Saturday, January 26, 2013

Warm Feet, Warm Heart

Heated bed pads are 35,000 - 115,000w.

There are tricks to living in the cold.
Here is one I've often used.
When I was in Alaska 
I did it with a sleeping bag and a dog.

However, in Korea I use 
a comforter and a heated bed pad.

First, turn your bed heater on a low setting.

Second, take your fleece trousers and a lovely sweater,
fold them up nice and place them where you sleep.

Third, place your woolly slippers next to your clothes.
Mine were felted for me by my Aunt in Alaska
and I love them with every inch of my heart.
But I digress...
be sure not to stack everything 
or make it into a ball.
It needs to be laid on in a line for best results.


Fourth, cover the little, lovelies with the comforter.
When you arrive home 
your bed, your clothes, and your slippers 
will be toasty and delightful.

Since most of us don't keep our 
apartments heated during day in winter
this makes coming home just delightful.
It also doesn't run your electric bill up,
so win-win.

It's A Man's World

 All he wanted was a man's game for his birthday.
Oddly enough:
a woman brought the chips,
a woman won the game,
and a woman got is goat. 

Great job girls,
great birthday Scott.

Steph is taking it home.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Nice to Meet You" and Other Stupid Things Koreans Say

Each time I sit down to study Korean I discover new linguistic differences that explain many of the "mistakes" made by Korean speakers.  Each time I feel my heart break just a little bit as well.  The first reason my heart breaks is because I realize that, we English teachers, spend far too much time making fun of students, and far too little time trying to understand why they might make the same mistakes over and over again.

However, my heart is mostly heavy because I see how much Koreans are ridiculed for their English mistakes (even though they are making an effort to communicate in a new language while their teachers often make no effort) as if they are "stupid" for making them.  I've most certainly engaged in this without thinking, but no more.

First, let's look at how we judge our kids when they use "nice to meet you".  In Korean this is a perfectly normal expression to say over and over again, each time you "meet" a person.  In fact, it's the polite thing to do to your elders.  You are meeting, and it's nice.  For Korean students, it's hard to grasp that - in English - this is tied only to a FIRST meeting.  Students don't understand why it isn't always "nice to meet" English speaking folks.  English is the weird one here, not your students.

So, please, stop freaking out when your students always say, "Nice to meet you."  Slow down, explain the different perceptions of the verb "to meet".  They learn this simple phrase early in their language development long before they can understand the conceptual, abstract uses of phrases and verbs.  They are doing their best.  They are using a new language as best they can, based on the rules that they know.  They are trying to be respectful, so take a moment to respect them and their effort.  You are their teacher after all, not their school yard bully.

Second, lets look at how we judge the adults we meet.  Excited Korean's will often refer to everything they show you as being "famous".  Many Westerners get all caught up in this.  Annoyed because Korean's think everything is famous.  The Westerners start going on and on about how "Korea isn't all that" and Korean's need to learn that that what they haven't isn't the most famous thing ever.

Now, before we even get into the linguistic issues I would like to say, "This is their country.  Let them be as proud of it as they want to be."  We should all be proud of where we live and think it's the best.  It's not a big deal and doesn't make where you are from any less awesome.  Just because Korean's love Korea, doesn't affect that I think Alaska is the best thing to ever happen to the world.

But back to linguistics,  in Korean "famous" and "known for" are the same word.  So, when Korean's learn English they don't see any difference between "famous" and "known for".  They will just throw famous around like it ain't no thing.  When they say someplace is, "Famous for their noodles",  it's the same thing as saying they're , "Known for their noodles".  It's not some over prideful statement. It's just a statement of fact.

I beg of you, take a moment to consider the world from a perspective not your own.  Step back and respect the world around you before you jump on judging the world around you.  You are living in a new culture, in a new country, with people that don't speak the same language as you.  Maybe, just maybe, you don't have all the information.

Holy Tahini Batman

Ready for the oven.
 Tahini, if you can find it,
is terribly expensive in Korea.
So, it seemed the right time to make my own.

