Sunday, March 31, 2013

Avoiding An EPIC Groundhog Day

And buy this book....
Need Information in English while in Korea?
From Seoul Call 1330
From Outside Seoul Call Area Code +1330

There is a big change/life crisis that happens two or three years into living abroad, and right now both myself and many of my friends are swimming through it.  We don't know where we fit in anymore.  We've moved past the shiny newness and we are living our lives just like we always wanted.  We want to make this transition with grace, but it isn't always that easy.

It's hard not to get irritated and annoyed by the new folks who beg for advice and then tell you your wrong.  Or worse, beg for the advice then do the exact opposite and come back to complain about the outcome you told them was inevitable.   If you aren't careful, your life becomes an epic (or GEPIC) groundhog day of rotating emotional crisis as expats cycle through each year.

This weekend my friend and I talked about our desire to help new people because we value those that helped us, but we admitted to each other we both struggle with feelings of frustration when we do so.  Mostly because the time and effort that is put into helping is often dismissed and taken for granted, as if those that lived here have unlimited resources and time to help newbies get settled - endlessly.

Maybe the hardest part is that when we say, "Hey, why don't you learn a bit of the language?" and expats answer, "Why?  I don't really need to?"  Um, actually you do need to.  Right now the local people and longterm expats are taking time away from things they love such as their interests, jobs, friends and families in order to take care of you.  They are kind and they are patient, but they would really rather be doing something else.

For example, my friend works with 70 other foreign teachers - most of whom are changing over on a regular basis.  Just do the math on how much time it would take in a week to answer all those questions.  It's kind of exhausting to consider.  Let's say half of those teachers need 10 minutes of help with their personal life each week.  That's 5 hours a week of work.

Ok and this is just straight up helpfulness.  Then factor in the emotional crisis that folks hit 6-8 months into their first move abroad and the hours they want to spend talking about "how hard it is here" and there goes the rest of our free time in a heartbeat.

It's not that we hate new people, it's that we actually don't have enough time in our days to be that helpful.    The truth of the matter is that our lives have moved on.  We've made friends, settled into jobs, learned the language and gained hobbies.  It isn't "hard here" for us.  It's just life and we've accepted what we have given up and we love what we've gained.

The fact of the matter is that we must filter out all the "help me's" so that we can accomplish our lives.  We can't live within and endless groundhog day of culture shock crises, "can somebody give me the bus schedule again" requests and friends who come and go like the wind.  Plus, the fact of the matter is that it's hard enough to move and accept a new culture and a new life without always being drug back to the beginning.

In the end, instead of staying and letting myself due to newbies inconsideration, I've moved on.  Removing myself from any lists or organizations aimed at helping folks get settled.  It's the right choice for me to step of the wheel and let it roll on by.

What I will do is keep sharing things I love and find useful via this blog and  This is what I can do and this is what I love to do.  However, answering endless questions about bus schedules, I'll leave that up to the help hotline: (information via
Need information regarding Seoul? Call 1330!

Need information for outside Seoul? Call area code + 1330.

When you need English assistance or travel information, just dial 1330, and a bilingual operator will offer you detailed information on tourist sites, transportation, restaurants, etc. The service is available 24/7. It the information you need is for an area outside Seoul, just enter the area code of that region and then press 1330. Some of the regional offices close after business hours, but no worries, your call will automatically transfer to the 27/7 line in Seoul.

Note: Calls made to 1330 are charge at the local call rate even if they are from a cell phone (which charge long distance call rates).
You don’t have to be in Korea to contact the Travel Help Line. If you’re abroad, just press 82+ area code + 1330.

Available languages: Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean.
Also, you don’t have to be a tourist to use the Help Line. Foreign residents call 1330 for all kinds of information – some related to travel, some related to public transportation, a lot related to question re daily living or for interpretation when dealing with taxi drivers, shop clerks, etc.
Korean Area Codes (note: when calling from abroad, drop the (0)
Long Distance From Korea:
To make a long distance call from Korea, dial 001 then the rest of the number. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Search For Life

After a winter of thinking, 
spring has brought such lovely light.
It's so nice to be comfortable,
my life having found a pleasant gate.

It's interesting the evolution 
from isolation to integration.

I have forgotten what was once strange.
It now seems so normal and obvious.
Ways of thinking that seemed ridiculous,
now seem filled with reason and purpose.

Of course, I'm certainly an "outsider",
I'm aware of that,
but just because one is an outsider
that doesn't mean one isn't integrated.
 At least for me...

I see integration as comfort,
and I am comfortable.
So I now find myself more concerened
with participating in the world around me
rather than observing the world around me.

And I just want to report from the other side that
there is a life beyond our borders.
Whether it be 
or physical.

There is life out there.
All we have to do is take the steps.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Last Call

Volunteering isn't about feeling sorry for people,
it's about sharing a bit of yourself
that's the same as them.


