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Can't say this enough

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Being sick again SUCKS big time and the rainy/gloomy days are not helping...

Yesterday I was chatting with my Boss/Friend and told her I wasn't feeling well, she said she would get me medicine today.

Today I showed up for work but I was useless as my illness took the best of me; my boss gave me medicine and even prepared a light snack to eat before the pills, she showed ne how much she cares about me. I was told to take tomorrow off and get better because she said she was feeling bad cuz I went to work today while being sick....

Back in november when I was working at *****, I asked my Boss to help me get medicine for my cold (we were friends, that's why I asked him), he basically ignored me, made me work for up to 15 straight hours and a week later asked me if I was sick....

Everyday I feel blessed for the new family I've found away from Home and I'm sure my mom's working something up there for us to be having such an amazing time/life now...

I can't thank my boss enough for being so cool and for loving me so much^^

Tomorrow I'll rest and hopefully my sore throat will get better!

I know I haven't been blogging much, but our Vlog is consuming more time these days and I want to focus on that now that is growing, it's been so much fun to make videos and to reply to the comments on Youtube/Facebook...

But do stick around as I'll try to update more often!, even if it's a random post boring day lol.

Or, you can check our youtube channel (Double trouble en Corea) but that's in Spanish hehe.

Time for me to sleep and I'll see you guys soon^^

-Gisela V.

The Julie/Julia/Gisela Project
Food & Culture

The Julie Julia Gisela Project



The 2014 Seoul P&I Show

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In order to fit all the photos on the exhibit space, they had to drop the size down. I am still happy with the print

In order to fit all the photos on the exhibit space, they had to drop the size down. I am still happy with the print

Better late than never but last weekend I had the pleasure of heading up to the Seoul Photo & Imaging Show to check out the first exhibition comprised of expats living here in Korea. It was all made possible by the hard work of Dylan Goldby. I am grateful for his hard work and friendship and being one of the lucky 50 photographers selected to be a part of this show.

If you are wondering what the show is like, this is pretty much it.

If you are wondering what the show is like, this is pretty much it.

If you are not familiar with the “P&I” show it is the largest photography exhibitions in Korea. I have blogged about it before but this was the first time that I was actually a part of it. Typically this show has (in my opinion) 4 parts: the gear, the girls, the geeks and the galleries. The biggest draw is usually the first 2 “g’s” as dudes from around the country come to oggle the gear and take pictures of the girls holding the gear. Geeks like myself usually stick to the gear and the galleries.

There are not many times all of us can gather in the same space and chat. It was a great time.

There are not many times all of us can gather in the same space and chat. It was a great time.

At any rate, for me the biggest draw up to Seoul was getting a chance to meet a lot of the people that I have been talking to over the internet for years. I think that the overall feeling was that we all sort of knew each other but not the face. It was strange meeting so many people that I have followed and chatted with for so long and finally met in person. It was a really good time and I am happy that I got up there.

Such a great amount of talent here.

Such a great amount of talent here.

Finally, I just want to thank Dylan again for his hard work and for choosing my photo. This was a great weekend and one I won’t forget. 




Here are a few more shots from the meet up

0V4B8240-Edit 0V4B8238-Edit 0V4B8227

From the Mouths of Students

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Teaching is hard.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but it's true. A good portion of my students on any given day don't give a crap about learning English. When I first started teaching, I really let that get to me. I sincerely care about these kids, I want them to learn, so every student who talked or napped through my class was like a personal wound. Right in the feelings.

It also makes you wonder..."Why am I here?" I don't have a teaching degree. I'm just another idealistic English major dreaming of making a difference in the world. Do I have any right to make my students to pay attention in class? Am I helping them at all? Is it morally okay to be complicit in forcing English into their brains? Am I worthless? The constant articles about "The end of foreign English teachers!" and emails from the local Education office about budget cuts are no help in this area either. You read about a Korean group railing against the necessity of foreign teachers and you start to think,'re right...I'll just I really any use here anyways?

As a career worrier, these are the sorts of questions that start to assail me after a week of difficult classes. It wasn't even entirely my fault. Teaching with a cold benefits no one.

So, after a week going into a deeper and deeper slump, a recent conversation with a student just revived me like a shot of adrenaline to the heart.

I've always felt that it's important to get to know your students outside of class, because the way they act in class can be entirely different from their true personality. It's easy to pass over very smart or talkative students, just because they aren't as motivated in class. This is all too true in the case of Taehon, the main character of my story.