As I have mentioned,
I'm interested in sustainable recipes.
So I adjust everything 
for affordable local ingredients.
There is nothing more affordable 
 - and available in Korea -
than sesame seeds. 

I know just where to turn for help
You might make a little bit of a mess.
You can count on Dede for 
It's good, old Mediterranean home cooking.
Which is what I am always looking for,
food that tastes like my family.

I used a small bullet mixer that you can find for 30,000w.  It took longer but it worked just fine.
Note, it's going to be dark when you mix it unless you add enough water and oil. Don't panic.

 Of course, you don't really know if it's good
until you put it in something.

So I made baba ganoush.
This is Korea 
so we have to make adjustments.

1) You roast it at 200 Celsius
2) You will have to use Japanese eggplant. 
3) You will want to use at least 4 small eggplants. 
4) You might have to use lemon from a bottle.

I buy mine at the market.  They are super affordable.
My little babies looking good.  I roasted them a bit too long.
The magic.
The result was easy to make perfection.
You don't have to live without in Korea,
and you don't have to have it shipped in.

Everything I used 
was from the local market.

You can make healthy, delicious, authentic
Mediterranean food with local ingredients.
So stop bitch'n and get in the kitch'n. 

Here is the fantastic Dede 
showing you how it's done.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Talk to Me, PLEASE!!!

Alright, so we all know that I'm 
"all up ons" learning Korean.

However, what you might now know is that,
despite wicked reading and writing skills,
my listening comprehension was jack-squat 
until I discovered 
 It changed my life in a matter of weeks. 

If this was an infomercial 
I would be screaming at you emphatically 
and telling you to pick up the phone now.
I'd be wearing a gorilla suite and 
rambling about deals, deals, deals.
This is the only language learning tool
where I think it's worth far more than I paid.

when I recently lost my phone
and the application was asking me to buy
all the content over again for my new phone,

Except that when I clicked "buy"
it said I already owned it 
and wouldn't let me buy it again
- or download it. 

I tried everyday for weeks on end. 
To be honest, 
crying seemed like an option.
I was so bummed.

Finally, I bit the bullet.
I emailed them for help.
But we all know how that goes, right?


I wrote them on Saturday night
and heard back immediately from a real person.
I was shocked, and well, verklempt.

They asked a few questions,
I sent a few answers and BAM!
They fixed the problem.

ALL of my purchases were restored!!!
it was the best customer service 
I have had with an app purchase.

Honestly, run, don't walk
to your smart phone and get this app.
It improves your listening,
reading, pronunciation, grammar -
ok, it helps with everything.
I think it might even cleanly cut a tomato 
after sawing through a soda can,
it's that good.

In fact,
I find it more useful than an actual instructor 
when pared with
which I also have on my smart phone.

To top it off, 
they have amazing customer service.

Here is how the app works:
Each week you download a Vocab list for $1.99
Each day you focus on a new word.
Each word builds into complex sentences.

Each sentence is broken down into all it's parts.

In Summary:
The app is awesome.
$1.99 is nothing.
Learning is everything
Get your Super Audiobook app today.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Japan-easy Lunches

Pyeongtaek Restaurants
We Love

My family is something I have built,
not something I was born with.
The hardest part of living in Korea
 is missing this homemade family.

So, as you may have noticed, 
the way I handle all these missing
parts of me is with food.
It all ties together in my drama.

Which is why I end up in Pyeongtaek 
eating Japanese comfort food more often than naught.
Seeing, as missing Paula and Aimee
can be considered one of my hobbies.

The place I drown my sorrows
in udon is near Del Vino,
near the bus stop.

Even if you aren't desperately missing
your Japanese family.  
The food there is what you need
for chasing away the winter cold,
and of far better quality than most lunch spots.

Come on.
Who doesn't love a lunch that's
 quick and Japan-easy.

ps They don't speak English here 
and nothing is really in English  
There are lots of pictures to point at,
so you should be just fine.

