Monday, February 28, 2011

I hope I'm not sick tomorrow.

Maybe you're craving some raw cow liver and lung...

Or maybe you order it by accident, eat it anyway, and find the liver to be tasty and the lung to be so so.

At least it might have been lung...Anyone?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cinema Scope: Baegun Lake

Not long ago, one of my co-teachers took me to Baegun Lake via car. Whenever I'm in a car in South Korea, I completely lose my concept of direction, so I hadn't a clue how we had gotten there. All I could remember was that it seemed far.

A few days ago I ventured out just a little bit further than usual on my bike and, voila, I was at the lake once more! It was perfect because driving the circumference of the lake had not been all that special, but biking around it gave me a bit more appreciation for the area. I discovered that the metal wire fence I had seen during my last visit does not actually suround the entire lake, just a small section of it. WHEW!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Grand Palace of South Korea

Written: 1/22/11
My day started just like any other school day. I woke up, got ready, rushed to school and was, of course, five minutes late because I am always 5 minutes late. The school year just recently ended and the new year does not start until next week. This means a week of teacher work days. Cool, I have a lot of planning to do. This also means I should be able to dress casually, right? WRONG.

Today I wore jeans and a hoodie, totally acceptable on any other day but today. About an hour into the day and without having realized the dressy attire of the other teachers, my co-teacher tells me that the school staff will be attending a lunch for the principal's last day before retirement. We've had lunch gatherings about three other times: once for the teachers leaving this year, once to celebrate winter break/the holiday, and the last just for the heck of it. They are slightly awkward for me because the few that speak some English are generally afraid to give it a try and those that speak more fluently feel forced to keep me company (at least I think). Anyway, they are uncomfortable, still kind of fun, but one thing they are not is formal. Except for this one.

Myself and three girls I arrive with ride the elevator up to a place called the Grand Palace. In the midst of their Korean conversations in the car, I had heard the name numerous times, but figured they were talking about Thailand's Grant Palace. Ehhhg, wrong. "OK," I think, "So it's a restaurant called the Grand Palace. Sounds neat? Influenced by Thailand?" When in the middle of such Korean conversations, my head is constantly spinning. I'm trying to gather what little clues I have and piece them together to form any sort of logical idea of what is being discussed. My thoughts take a 180 turn for the worse when I walk into what appears to be a ballroom of a palace; chandeliers hang from the ceiling, a fancy buffet lines a wall, and fancy circular tables are scattered throughout the enormous and intimidating room. "Why am I wearing jeans and a hoodie and why was I told of this event the morning of?" I think to myself. Sigh...important information somehow never seems to make it my direction.

"What have I just walked into?" My thoughts of escape were suddenly interrupted by the room full of people standing up and turning their bodies to the Korean flag. My right hand finds my heart just before the Korean national anthem begins. "Whew!" What happened for the next hour and a half is quite a blur. I understood some, but very little as speakers took the podium and the crowd clapped. I tried to look calm and collected, but am certain the discomfort showed on my face. Being the only foreigner in a crowded place is not new to me, but still, this experience somehow was. Oh, maybe it was the presence of the cities senator or the fact that I had hardly a clue what the different parts of the traditional ceremony signified. Or, MAYBE, it was the fact that I was the only person not dressed up and certainly the only person wearing jeans. Everyone look at the unclassy American!

The ceremony ended with a cheers that included some Korean-brand of Sprite. This I could do! Food followed and the tense mood started to settled. We chowed down on the most delicious buffet of Chinese, American, Japanese, and Korean food. And the best part- a chocolate fountain! After talking to some teachers sitting nearby, I realized that others, for different reasons than myself, felt a bit uncomfortable as well.

Sure I wish I had been given a heads up about the ceremony/lunch and sure it was the most uncomfortable I think I have ever felt in Korea, but I can happily say that it was very unique experience that I am glad to have been a part of. The respect teachers and the education administration have for one another, along with the traditional method in which they express such pride is truly something special about South Korea.

Monday, February 21, 2011


An evening bike ride. First to Central Park and then to the Haguicheon. Have I mentioned how happy I am that the sun still shines after work these days? I can't wait until this trail is lined with cherry blossoms come spring!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Touristy Day in Seoul: Gyeongbok Palace, Folk Museum, Seoul Tower

This post coming to you from the laziest, most relaxing wine, incense and movie filled Sunday evening ever.

When I first arrived in South Korea, as expected, everything was new to me. With each new person, place, thing, or experience, I'd get that feeling of being awestruck and have the uncontainable desire to take pictures, as if what was sitting in front of me might, at any moment, disappear forever. Stumble upon a park filled with art... take a picture. See a dog wearing mittens, a scarf and shoes... take a picture. Eat silkworm larvae... take a picture. These days, such feelings have subsided. Instead of behaving as a tourist or observer of a foreign place, I go about my day to day life like any other settled resident. I'm comfortable and have made a home out of this (mostly) pleasant place that is Pyeongchun, Anyang, South Korea. It's a good thing, really, but I still yearn for that adrenaline rush of the new and unknown. There is so much that I have yet to experience, it's just that now it must be sought from greater distances.

