Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Typical Dinner

One of my favorite things in the world is a fresh cucumber salad, and with the amazing combinations of flavors they have here, it was easy to put the two together. This is my version of delicious Korean cucumber salad.

First, make sure the cucumber is sliced very thin, no more than 1/8 inch. Really, as thin as you can make them is best.

Then, in a bowl combine 1/3 cup of rice vinegar (I use brown rice vinegar), 1 tsp. sesame oil, 1 tsp. Korean chili pepper, 1 tsp. each of sugar and salt, and a sprinkling of black pepper. Then, add 1 tbs. of sesame seeds. Combine with the cucumber.

Here's the completed salad, a little closeup. Thanks to Rich for these pictures! It's deliciously tangy and salty and sweet. Just how I like my cucumber salad...

I have also been loving making tofu burgers as well. Tofu is very cheap here, about $1 a package, so we use it quite often whenever we eat soup or stir fry. With this recipe, I just add two eggs, some panko crumbs, chili pepper, green pepper, and garlic. Then I just pan fried them for about five minutes on each side.

And here's the finished product... Tofu burgers with cucumber salad and mondu, which are dumplings filled with glass noodles, eggs, and ground pork. This is a pretty typical dinner for us, and veeerry delicious, any day of the week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Little Camera Field Day (or, Rich looking serious all over town)

I recently bought a new camera from a coworker, and have just begun to play with it. However, I am looooving it so far, as it's the first DSLR camera I've owned. It is a Canon EOS 450D and so far I have only used a 50mm Canon lens. It's the most fun I've ever had taken photos of ANYTHING and I haven't even gotten into editing/modifications yet!

Just wanted to share a few shots from a little test run I took around Pohang. This is a seriously FUN camera. I can't wait to shoot some more. Also, on this blog, only the shots from Homigot were from my DSLR. All other photos were either from Rich's Panasonic Lumix or my Sony Bloggie video camera.

Here's a photo of a set of stairs at shee chong or city hall. It leads up to hiking trails that give you a nice view of our part of town.

Here's a shot of a pagoda at the top of the hill. Behind, you can see our neighborhood a little, but more shots of the 'hood to come. (Don't worry, it's not the hood...)

I've seen these a few times. I think they're called meditation paths. They're often in a labyrinth-type pattern, though this one is pretty straight. They consist of different sized rocks and slabs placed at equal intervals, and it's intended that you walk on it barefoot. They're not as zen as I was expecting. They actually feel pretty awful.

A flower Rich picked for me :-)

Here's Rich in our neighborhood, holding said flower and I snap more photos... So serious!

And here we are in an outdoor gym. We have nicknamed these 'ninja gyms' since they pop out of nowhere. They're everywhere too, and people actually use them. Most of the equipment is pretty silly, like this one that swings you 45 degrees in each direction from your waist down. Boo. Again, Rich looking serious.

As I have more adventures with my camera, I'll certainly post them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homigot: Land and Sea

Out latest adventure here in Korea was to Homigot, just outside of Pohang last Saturday. Homigot is the easternmost point in Korea and is famous for an enormous sculpture of a perched hand reaching out from the sea.

It was a long bus ride to the coast, even though it's technically just outside of the city we live in. First we had to walk to the main intercity bus terminal and take a bus about 40 minutes out of town. We passed POSCO, the airport, and Pohang's military base before the landscape turned quite rural. Then we transferred and caught another bus that wasn't even numbered, as it's the only bus that goes through the area. That bus turned and curved through the mountainside and the seaside, and finally dropped us off at an inconspicuous brick bus stop. We had arrived. It was just a short walk to the Homigot site, and it was packed!

Vendors were everywhere selling everything from stuffed animals and kites to balloons and cotton candy. Looking up in the sky, you could easily count twenty or thirty kites flying above.

As you can see in the background, there's the awesome hand sculpture called the Hands of Harmony. There are actually two sculptures: one on land and another in the sea, hence the hands. The one in the sea was by far the cooler one, but the land hand (tee hee) can be seen in the photo above. The hand sculpture in the sea is absolutely breathtaking! I mean, it's surreal because the detail is spot on, and the placement, in the sea, is eerie.

Lots of people were out with their families and friends, like these guys having a rock-throwing contest. I have to admit, I watched them throw rocks for far longer than I'd like to admit...

I actually also spotted one of my students on the coast, what a coincidence!? This is Eric and he is one of my afternoon students, meaning he has already attended the pre-kindergarten program and now attends our school as an extracurricular.