If you want to get your Del Vino and Japanese,
Do this:
Step 1
Look out from AK Plaza.  
Take the road that goes to the right of This phone shop.
Step 2
Turn right on the street before
system G.

Step 3
Take the soft left at Mr. Pizza.

It's at the intersection on the right.
Now, to get to the Japanese lunch,
just turn around and go the other way, 
it will be on your left just past the bus stop

Ketchup On Your Chores

Tonight I went out with some girlfriends
to see a late showing of Les Mis.
Rolling Into the house around midnight,
I was hungry so I threw together some
artichoke bolognese pasta
to cure the rumbling tum-tum.

Of course, that gave me a little
time to kill, so I pulled out the ketchup
and started polishing the silver...

This is why you don't leave your silver unattended.
No this is not a weird dream sequence,
it's just Thursday night.

I turned the every few minutes to get a full soak.
I know what you're thinking,
"Why are you using ketchup?"

Ok, let's be honest,
you're also thinking,
"Why are you making bolognese at midnight?"
"Why are you carry silver around the world?"
Since these questions are trickier to explain,
I'm going to stick to the ketchup 
as the weirdest part so... 
Tomatoes plus oxygen eat metal.
Which why you should never leave them in a can
or metal pot in the fridge, and why they say cook 
tomato sauce with non-metallic spoons.
Ketchup is a smooth tomato paste.
It rubs on easy and I use it to also
create a polishing bath
which takes some of the work out of the process.   

My poor babies need a lot of love.
I still need to do the last bit for work 
to really make them shine,
but they are well on their way to recovery.

So remember,
next time the silver in our backpack 
is looking a little drab
just ask the natives for some ketchup.

  (keep in mind, ketchup cleans all metals.
So if you have antique things 
or old crusty metal fixtures, 
this is a safe cleaning agent to try.) 

As for me,    
this summer I'll be enjoying
my morning espresso on the roof
with jam and crumpets.
Just because I live abroad,
is no reason to live like a savage. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gone Country

Sometimes you gotta go back to your roots.
I didn't move to Korea to forget,
I moved here to start over with what I had.

Good or bad,
I fell in luv with a country boy.
And like every good country boy, 
the first big thing he bought me
were my own boots.

Unfortunately, these boots were made for walk'n
and he's been chasing after them ever since.
From Nashville to Korea
and someday - maybe - back again.

That's the way it goes when a county boy
falls in love with a hippie girl.
She will carry those around boots forever,
but they will probably be made of Spanish Leather.

Home Grown Korean

My students creating my daily lesson plan.
 Learning to speak a language "fluently" is a beast.
It's so much harder than just memorizing vocabulary.
You have to learn new social rules, 
new assumptions, 
new gestures,
and new ideas.

It's an entirely new way of thinking about the world.

Right about the time you think you are getting ahead,
something happens that knocks you back a bit.

In short, its a long climb up a long, hard hill.

Which is why I study Korean 
rain or shine.
My kids face this challenge every day,
and I need to face it with them.

after suffering from after holiday mind mud,
I found myself searching for direction,
in both teaching English and learning Korean.

What I found was the awesome:
TOPIK vocabulary list

Memerise makes studying vocabulary
 rad, cool, awesome and fun.
They link learning to the concept of gardening.
Thus creating the best tool, by far, 
for getting your head back in the game of learning.

It also has something other study systems don't have:
A built in system for 
systematically reviewing 
vocabulary over time.

This feature is a huge deal,
it ensures you truly know your stuff!

It might also give you great ideas
on how to make learning more fun for your students.
Come on now,
it's time your language skills grew up.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Yes"terday's Dinner

One of my all-time favorite shows is "Being Erica".
It helped give me the idea 
of moving to South Korea in the first place.

In the show there is a total tosser 
who writes a book called "The Power of Yes".
It was so ridiculous, but it got me thinking, 
"Why not?" 
Why not just say, "Yes
to everything I am offered?

So, for the last three years I've done just that.