Two years have brought many changes.
My interests are more focused,
More and more time is spent at home,
and I find myself wanting to become 
a part the world around me
and not just an observer.
No, I'm not "signing" off blogging.

I've just decided to branch out and turn
into it's own thing.
My local community 
loves the food,
loves the recipes,
and loves the idea of sharing a table.
It's time the project stood on its own two feet. 

 In fact, since I have a private tutor right now,
I'm using the opportunity to become proficient
at explaining the culinary arts in Korean.
Last week I spent two hours explaining
the ins-and-outs of Spanish Korean Fusion food.
Funny how I can't explain the weather, 
but can easily discuss the details of curing fish.

So, in summery I'm NOT 
giving up blogging on Chasing Tales.
I'm just refining the conversation.
If you are interested in following my food adventure,
just join me at the
we always have room for one more.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Re-Kindle A Passion for Life

Celebrating A New Adventure with a New Cover.
Chasing Tales says,
I'm super cute and fun on weekends." 

So, I'm just about the worst about
sharing things I've done
because I'm more interested 
in things that are yet to come.

Still, if you like reading this blog
the inspiration for the life I now live.

Not only that, but it's now available
Yup, for $2.99
(or more depending on
where you are in the world)
you can go on 
a virtual adventure and
support this blog and my coffee habit.

All proceeds from my novel 
go directly to funding ridiculous projects, 
supporting silly adventures and 
writing the next novel in the series 
"Lost Things".

WARNING: Side-effects of reading Chasing Tales have been reported.  Be aware that day dreaming, joy, inspiration and hope for the future have been reported by all readers.  Additional side-effects reported are: telling people you love them, wanderlust, inner reflection and motivation to try new things.  If you experience any of these side-effects you should immediately consult your best friend to discuss them in total, preferably over coffee at that lovely little shop you just saw last week but haven't tried yet.  If symptoms continue for longer then 3 - 6 months running away on an adventure of your own is suggested by 9 out of 10 professional vagabonds.

Good book
and happy reading.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

It was wonderful to hear that the girl in the vest is in the middle of being adopted :)
When I was young I had two big dreams.  
First, I wanted to grow old and live alone in a small apartment over a book store with 15-20 adopted cats. Second,  I wanted to volunteer at an Orphanage.  Ok, let's be honest - that's not entirely true - I wanted to HAVE my own orphanage. 

After I met Harry I had to give up the living alone with cats, so that left the orphanage.  After moving to Korea I realized that I was no closer to running one but I could do the next best thing, start volunteering.  So that's just want I did last month.  Conveniently, there is one only a mile from my house.

Today was only my second activity with them, and it felt just right.  Some kids were angry, some kids happy, others kids tough, and some easily broken but they all had a huge capacity for love and affection.

Folks have asked why I want to volunteer and I don't really know what to say.  It's just what I've always wanted to do.  There has never been an expectation that I'll get anything from it, although I think I'd be the luckiest person in the world if any of the kids wanted to come home and live with me.  It would be kind of like winning the lottery but better... but I've wandered off my point.

Anyway, I have no delusions about saving them, these kids don't need saved - nobody does - they just need fun and love.  If anything I hope that they learn that their lives are ok just the way they are.  That even if they never have the perfect family, they are still lovable and valuable just as they are.
This little one took every bruise, trip and beating soccer could give her but she just got back up.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name

As an English teacher I've become more and more aware of how words change meanings within context, and that the way we intend a word may differ from how another person understands it.

Lately I've come to feel that when I refer to something as being "Korean" it creates a feeling/experience of "US v. Them" for many people.  When I realized this, I felt a great sense of sadness, but also of guilt.  The realization that my words, which I thought were drawing parallels of similarity, might have been heard as differences made me feel like an irresponsible communicator.

To me the term "Korean" it simply a locator.  It tells where I am and who I am talking to.  However, as I've read more commentary and listened to others talk about the country, I've realized "Korean" is often used to denote this "US v. Them" view of the world that makes me sad and uncomfortable.

The thing that I love and celebrate about my life in this country isn't that it is so much different from me, but so much the same.  I love being around so many experiences that I've missed while living in the lower 48.  The kids I celebrate because I love everything about who they are and what they do.  It's not because they are Korean and I think they are different or strange.  The photos I take of old things are because I missed old things and I think they are the prettiest things I see in a day.  I'm not pointing out that Korea has lots of junk.  (I mean, it does but I love that and I'm happy about it because I love junk.)

As I've learned more about folks from The States and how they think, I've slowly realized that when I tack the term "Korean" onto things people attach a white, middle class, Americana "US v Them" perspective to the content.  What sucks is that I actually have a limited, at best, understanding of this cultural perspective that I can't escape.

Since I can't change how people see be based on how I look, I'm going to change what I can which is the language I use to talk about the world around me.  Instead of referring to things as "Korean" or "Western" I'll change my language to use more words like local, transient, temporary, traditional, global, or present to reflect my thoughts on where I am and where I've come from.  Hopefully this will allow people to shed some of their preconceived notions.