Here's a picture of some of the small shops set up on the coast selling drinks and food. You can get many things here, including blood sausage, ttokbokki, meat or fish patty skewers, hot dogs, etc.

Some of them, like this one, also sell fresh seafood and larvae. This woman was selling conch, snails, stewed larvae, and fresh steamed crab.

Rich and I went instead went for something more recognizable, and... deep fried: a french fry-covered corn dog. Oh yes, that wasn't a typo. It was kinda sickening after a few bites, but worth a shot.

The "dining area" for these little coast shops.

We easily spent all day out on the coast, and then headed back into town on the same country bus we took out. That night we went for some kimchi jjigae with a few friends and then had a quiet night in. Ahhh... What a great Saturday!


I found this hat while I was perusing the MLB store in downtown Pohang. It was one of just two Twins hats. Very tempted to go back and pick it up! Oh Minnesota, with your harsh winters and green summers, how I miss thee. And Target Field... ahhhhhh.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Buddha's Birthday at Golgulsa Temple

What an amazing day we had at Golgulsa temple in Gyeongju. Even though the weather was awful, and we went home with soaking wet socks, I wouldn't have traded this day for the world!

First off, here is a picture of the entrance to the temple. You would not believe the intricacy and care taken with the painting on not only this entrance, but every building in the complex.

As we walked uphill further onto the temple grounds, this was our first great view. Hundreds upon hundreds of colorful paper lanterns highlighted the mountainside and culminated at the foot of the great image of Buddha carved into the mountainside.

Here's another view of the same area a little further up the mountainside.

As we climbed further up the mountain we could being to see through the trees and to the mountains that surrounded us...

Along the mountainside there were also small caves like this one dug into the rock where shrines have been placed. This is just one of around 7 or 8 that we saw. However, there were likely more that were more hidden that we did not see... As it was Buddha's birthday, there were also offerings of fruit and rice cakes, traditional foods given to Korean children on their first birthdays.

These small Buddha trinkets were also scattered along the mountainside in hundreds of little nooks in the rock.

Here is a closer image of the mountainside Buddha and the shrine built at the base. On this day it's expected that you visit each temple site as well as this shrine and bow in honor of Buddha.

A close-up of this amazing site:

The obligatory vista shot. The beauty truly cannot be captured though...

This is the main temple seen from above along the mountainside.

And here's another view atop a hillside opposite the mountain.

This was shot during the sunmudo martial arts/folk art demonstration. The hats these performers are wearing have poles connected to them that spin 360 degrees which also have ribbons attached to the ends. The result is that as they bob their heads the ribbons spin and dance along with the music. The man on the far right is wearing a hat made of very large but light feathers that resembles a blooming flower when he moves his head. Absolutely breathtaking performance!

These men are practicing sunmudo, a type of martial arts with originated at this temple. It combines Buddhist meditation with flowing martial arts moves. These are some deadly Buddhist monks!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My new favorite meal...

A while ago, I posted about a dinner hosted by work to honor the foreign teachers that have recently left, and I described a meal of sam gap sal, shabu shabu, and spring rolls. However, I forgot to bring my camera. Well, since we had today off, Rich and I and a few friends decided to enjoy last night with a trip to the ol' "grill some meat wrap it in a spring roll and put it in your mouth" restaurant (Can you tell we don't know the real name?).

And I brought my camera! To be honest, I was a little too excited and busy to take a lot of pictures, but I shot a few, just to be sure.

As you can see, Katie is excited for the meal as well. From this photo you can see Katie dunking her rice paper in water colored pink by beets. In front of her is the gigantic tray of vegetables that we were given to fill out spring rolls with. The selection included cabbage, carrots, cucumber, sesame leaves, onion, beets, and soy bean sprouts. We also were all given a tray of dipping sauces to spoon into our rolls or dunk them in.

Here you can see our friend Joe dunking the shabu shabu meat into the boiling cabbage broth. The meat is cut so paper thin, it cooks to perfection in ten seconds flat. Around the pot with the cabbage and shabu shabu in it you can see the flat iron where we grill the sam gap sal. This is angled down, so that as you cook the meat, the excess grease will run off. Also, this time we were given another type of meat that tasted subtly of bacon and it was very very tender.