On Lacking Mutual Respect

Taehon is a third year middle school student, the equivalent of a freshman in high school for any American readers out there. That puts him at...what...15 or 16 years old? In a class of 36 students, he doesn't stand out at all. Average height and looks, unlikely to speak up in class, but secretly a passionate and driven student, with big dreams for the future.

After our first class together, he came up to me to apologize for his noisy classmates, explaining that they "lack mutual respect." I was floored. I know American middle schoolers who don't know the words "mutual respect." I still can't decide if I was more shocked by the vocabulary or the sentiment.

Since that day, he'll occasionally linger after class to ask horribly complicated grammar questions in that quiet, thoughtful voice of his, but we never had a real chance to talk until today.

I don't have any classes this week due to midterm exams, so I was bumming around the English room cleaning and organizing during lunch today, hoping that someone would come visit. My wishes were granted! Taehon wandered in, offered to help clean, then asked his usual difficult grammar question. By the way, explaining the difference between "to" and "for" in simple English is hard. I think I confused him more than I helped.

Be the Change

However, after we muddled our way through grammar, the real questions started to come out.

"Will you stay in Korea for long?"
"Yes! I love Korea. I love teaching."
"Good! Korean schools...need you."

I get this question a lot. "Will you stay?" When I say yes, I want to stay here long-term, no one believes me. It's just so common for foreign teachers to spend one or two years before returning to their home countries to start a "real life".

"If you want to know Korean history or culture things, I will teach you."
"Wow! Thank you so much! I will ask you."
"And, please teach me about American culture."

This led to a bit of a comparison between Korean and American school life, and the fact that American students have lots of free time, since after school academies aren't really a thing, shocked him. I also mentioned how happy I felt to know him, to have such a curious and smart student.

He then brought up his month studying abroad in New Zealand, and the fact that the students there "Had the attitude to learn. They want to listen."

My theory about many Korean students and their lack of focus in class in that they are just plain tired. 8 hours of school followed by afterschool hagwon work until as late as 11 PM or midnight? How can you expect them to have the energy to actually learn when they're spending so much time working?

This brought out the best thing I've heard from a student in a long time.

"I think...Korean education is not good. I want to change. So, I want to be in politics. If you can vote in Korea someday, please vote for me."

This kid is going to go far. If I can ever vote in Korea, I know I would vote for him. There's hope for the world yet.

Teacher Pretty
Middle school ESL teacher, lover of pink, eater of kimchi, addicted to Etude House, expert procrastinator, meeter of 2-dimensionial popstars: Ana. That's me.

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Korean Food: Samgyetang (삼계탕)

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It is really difficult to find authentic Samgyetang (삼계탕) in Singapore. Samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup, is literally translated from Korean to English - Sam (Ginseng), Gye (Chicken), Tang (Soup). In Kimchi boy's three months in Singapore, we have never successfully found any Korean restaurant that serve an authentic samgyetang. We've had reasonably good ones like Hansang Korean Family Restaurant in Novena, or cheaper versions like Hwang's at NUS Utown, but never like the ones you will get in Korea.

This my most favourite Korean food of all. It is a really "friendly" food for foreigners who are trying Korean food for the first time because it is not red, not spicy and looks like Chinese chicken soup. Somehow the restaurants do it best, but it is also simple to prepare it yourself at home. Here's what you need.

Samgyetang Pack
Can be bought in any Korean supermarkets like Lotte Mart, SolMart, Shine Supermarket in Singapore. It would probably cost about sgd 6 but if you're in Korea, you can get it for much cheaper. I got mine at Home Plus for ₩2. It does not look appetizing because they do resemble tree branches, tree bark and roots (they probably are - the edible kinds). But trust me, after you start falling in love with samgyetang you will start buying the ones with MORE tree branches & bark.

Real Ginseng
The older the better. Because the ones in the samgyetang packs are lousy quality ginseng of low or almost no grade, you will need high-grade ginseng to bring out the taste of soup. 

Korean salt to be exact. I don't know why and how but it just tastes better with Korean salt. (not because it is flavored). Whenever I try to cook Korean food in Singapore, Kimchi boy would always ask "do you have Korean soy sauce or Korean xxx". He insists that the taste would not be the same without 'Korean' ingredients and sauces. Now I think it's true. HAHA.