This last weekend -
as I bit into some of the best 
meatballs, braciola, and Italian sausages
I've had in my life - 
I realized they tasted like, "Yes."
Each bite made you feel like life was 
easy, exciting, and rich.
Each mouthful made me want to say,
"Yes", to family.
"Yes", to friends.
"Yes", to adventure.
"Yes", to risk.
"Yes", to reward.

I know. I know.
That's a lot to read into a meal,
but when people cook you can taste who they are 
and/or who they want to be.

If they are afraid... you can taste it.
If they don't care... you can taste it.
If they are exhausted... you can taste it.
but at the same time

If they love... you can taste it.
If they dream... you can taste it.
If they live... you can taste it.

So, although I have only just met my lovely hosts,
I think they must be amazing people, because 
last night "yes" was rolled into every spicy 
meatball, braciola, sausage and rice ball.

Only Linda Ronstadt Really Gets Me

Oh, look at poor old pitiful me.
 There is no doubt 
my drama had gone stale.
The plot lines had dwindled 
and no cast had matriculated.

Sure, I could blame it on Korean's being cold,
or ex-pats being a bunch of twats,
but that's the easy way out -
blaming others for my isolation.

The truth is that I stopped trying.
I stopped reaching out.
I stopped going out.
I stopped planning things.
I stopped doing things. 
I had other priorities and it got out of hand.

However, for a moment I felt the blame trickling in.
For a minute I felt, "Poor me" settling into my constitutions.
"Poor me" I don't have any friends.
"Poor me" everyone left me.
"Poor me" it's so hard to meet people with the same interests.
"Poor me" I have to do everything myself.

So I called "Bullshit".
There is no poor me.
There is just me being stupid.
There is just me being selfish.
There is just me expecting other people 
to solve my problems.
I took responsibility.  I reached out.

Within minutes my life was booked out for months
because my friends are many and they are wonderful.

There was never any, "Poor me
there was just me being a dip shit.

Cold Snap Out of It

The book "The Long Walk" was one that had a profound affect on my life. My mother read it to us when I was about 4 or 5, when our family of four lived in a 10 x 12 cabin an 8 mile walk from town.

Every night after dinner - during the long winter nights - she sat by the barrel stove, lantern glowing beside her, and read us stories of survival. Outside the temps hung around -20 and the snow was higher than our home. The stories made that little space seem like a castle as I snuggled up to my mum's knee.

In "The Long Walk" I found a thousand steps I didn't know I had, and when my mom and I struggled home from town sometimes, our bodies sinking up to our waists as we fought to pull our bodies through the snow, exhaustion and cold sucking away at our bodies, fear tugging at our hearts - she would lean down and remind me how luckily we were to have such an easy journey, not like those poor folks in "The Long Walk" and I would know we could make it.

Now, I look back and I wonder if she read those stories for us or for herself. I can't imagine the fear she must have felt when she saw us giving up. When my brother and my steps slowed and she knew she couldn't carry us both home.

As a new person in a new land it can be easy to convince oneself that you are persecuted or that your life is hard.  Everyday you must learn and adapt and it can feel like a wall you can't climb.  However, for those of us living in Korea teaching English - even if our apartments are the worst, our bosses most difficult, or our lives isolated - these are not struggles but a privilege.  This is no long walk.

Which is why, when my day is harder than I like, or my attitude turns sour, I whisper to myself, "How lucky am I that my journey is so easy?" And I take that next step forward toward making this life my home.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Always A Little Wendy

This Wendy has never believed
the lost boys should have had to leave Neverland.

Maybe it's a flaw in my character,
But I think we should all be kids forever.

We should clap at butterflies.
Run barefoot in the summer.
Turn cartwheels in grass.
Ride bikes with our elbows out and head down.
Throw rocks at the water to count the ripples.
Slide down snowy hills.
Laugh when we fall down.

I believe in wonder.
I believe in delight.

So if you want you children to grow up serious.
If you want them to live in the "real world".
It's best if you keep them away from me.
I'll teach them all the wrong things.

