
 Many times in Korean bars you have to order something to eat.  Fruit platter...don't mind if I do!
 Robyn and Ian from Canada.
 Andrea and Adam from Idaho.

This night out really made my departure finally feel real.  There are so many cool things to do in Korea and I really miss doing something new every week.  And most importantly, I really miss the amazing people I met along the way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I visited Changdeokgung, one of the most popular palaces in Seoul, during my last few weeks in Korea. It was built in 1395 and only 30% of the original palace remains because much of it was destroyed during Japanese invasion.  The reason for my interest in Changdeokgung was it's secret garden, which I will get to later in the post.

Insadong is a traditional neighborhood nestled around the five important palaces in Seoul.  If you head to Insadong on a weekend, you are almost sure to find some traditional performances among the huge crowds of people.

If your purpose for shopping is to get some great, traditional souvenirs, Insadong is just the place.
Insadong requires all stores to have signs in hangul - Korean alphabet.  The one below is suh-tah-buk-suh ca pi.  Any guesses?  Starbucks Coffee.

I found an old man on the street whittling these grasshoppers out of palms.  It was I know what to do with all those palms on Palm Sunday;)

Biwon - The Secret Garden

Korean gardens are different than western thought of a garden having flowering plants.  Korean gardens differ from Chinese and Japanese gardens.  Korean gardens are simple, unforced, and flow with nature.  You can see my post on a Chinese garden here:

The Secret Garden is 78 acres and built for the pleasure of the royal family.  Here you will see the building on the top of the hill.  This was a library for the royal family.  It is difficult to see but there is a main entrance - for the royal family (or just King - it's been a while, can't remember) and the side doors are for others - high official diplomats, etc.
The prince would often go fishing off the side of this building.
The water in this area of the garden, the water is in a square shape - to represent the Earth.  At that time they believed the earth was flat.  The circular island in the middle represents the moon.
No clocks in 1395.
The prince's study.

This area was for "the help."  This particular area was for the horses and the door to the left was the bathroom.
The bathroom.
"The helps'" quarters.  The entire complex was divided between men and women's quarters.  Somehow procreation existed so somehow they saw each other's just not publicized how.
Our tour guide showing us the newest technology the palace used in staying cool.  No, not the fan.  The way they hinged the door to come out.
Rooms for the help.

What's this?  Of course a noble person could not step onto the ground.  The entirety of the palaces are built so that it's possible that you'd never step onto the ground.  This was built to mount a horse.  This small step exists so that the noble person never has to step onto the ground.
I love the details.
This was a special copper has extreme significance - but this is the reason why I should do these posts directly after visiting a place.

This was recently restored and painting.  Restoring these sorts of things are very costly and time consuming.  Because Korean traditional structures use NO NAILS - these items can be taken apart and reassembled.  They stick to the traditional paint which is used by natural materials that I also cannot remember.  The natural materials are very scientific and they repel insects and do some other cool stuff I can't remember:/  
This pond is in the shape of Korea...all of Korea since at this time there was no separation.
As rice is important in so many aspects in Korea, this was built in honor of the rice fields.  There was/and I believe still is - a festival every year in honor of the rice harvest.  The royal family cultivated the rice to truly understand farming techniques.

That was all in the garden tour - now to the palace itself.
King's throne.

Korea uses an ondol system to heat their buildings.  They heat underneath the floor.  It's amazing and considering in traditional Korean culture you sleep and sit on the floors - it's brilliant.  This is the traditional way of heating under the floor.

I enjoyed Changdeokgung because it was a palace where I could actual imagine people living.  The royal family lived here until Japan invaded in 1910.  The photo below is the kitchen.

Queen's quarters.

The last queen before the invasion was quite brilliant.  She sat in this room with important officials planning how they could prevent Japan for invading Korea.

Well...I guess that sums up the Changdeokgung as my last palace visit in Korea.  Of all the palaces in Korea, I would vote this one number one because of it's garden and fact that it seemed to be livable to me.  Gyeongbukgung is pretty close in ranks - to me - because of it's wonderful museum.