All you have to do is to first boil the samgyetang pack, together with ginseng, for an hour at least. (Make sure there is enough water to cover the chicken completely later on). After an hour, put in one whole chicken and boil for another hour or longer. If you're cooking for four, you would need a large chicken (i.e get the jumbo chicken from NTUC). As simple as that! Usually I am really lazy, but it would be the perfect but still non-authentic samgyetang if you can just stuff glutinous rice or *Japanese/Korean rice into the insides of the chicken, from the butt. Use toothpicks to make sure the butt it tightly sealed. Yes, it does not sound good at this point but you cannot imagine how amazing the rice will taste at the end. Remember to add some salt before serving. *Kimchi boy will not be pleased. You should use Korean rice HAHA.

There are many variations of this, like the black samgyetang that we had in Jeju Island. I've also had one at Tanjong Pagar before that used black/purple glutinous rice instead of the normal kind.

I was like "please don't talk to me while I enjoy this".

I think the best (I've ever had) and the most famous one that most tourists will definitely visit is the one near GyeongBok Palace in Seoul. The place is called 토속촌삼계탕. (I don't know if there is an English name.) Just google "gyeongbokgung palace samgyetang" and you will probably find the shop. Most, if not all of their staffs can speak chinese. They do serve alot of China and Taiwanese tourists. I would go there whenever I arrive and depart from Seoul.

Gyeongbok Palace

Rare sight of the 'queue-less' samgyetang restaurant. It was about 3pm at that time.

If I remember correctly, the price of a normal samgyetang is ₩15,000 (less than sgd20). It does not include rice but it is really not necessary to order rice because there is glutinous rice inside remember? They also do take-aways - great for me because if I were to get pregnant one day, I can order kimchi boy to go get take away for me. The queue is SO long during meal hours so the best time to visit them is between 2-5 pm. The roast chicken is a must-try (if you love ginseng)! Most people don't order it because they think it is just ordinary roasted chicken but the taste is so extraordinary it will blow your mind. You will never look at roasted chicken the same way again. HAHA. The roasted chicken is marinated with ginseng and it has so much flavor in it, yet not too oily at the same time.

Writing about this is makes me hungry. 

Intro to Makgeolli Brewing Class May 10th!!!

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We were so excited about last April’s enthusiasm for the class, we simply had to follow it up with another!  Actually this is the first class that will kick off […]

Makgeolli Mamas & Papas

Letter from Korea, April 2014

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Suwon, South Korea 28/4/2014 Dear Ireland I haven’t written in several months, I know. Perhaps Thailand got in the way of my regular correspondence, although there was little to stop me from writing a Letter from Thailand, other than the sunshine and other things I was writing. So here is my first letter of 2014, and […]

문래창작촌 | Seoul Art Space | Mullae-dong, Mullae Line 2 Part 2

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문래창작촌 Seoul Art Space | Mullae-dong, Mullae Line 2

Part 2

문래창작촌 | Seoul Art Space | Mullae-dong, Mullae Line 2 A rainy...

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문래창작촌 | Seoul Art Space | Mullae-dong, Mullae Line 2

A rainy afternoon in Mullae-dong.  Come out of Mullae Exit 7, and walk south for a couple of hundred metres.  You’ll meet the entrance to the industrial area (there’s a couple of pieces of street art which you can’t miss)  Once inside, you’ll find a mixture of steel workshops (still very much operational), artist studios, and some boutique cafes.  Unlike some of the other artist villages around Korea, this place certainly feels more gritty.  I chose to visit on a rainy afternoon which meant having the place to myself.  I think the weather added a certainly gloominess and made the vibrancy of the art stand out even more.  Towards, the main road, the village becomes more ‘gentrified’ and there were some pretty flashy coffee shops complete with posing hipsters (Very akin to parts of Shoreditch in London).

If you’re interested in the industrial side of Seoul, the juxtaposition of old and new, or urban street art, this is probably about as good as it gets.

Pick a rainy day and don’t forget your umbrella!

Being in a long distance relationship (with a Korean)

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It is tough to be in a long distance relationship. I see friends who complain about being in a "long distance relationship" when their boyfriend/girlfriend goes on a school exchange. But being in a long distance relationship with someone from a different country or culture brings it to a whole new level.

I never thought I'd be in one someday. I don't think anyone ever dreams or hopes to be in a long distance relationship. After all, I am at the age where I want to go for fun dates, movies, dinners, shopping - just having a boyfriend who can be there for me. At 23, my relationship is filled with extreme emotions. The joy of each meeting and the tears of each separation.