This meal is one I would describe as a marathon, not a sprint. First you grill the meat and eat the shabu shabu, then construct your spring rolls. Then, the cabbage in the broth is eaten. Then, the waitress will bring buckwheat noodles to add to the broth which cook for a few minutes before you can fish them out and eat them. THEN, the remaining broth is used to cook a small amount of bonjuk (rice porridge) with yellow rice, scallions, and an egg. And finally, food coma.

I already know that I will miss Korean food, and food culture, dearly when I leave. The flavors are so varied and surprising to my palate. Things are tangy, spicy, and salty here. There's always something new for us to try.

Going out for a meal often includes a type of do-it-yourself aspect, such as this meal. Instead of being served spring rolls with grilled meat and vegetables, we made them. Sharing a meal becomes a true event.

Not only is there always great conversation, but there is active participation in the meal itself. Someone grills the meat, turns it, and cuts it into bite-sizes. Another person may make sure no one's beer glass runs dry, which is a major faux pas. Another may serve the soup to everyone and pass it around the table. Eating is not a passive exercise of putting food on your fork and swallowing it, but a process of making it yourself. Sure, there are plenty of places where they will serve you a big bowl of something, and your only job is to just eat, but there are as many other places that will give you the winning ingredients for an amazing meal, and let you take the credit for it. Maybe it's the cook in me, but I love these types of active meals.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I love you Mom!

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

I know this isn't the first Mother's Day that I haven't been home, but being in another country, another continent, now that's unprecedented. But I want you to know that my love and admiration and adoration for you spans the entire world! You're the reason I have the courage and belief in myself to live across the world this year!

I know you were sad when I left, but your encouragement and support has helped me everyday of my life, here in Korea and everywhere in the world. Your love makes me the person I am.

I hope your day is filled with love and happiness, and lots of hi-tech gadget gifts from Dad. Ha! I hope you take time to enjoy spring blooming in Minnesota. It's the most beautiful place to be when the flowers bloom and the birds return and the earth comes back to life. I wish I were there to celebrate with you, but just know that you're the most steadfast and strongest thing in my life.

I love you so much!

Your daughter,

Our Apartment

So remember that one time I said I would have pictures of our apartment soon? Nevermind that day was about a month ago, it has arrived! Here are a few shots of our apartment. Excuse the messiness, fuzziness, etc. I took these quick!

This is the first thing you see when you come in the door. Our enormous microwave, enormous fridge, and the billions of pictures we have posted all over that we brought from America. To the left, past the fridge, that's our kitchen. Yes, the whole kitchen.

Here's another shot of the same area, but now you can see our cute little inherited dining room table. That multicolored atrocity on the table, that's our rice cooker. She gets used just about every day here in Korea. When in Rome! Past those frosted doors is our washer and... no dryer. We hang dry our clothes. From where I am standing here, if you turn 180 degrees, you'll find...

The bathroom! It's incredibly small, and if you've noticed, there's no proper shower. Well, that is correct, there is indeed no shower. I repeat, no shower. There's that little spigot above the sink, and a little button on the bathroom sink that redirects the water flow from the sink to that little shower head-ish thing. It's not fun. I definitely am missing using a real shower. The problem is that once you shower, the entire floor of the bathroom and the entire toilet are wet, for hours. It's a pain, to say the least.

If you turn right from the bathroom, the first room is our TV room, which also stores our clothes. We only have one chair right now so... we switch out. Rich is a sweetheart and lets me use it if I've cooked. You can also see our Game Cube, which was gifted to us from Reed. The main reason I wanted to show you two shots of this room is so you didn't miss out on the lovely yellow wallpaper. It's a horrid mustard yellow with metallic sheen multicolored roses on it. Who in their right minds thought this was a good idea!? I would like to meet this person, and knock some interior decorating sense into them...

Last but not least, here's our bedroom. There's a little desk/vanity to the right, and the bed to the left. Not much to say... we have a living plant (!!!) and brand new sheets, which we're both excited about. There is not much else to say about our bedroom. Pretty plain.

Well there's our virtual apartment tour. Our apartment is small, but it's just enough for us. Hope you enjoyed!

Awkward Korean Translations...

What we've noticed here in Korea is that people are obsessed with putting something in English on just about anything. It may be the name of their restaurant or shop, a shirt, a bag, or a cup. It seems that nearly everything has something in English pasted on it. More often than not, it's misspelled, grammatically incorrect, or... just awkward. I haven't had my camera with me all the time, but here are a few for you to enjoy.

I screem. U screem. We all screem for ice creem.

These cups say, "Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're gonna". And I suppose you're right, you never DO know what you're gonna. They were so great, we bought two of these when we saw them.

