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“Free, for me?” Korea knows a thing or 2 or 10 about great service.

Living and teaching in Korea has allowed me to adopt a pretty decadent life-style. I’ve been pampered in traditional Korean bathhouses and spas, I’ve wined and dined most weekend evenings in Seoul, I’ve adopted a Korean sense of style and I can find an item that ‘I just have to have!’ in any store, and I’ve adventured throughout Korea and flown to Taiwan and Thailand all in the last year. My teaching salary has allowed me to try, see, taste and shop my way through Southeast Asia all while sending money home to the US each month to pay off student loans and other debt.

I will leave Korea in June, so I have decided to be a bit frugal and save more money in my last few months. It is comforting to know that while I am saving I can still enjoy myself in true Korean style. Korea is famous for exemplary ‘service’ and freebies. Money is great, but free things are even better.

free


I’m having an excellent night in Seoul with a pretty lady. I’ll...













I’m having an excellent night in Seoul with a pretty lady. I’ll update you all soon.


Going Gluten-Free in Korea (I’m trying.)


Our Weekend: Pig Neck and Paddy's day

This weekend was mostly spent saying goodbye to George as she left Korea to return back to England. I finally donned my skates after a year and practiced with the ROKD giels, and we celebrated St Patrick's day by watching the rugby game.
Pig Neck BBQ
Pig Neck BBQ

Firsts Part 2: The Korean Wedding

On Sunday, I got my first taste of a big part of modern Korean culture: the Korean wedding. The experience in unequal parts left me excited, curious and, well, disappointed.

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This is not a condemnation on the institute of marriage. Besides seeing the recent dissolve of one of my best friends’ marriages, and another’s marriage has only been one of convenience for many years, the actual wedding day for me has been very special. They’re usually fun gatherings of your closest family and friends. Sometimes, they’re in churches. Sometimes, at hotels. Sometimes, at wineries, farms or other less-expected locales. In the west–specifically to me, the U.S.–they can be simple or expensive, all-day events. Some of those more expensive ones can cost as much as a downpayment on a house.


Our Weekend: Monster Cupcakes and Tim Burton

Train journeys are always fun when you have red wine and The Walking Dead to make it go faster. I'm a couple of episodes behind on the third season, and think that it's definitely the best season so far, what does everyone else think?

Saturday was really sunny and warm, so we strolled around Hongdae, got some lunch then headed to the Tim Burton exhibition and the Seoul Museum of Art. It was amazing. It shows pictures, videos and notes from when he was really young, up until his big blockbuster films. It was so interesting to see which ideas that he developed all those years that you can see influenced some of the characters in his movies that everybody loves now-a-days.

How to Stay Sane Until Spring (Korean Winter, we’re through.)


Getting Domestic in Korea

This does not apply just to South Korea. Though, it’s damn important here. It may be a personal thing, it may be universal.

If you have just arrived here, you’re starry-eyed and excited and everything is just so. Damn. New. You’re taking it all in. It’s, in a word, whacked. You’re partying. You’re socializing, or at least trying to. It’s a hell of a first few days, especially if you’re young, energetic and seeing something like Korea–something so damn FOREIGN–for the first time.


DGFEZ – Road Trip Through Gyeongbuk

 


Weekend: Food and Family

Well I'm sat keeping an eye on the bits I've been trying to sell on ebay as my last weekend in the UK draws to an end. I don't feel ready to go back to Busan yet, there's so much left to do and still so many people that I haven't had the chance to catch up with. But, it was a busy one, starting with some dentist work on Friday morning, not fun, especially when your dentist has bad breath.

Later on Friday I went into Sheffield to meet some of my friends I used to work with at the job before I left for Korea. It was so nice to see them again but it felt like I'd hardly been away. Every pay day Friday we used to get our gladrags on and go out.
Lou and I

Dwenjang Jjigae -Soy Bean Paste Stew, 된장찌개

This is one of the most loved stews along Koreans with Kimchi stew. It goes well with dishes like Galbi and Bulgogi. A combination of seafoods, vegetables, tofu and soybean paste makes it a very nutritious dish.


Click here for the recipe.