But if you want someone who teaches them
that its always going to be ok,
that mistakes are worth it,
hard work is the greatest fun,
and laughter is the way through -
then send them my way.

We will fight with our wooden swords
until every last dream has been conquered,
then we will fall into exhausted sleep
and dream up more.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Year: A Fresh New Drama

For the last two years I've shared my Drama.
The ups, the downs and the in-betweens.
But the truth is, 
I've never really been into one woman shows.

So, this year 
I'm happy to start bringing you 
more stories from women
who took a chance,
ran away
and started over.
These aren't stories of finding your bliss.
They are stories about the guts as much as the glory.
Because these women are tough enough 
to want more from life then stretchy pants
and talking endlessly about their feelings.

They want adventure.
They want stories of their own.
They want the good with the bad.
They are chasing their tales,
and sharing what they've learned along the way.

Together we will share:
 our experiences
our solutions
our questions
our confusion
our clarity
our choices
our fears
and whatever comes along.
Which brings us to  Jessie's Drama.
We met years ago when she was my barista in Seattle.
She always had a smile and a brightness to her 
that just didn't fit in.
While the other hipsters were 
going no where slowly,
she talked of dreams and goals.
We join this Drama already in progress 
 in Kuala Lumpur

Living large in KL
"The idea of traveling and living aboard has always called to me; especially to do those things in Southeast Asia. Home never felt like home, and the more I traveled and returned, the more I wanted to travel and never return.
At times I’ve found this lifestyle lonely and have felt alienated. I’ve also been blessed with powerful cosmic connections of love. A few years ago, back in Seattle, I felt the most alienated. I had just sold the entirety of my belongings, got rid of my downtown apartment, was working two jobs and sleeping on my brother’s floor. My friends couldn’t’ understand why I’d do this. How could a one way ticket to Bangkok and a dream be my deepest desire and goal? No one understood why I was leaving and entering the unknown.

Now, that I’m living my life the way I intended to live, I still face this problem. The idea of my lifestyle feels a bit strange. I live in Malaysia but I often travel between northern Thailand and Singapore. That massive stretch of land has been my home for years now. Even though I’m situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, I still want to pack up my bags and leave. Travelers curse.

When I met my future husband, I was traveling. I was in KL to make arrangements to trek through Indonesia. Love bit me hard on the ass and I returned to KL after a couple months. I had to make something very clear from the start. First and foremost, I’m a traveler. Second, I’m too stubborn and independent for my own good.

Now, I love traveling with Ali. He’s the greatest travel partner but this doesn’t mean I’ll ever lose the feeling of being alone and getting lost in the world. I warned him to marry a settled girl, but he’s also stubborn and insisted on me. I can’t complain though. He’s one of the few people who understands and is willing to stand by my side, even if that means I’m not there. Since I left Seattle, I hardly speak with anyone. But those are the ones who don’t understand this life.

But really, what the heck is this lifestyle? I’m traveling but living at the same time. I’m not an expat, either. What sort of criteria do I fall into? Or is this just an ongoing battle of an internal feeling.

I saw a similar question on Facebook from Lanae. I know Lanae from Seattle. She owned an art gallery next door to the coffee shop I managed. I never knew she felt the same way as I did until we were both out of the country and living in Asia.

We started talking and asking questions." - Jessie

Read more from Jessie on her blog at:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Enemy Will Be My Friend

There was no midnight.
No sunset and no sunrise.
There was no beginning or end.
2012 simply became 2013
somewhere over the sea
smack dab between
between what was and is me.

Somehow it seemed fitting
that no line was drawn between my past and present.

I spent my Dragon year
connecting the dots
and following them like
stepping stones.
I moved as carefully as I could,
always forward but not always smoothly.
That's how I found my solid ground.

Now we walk in the year of the snake.
The animal of which I am most afraid.
It's the year of mending two lives,
bringing together what was with what is.

The plan remains simple,
this year I will let the snake coil around me.
I'll hold still and let it mend the past to the present
so that there is no beginning or end.