It's not like anyone has made a big deal out of how I use "Korean" I just feel like it gets in the way of what I want to say about life and the world around me.  I see how they use the term and I realize it's not what I want my message to be mixed up with.

It might seem like a stupid little thing to focus on, but I feel it's important because I love my friends from all over the world.  They are my family.  They aren't some sort of collected trophy on my global wall of friends.  It's important to me that folks understand their value and importance in my life and don't dismiss them as my "Korean" friends.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Game of Sardines

Salt Sit
During my search for the perfect fusion tapas 
made with Korean ingredients,
I realized I needed Spanish cured sardines.

Pear Vinegar Bath
I used this recipe from The Spanish Hipster:
but made a few changes.
I let them cure for 6 hours
(because I needed to go to work)
Experimented with lime juice 
(because I was out of lemon)
Used Korean Pear Vinegar
(because I don't like imports)

Oil Bed
The result was just delightful
and perfect for my toasts.
Perfection with fresh cheese.

NOTE: You might not want to let them sit in the salt for six hours if you are planning to eat them on their own.  I like the longer salt bed because they last longer and are great with other plane ingredients.

Tapas The Morning To Ya

So begins the big adventure.
Melding together
Spanish Tapas
Korean Side Dishes

The first thing I needed to do 
was pick three flavors  that worked together
from each country.
These make the pallet 
for painting the recipes.
This required making lots of little toasts.
The first try.  Tastes great, but not even close to what I'm going for.
Total bust.  Too much soy.  Too much olive.  Too Soggy.


The first toasts, 
although delicious,
were not well balanced flavor wise.
They were too "Korean".
After a few more tires I found the perfect balance.

From Spain I chose:

From Korea I chose:
Soy Sauce
Spicy Peppers

This was ugly as heck, but a lot more delicious and sent me down the right path.


After that I needed to refine my textures.
"What?" you ask "Textures?"
Yes, believe it or not texture
is as a key part of fusion cuisine.
I consider it equally important to taste.
Spanish food has a lovely 
balance of crunch and smoothness 
that's critical for it to "taste" Spanish.
At first my toasts just didn't have it.
The perfect crunch was found in:
Toasting the bread
Making goat and soy cheese.
Using lotus root
This was where I started really picking up speed.


Finally, I had to decided what was going in things.
The two cuisines have a great deal in common,
but I still needed to narrow it down.
So this is what 
I'll be making the tapas out of.
Chicken eggs
Quail eggs
Lotus Root
Olive Oil
Korean fruit wines
In the end I knew just what I needed to take it to the next level.


After this I need to work on 
marinating my own lotus root.  
The stuff from the market is just too strong.  
It needs to be less intense.
It needs to float inside the recipe, 
not stand out on top.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cheesed Off

Goat Cheese

So, we have two traditionally made cheeses 
ready for their close-up.

Both cheeses were made 
in the same traditional Korean pot 
using the same lemon, herb and salt.

One is made with soy milk.
One is made with goat's milk.

Which will be preferred?

Well, it's hard to say.

Once they were on the tapas
It was impossible to tell which was which.

My Research Here: 

In the end, all I use of my cheese is:
What you need to know is that the more lemon and vinegar you use the more tart or tangy it gets.  You can easily adjust the acidity to your taste.  Don't be afraid to change and modify things. 

In fact, I shortcut just about everything.  There is very little you have to do other than not boil the crap out of your milk.
Now get your butt in the kitchen and have an adventure.  

Soy Cheese

Size Doesn't Matter

Here is what I use for everything.
Small can are rewarding and satisfying.
I mean, I know folks with huge ones
but they're totally useless
because they don't know how to use them.

So stop using your small kitchen
as an excuse
not to cook delicious food.

The majority of the worlds recipes 
were created over an open fire 
with one pot and, maybe, 
a knife and a spoon.
Trust me, you have all you need.
Here is what I like to have:
Pot & Strainer
Clay pot
Mixing bowl
Frying pan
Big knife *
Paring Knife
Cooking Spatula
Rubber Spatula *
Mixing spoon
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons *
Can opener *
Meat thermometer
Candy Thermometer
Tiny graters
Mortar & Pestle
Bullet mixer/chopper/grinder
Cutting board
(not pictured because I forgot it)
Espresso pot :P

A Few Specific Tips:
If you can get a pot/strainer combo to save space.
Korean pot works like a double boiler and small dutch oven.
You don't need to go crazy with a big grater.  These work great.
I use these for a lot of things, including making my own ovens.
Since you often need to grind your own spices this is worth it.

A simple blender/food processor.
Hopefully this helps you feel 
more confident about getting started.
Gourmet cooking doesn't have to be expensive.
All you need is imagination,
a passion for research,
fresh ingredients,
and yummy science.