The White Rabbit and Cocoa Wonderland

On Wednesday I got in the car and drove down to Nottingham to meet up with my friend Hannah. Hannah and I went to Nottingham Trent University together from 2005-2008 (it makes me feel so old when I say that). 
Nottingham Market Square

Jimjilbanging: It’s kind of like eating kimchi, but you’ve got to get naked.

 

ktfac
photo credit

Korea is lovingly known as The Land of Kimchi, but I argue the slogan could lose kimchi and replace it with jimjilbang and no one would throw a fit. Kimchi and jimjilbangs are both well-known elements of Korean culture. Jimjilbangs are large public bath houses (mostly gender-segregated) and can be found on almost every street in Korea. Some are more fancy than others, but most have a handful of hot baths, showers, saunas, massage tables, lockers, sleeping areas and social meeting spaces. Jimjilbangs are usually open 24 hours a day and many people visit them to bathe, relax and sleep. Most rooms, including the saunas, have special minerals, woods and stones to create a soothing sanctuary and provide elements of traditional Korean medicine. The Korean jimjilbang is a familiar and calming oasis for all Koreans. Each is a mini spa that caters to your every need. They are more prevalent than Starbucks shops and you can spend a day in one for the cost of a latte and a snack. They sound perfect, right?


Our Weekend: Food Diary

All I seem to have done since I've been in England is eat, eat, eat. I swear that I haven't heard my stomach rumble since the plane touched ground. This weekend has been a particularly food packed one.

On Thursday, after I had my hair cut, we went to St Paul's hotel and had one of their amazing cream teas. This comes with cucumber, salmon and cream cheese and ham and tomato sandwiches, scones with fresh cream and a small mix of cakes. Delicious.

On Friday morning, feeling the effects of all the food, we decided to go for a walk around Clumber Park's lake. It's about a three mile walk and took just over an hour, but on the way home, to reward ourselves, we called in at the Old School Tea Rooms and I had a ploughman's lunch.

Just say “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” to escape the Korean winter.

As I’ve said before, I’m not crazy about the cold. Yes, I’m from New England, but no, I don’t really ski, so winter for me is about the first magical snow (just one please, that’s enough) and then of course the oh so mature Christmas countdown. Sometimes January and February can leave me in a kind of funk. But this really hasn’t been the case in Korea.

drinks in korea


Reunited and it Feels so Familiar

When I left South Korea three years ago, I barely had time to establish any sort of lasting friendships. Luckily, there were a few, made mostly during the EPIK orientation in Jeonju.

Some of those friendships have faded, and some of those that have and have not have moved on to other parts of the world. Some have left Korea only to return. And, some of those will leave again soon. It’s the painful truth of the expat lifestyle.

I got to see three of those friendships reborn Saturday night, when I met up with Sam, Jenna and Tony for dinner and drinks in Seomyeon. Sam and Jenna came with me on the orientation. Now, they are veterans of Busan. For me, it’s like the clock stopped in April 2010, only to kick back on a few days ago. Like suspended animation.


Home Sweet Home

Snow
Pheasant in the snow
Snow! I forgot that snow actually settled sometimes, but it seems like England has decided to remind me of that fact ever since the day we landed. At least it means I get to wear my Hunter Wellies.

I Went There

Today, I finally went to the Tetris cafe, and it was as awesome as I had hoped.

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This weekend was Korean Lunar New Year and I had the day off of work.

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I used part of my day to do some writing, and in the process fell in love with an awesome cafe.


I love lists...

I started this post a long, long time ago, when I'd first arrived in Korea. It was about the vast amount of lists I had for films that I wanted to watch, books I wanted to read, places in Korea that I wanted to see, and things I wanted to do, but recently a whole new species of lists has been developed with my imminent trip to England. I love lists, they really do make me feel like I'm getting things done, even if it is partly indulging the side of me that likes to procrastinate.

Having been in Korea for a year, I've been deprived of several things that used to be pretty important to me, here are the lists I've made for my visit home.