Now this one, this is just awkward. Hisbeans Coffee? Eeew.

Minutemen. Meatpuppet. Descendents. Angst. On Broadway. Saturday, January 22. 9pm.

Huh?! This might mean something, to someone, somewhere, but to me it just looks awkward. And even if it does mean something, why in the hell is it being sold in Pohang, South Korea? It certainly doesn't mean anything to anyone here, beyond the obvious cool-factor of carrying something with English on it...

So there's your fist installment of Awkward Korean Translations. I am SURE there will be more to come.

Field trips, paintball, and more fun in Pohang

So sorry for the long gap between my posts. I have to get better at just dedicating a little bit of time every day to write about SOMETHING. There's always something happening, so it's not like I have a lack of things to write about or anything. I guess I could start now from the last time I posted. Well, here it goes...

School is going well. I am loving my students and my classes more and more everyday as the kids' personalities shine through and I get to know them more. Their English is improving so quickly, it's unbelievable! Just two months ago, none of my students knew any English. Now, I am greeting with a "Hello Jaime Teacher!" When I ask them how they are, they respond with a smiley "I'm fine!" Even my youngest class, Korean age 5, which is about 3-4 Western age have blossomed so quickly. They already know hundreds of words, shapes, colors, and short sentences. They can ask for water, to use the bathroom, to go to the playroom, and several other things. One of my students surprised when they asked me, unprovoked, "Teacher, what's that?" Whoa!

What's also funny are the things they pick up from me. It's made me more aware of the little idioms I use too often. I realized this after one student accidentally dropped his crayons on the floor. He threw his hands up in the air and said, "Aw maaan!" Another time, after I praised a student for a good sentence he asked, "Teacher, it was awesome?" Baahahahaa! I almost died!

Last week we went on a field trip to a park close to school. I think the name was Duom Mountain. It was beautiful! The field trip itself was... interesting. We spent most of our time snacking and taking pictures, it seemed like. BUT it was a day I didn't have to teach class, so I can't complain too much. Also, thanks to my generous 3-year-olds, I got to try about 100 new Korean snack foods, some of which I liked, others not so much. But a great plus to eating snacks with these kiddos: cookie faces!

Here's my student Marco with chocolate cookie ALL over his face. This picture doesn't even show nearly how much cookie he had all over. Soo cute.

Here's Justin on the bus ride to Duom Mountain. Poor kid has a row of rotten baby teeth. No more chocolate for you!

Here's Donna and Aiden, two more of my students in my youngest class. They all automatically give you the peace sign too whenever they pose for a picture! They were sitting together, but for the life of me I couldn't get them to stop wiggling to get a good picture with BOTH of them in it. Darn toddlers.

This week we also had a day off for Children's Day, and the day before was a celebration for Children's Day at school, meaning no classes in the morning during kindergarten classes. Instead, we played gamed like Twister, candy pong (Rich's invention. As he puts it, beer pong for kids!), making balloon helicopter, relay racing, and cooking class (which I taught!). For our day off, we went paint balling with a huge group of other teachers from Pohang. We played four or five games of paint ball, ate snacks, drank beer, and had an amaaazing barbecue outside at the paint ball pit. It was a grreat day!

This coming week, we also have Tuesday off, which is Buddha's birthday, in Korean 석가탄신일 (Seokga tansinil). There have been celebrations all week long, and paper lanterns lining the streets for weeks. Last night, when Rich and I went downtown to go to a DVD bang (literally a DVD room), we walked right into a parade celebrating Buddha's birthday when we got off the bus. There were hundreds of people walking either in normal dress or traditional hanboks, and holding lighted paper lanterns. One float was of a phoenix that BLEW FIRE as well as Buddhist monks shaking hands with parade goers and others playing huge drums on trailers. They could be heard all the way down the street, the diameter of these drums must have been at least 6 feet.

Traditionally, the lanterns are used to send a request or a prayer to Buddha, or are sometimes dedicated to a particular person. We are planning on heading back to Gyeongju to visit Golgulsa Temple. I promise Mom to bring my camera, I won't miss a beat.

Here's one picture of the types of lanterns that are hanging all over the city. They are absolutely beautiful when they're swinging in the wind.

Also, I am making it my DUTY to write more on my blog. Maybe not a long post every day, but at least a few days a week, I will post something. Maybe a picture, a little reflection. Something.
So here's to a wonderful week ahead, and a shout out to everyone I am missing oh so much in America. I love you!

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