Here is how we make our long distance relationship (LDR) work:

#1 - Never stop communicating
No matter how tired we get at the end of the day, we always make it a point to talk before we go to bed. Many couples don't realise how lucky they are to be able to simply make a phone call to their partners while LDR couples have to endure the (sometimes) horrible Skype connections or bad wifi connections. But when the connection is good, we get to see each other and just talk about what we have been doing in the day. We have one rule that we've both been keeping faithfully - never ever go to bed angry. We adopted this from Ephesians 4:26 "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry". It forces us to talk about our conflicts and be open and honest to each other. It's been one and a half years now and I'm glad we've kept this promise till today.
#2 - Dare to show your emotions
This was a real problem for us in the beginning. He hid a lot of emotions - especially sadness, & anger - from me when we started dating. He said it was a Korean thing where guys should not cry or show that they are sad in front of their wives/girlfriends. Generally, I think all (Asian) guys think the same. It took awhile for me to convince him that he had to tell me how he was feeling because if he hid all his emotions, I would not be dating with his 'true self'. When couples dare to express themselves, your partner gets to learn more about you: what angers you, what upsets you & what makes you happy. This is especially important for LDR couples because we simply have no time for hiding emotions when all our communications are on screen.
(Kimchi boy crying secretly while I was packing my luggage the night before my flight back to Singapore)

#3 - Don't hide your relationship
This is going to be a tough one. Because many people are still skeptical about online dating, it will probably be difficult to convince your friends & family. Even so if you're at a younger age. I've mentioned before, when I initially wanted to go meet Kimchi boy, EVERYONE was against it. My mum even refused to talk to me for almost 2 months because of this. But I (foolishly?) insisted that I know he wasn't a bad person. Thank God I met a really nice guy who was nice, gentle and honest. I trusted him because we had been skyping for some time and I've seen him, seen his parents over skype, seen pictures of him & his friends, know where he studies (all thanks to Facebook!) It was just a gut feeling that this guy was an honest & sincere man. I do not encourage people to just go ahead and meet your potential online boyfriend/girlfriend but I'm just saying - it takes some judgement, trust and common sense. 
The main reason why you shouldn't hide your relationship (whether it is a long distance one or not) is because.. Why should you? You're not doing anything wrong, it's not something that has to be kept a secret unless you're a third party or something. I'm glad I'd involved my family from the start because it also helps them to know him so much better. Being in a long distance relationship is tough, don't make it tougher by keeping it a secret. 
(Kimchi boy with my mother at Singapore's Changi Airport. He was returning to South Korea.)
#4 - Don't become lazy!
This is what kimchi boy said, "Don't ever be lazy for our love". He refers to all aspects of the relationship. He has regularly sent EMS (air packages) from South Korea to Singapore for my family. Despite the expensive charges and the fact that he had to bring the heavy box from his home all the way to the nearest post office (30-45mins away), he never once complaint. There was once I lost a handphone cover that was only available in Korea and it was out of stock everywhere, even in their Korean site. He actually travelled to all their factories and warehouses just to find the only last piece that was available. 

Ok - it might be a Korean thing again because we all know (from Korean drama) how much Korean boyfriends sacrifice and do all sorts of things just to make his girlfriend happy. But seriously, couples should never be lazy to do things for each other. No matter how long they have been together. The moment you start getting lazy, that's the point your relationship starts going downhill because the love and commitment level goes down too. This is probably easy for LDR couples because your relationship now becomes so precious that you are willing to go to the depths of the sea for him/her.

(Recent EMS with home-grilled seaweed, korean beans, korean snacks...)

#5 - Trust is the luxury of letting go.
I've always had problems with trusting any ex-boyfriends, until I met kimchi boy. Sometimes, I think it requires you to give up some things to help the other party trust you. We don't drink, club & have very few friends of the opposite sex. Not because we have to, but because we know these are things that could potential spoil the trust in our relationship. I know people debate on whether it is right to read your partner's text messages and the issue of personal privacy but really, what is there to hide when you have not done anything wrong? I think that there is no right or wrong, it really depends on what each couple wants to agree on. 
I know my long distance relationship is an easy one because of him. He is much older/mature and had  passed "the playful stage". He is different from most Koreans - sometimes my Dad says he is almost not Korean - he doesn't drink or smoke AT ALL. He has no interests in clubbing, talking to girls or playing online games like most of his friends. His parents are traditional but not conservative - meaning they are not bothered that their son might one day marry a non-Korean. They actually love me like their own daughter. We do have communication problems sometimes but he can speak English well enough, compared to most Koreans.

I think the most important thing is to have a mindset that this relationship will work if you put your heart and soul into it. It will be a tough relationship, but the most rewarding one you will ever have.



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