Food

You don’t want to see my ‘Casablanca is closed!?’ face. *Sandwich Love*


Sushi and Roll PNU

 

By Fiona Van Tyne

 

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Exceptional sushi in Busan is easy to come by. I cannot count the number of rolls and pieces of raw fish that I have enjoyed here. For me, living somewhere completely landlocked, sushi was something that was terribly expensive and only good half the time. I have been lucky in Busan to find a place that does rolls for a decent price that are truly heavenly.

 


Winter in Korea

Vacation is over, Korea is feeling cold, and I think I have a case of the Winter Doldrums. But I’m not too worried because it is a proven fact that cupcakes are an age-old cure for the Winter Doldrums.  DSC01145

And cupcakes with old friends is an even better remedy (the Banana Velvet cupcake worked wonders for me).

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Korea’s favorite snack

Street foods are a favorite among locals, expats and tourists in South Korea.  The most popular and often beloved of these foods is Ddeokbokki.

Ddeokbokki (do-bo-ki) is everything one looks for in the perfect street food, or any food for that matter: It’s commonly found, inexpensive, fulfilling and most importantly – delicious!


Preparing for a Korean Goodbye: Don’t leave my friends out of this.

timeisrunningout

Time is running out, so please stop saying, “Yeah, we will have to do that some weekend.” I have exactly 6 weekends left in Korea and each is pretty much full from 8pm on Friday until late Sunday afternoon. I am lucky in that many of my friends in Korea are also leaving close to my departure date. Most of us are in a rush to eat lots of kimchi, find Psy socks to bring home and most importantly soak up each others awesomeness before some depart for homes scattered all over the globe and others remain in Korea. And oh yeah, I still have to find the confidence to make a jjimjilbang date. Umm, a little help please?


Health Kick

Health Kick

Rice, every day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner is starting to catch up with me. At first, the food I avoided because it was too spicy or just plain weird is now what I crave, so the weight I lost when I first got to Korea has found its way back to me, and it's invited its friends to join in.

Souvenir Shopping

I didn’t buy much in the way of things while I was in Cambodia, but the ‘souvenirs’ that took up the most space in my backpack were food.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I love going into supermarkets and stores in other countries, even convenience stores.  Markets are amazing, but there’s something about getting a peek into the daily lives and shopping habits of other people who I love.In Koh Kong I got some strange ice cream from a supermarket that I still don’t know the flavor of, in Siem Reap while getting snacks for a twelve-hour bus ride I found fantastic (and loud) Kettle Chips.

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Koh Samet: I wish you were here, or maybe not.

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I have no intention of making you jealous, but I have to inform you that I am writing this blog post from a beach chair 4 feet from the water on the small island of Koh Samet in Thailand. It is late afternoon and the beach area in front of my resort (My bungalow is $20 a night!) is starting to clear out for the day. I personally think dusk is the best part of a beach day. The sky’s color is spectacular, the sun isn’t as intense as it was a few hours prior and I can finally tell by looking at my skin that yes, I in fact did manage to tan and not burn after hours of frolicking in the surf.


27 Things to Do Before I Turn 27

Today is my half birthday.  I remembered it was coming up a few days ago.  I’m not sure if it was all the talk of New Year’s Resolutions, this blog awesome blog I came across the other day, or my love of a good list that helped make this decision.  It was probably a combo of all three.


Kimchi Oatmeal: the mealtime modifications of a multicultural family

I’ve always been rather open-minded when it comes to food, and my eating habits have changed accordingly since moving to Korea. Marrying a Korean woman has added an extra dose of evolutionary pressure to my eating habits these past few years; likewise, my wife and stepkids have incorporated a lot of foreign foods into their gastronomical universe since I entered their lives. I was recently reflecting on what has changed for them and what has stayed the same as we strive to put a mutually agreeable meal on the table.

Breakfast


If You’re Ever in Busan on Christmas Day…

American food, real American food, can be pretty tough to find in Korea. Eating the way we did in the States is usually quite cost-prohibitive and sometimes requires running all over town to source ingredients that are sitting on an aisle in even the smallest Food Lion in the tiniest town back home.  Not that this is a bad thing–I’m always a little wary of people who move to a foreign country and then resume life exactly as they did in America; I feel like it kind of negates the experience of living abroad.  Plus, we are all well-versed in the impact of the average American diet on the average American waistline.  However, sometimes you want to taste home.


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