So, when a friend and I unexpectedly had Friday off from work, we happily grabbed our cameras and tourist sun visors (not really) and headed for Seoul to visit a few spots that are most likely listed on every "Top Places to Visit in Seoul" list.

Gyeongbuk Palace

Before touring the palace, we stopped for some lunch at the Gyeongbuk Palace Cafe, located just outside the subway exit. As if we didn't stick out enough by being the only foreigners, they seated us at this giant table smack dab in the center of the dining area with a bright light above our heads. Everyone else was sitting at tables for two. It was only humorous and it really was the only available table. Plus, the food made up for it.

Was called  something like "Dan-ho-bag-chim" and was as delicious as it looks.

An entire wall of constellations!

The tour of the palace was very relaxing. The main sections closest to the entrance were crowded, but after walking further in on the extremely large grounds, it became quite the relaxing experience. The blue sky, ice on the lake, and mountains surround were all very special. We met a girl from Japan that was being guided by her friend from Korea. It was neat because, during Japanese occupation, the temple was destroyed. Now the two were standing side-by-side as friends enjoying the resorted temple in peace.

National Folk Museum of Korea

After making our way through the palace grounds, we stumbled upon the National Folk Museum of Korea, which is located just outside the palace. Pictures weren't allowed inside (although I snuck one, oops), but there is an outside exhibit (also home to the cutest coffee shop under the sun), where I took many.

Candy Molds. I just had to!

Namsan N Seoul Tower

As the sun started to set, we headed to Namsan N Seoul Tower. The journey to the top of the tower was OK, but nothing too special. The inside was so bright that there was a constant glare on the windows looking to the outside and it was REALLY crowded. I preferred the view from the base/top of Namsan Mountain, which, with the full moon, we absolutely stunning.

At the bottom, people add locks to these fences to represent their love for one another.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Kids roam the parks
Adults enjoy the city benches
The chirps of baby birds fill the air

And I attribute all to the fact that Anyang hit one degree F above freezing. THANK THE WEATHER GODS!

Friday, February 11, 2011

pa pula tuse

A student of mine drew this for me today. He is a wonderful drawer, but what is particularly special is the effort he put into it. With every new addition, he'd say, "Lana, come here. Look. Look!" It's a character from the MapleStory game.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring is in the Air

To follow up on my last post and to be fair,

I've seen many Korean Magpies, eaten my Korean food favorites,  received the Ahnnyeong Hasseo and bow from all my enthusiastic students, and biked down to the Anyangcheon and am now feeling much more satisfied being back.

I told my students about my experience squeezing elephant dung in my hands to check the elephant's health and they just couldn't believe it. To them, this was the most disgusting thing under the sun. Secretly, though, I know they thought it was cool.  Hopefully they wont remember for long because my best tool for connecting with the students that speak little English is high-fives...

Sunset on the Anyangcheon
Anyway, I'm getting the feeling that spring is in the air, you know that indescribable one. It's still painfully cold, but the feeling gives me hope for warmer days.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tidbits from My Thailand Journey.

I just returned from a 3-week hiatus from South Korea, spending my days and nights soaking up the amazing-ness that is Thailand. During the weekdays, I volunteered at Ban Viengping Children's Home via Friends for Asia and during my 3 hour lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends, I explored anything and everything. Before I left Korea, I know I loved it, but now that I have returned, it's only the things I dislike that stand out: the extreme cold, the stares, the being pushed in crowded grocery stores. I know the reason and it's because I know what I am missing in Thailand by being here. I fell in love with the people (volunteers, foreigners, and locals), children, fruit, food, amazing architecture, transportation, markets, etc. My love for Korea will return with time, but for the time being, I'm feeling a bit resentful, like Korea has stolen me from Thailand. Yea, yea, yea, I know it's not true...but still, in a way it feels so.

My experience in Thailand touched me in a way I never thought possible. Rarely did I have reliable internet/did I have much downtime, so I did not blog. Instead, I usually found myself writing in a journal, which suit the experience well. Here are some tidbits taken from my ramblings:


“Sitting in the airport waiting for my connecting flight to Beijing. I stepped out of my apartment this morning and it was snowing! And it was magical as snow usually is. It helped calm my nerves. Doing this trip by myself is huge for me.”

“I sipped some vitamin water (Power C) while on one of those airport belts and was suddenly taken back to Garden Home days. I find myself being more reminiscent here in Korea. Maybe it’s because I have so much time to think or maybe it is because I am so far removed from everything in the past. Feeling strong.”


“In Chiang Mai. Not sure I’ve ever been this in love with a city.”

“Trying to learn Thai with Korean still in my head is making me a little koo koo…” 


“Love the diversity of the group…” (Volunteer group represented by Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Malaysia, America, Australia) 

“…Experiencing the negative vibe that people have toward Americans. I didn’t really quite understand this in Korea because most foreigners are from either Canada or America, but Thailand foreigners are more diverse.”


“Woke up to birds chirping outside my window.” “There are animals everywhere.”


“Feeling of hopelessness. Can’t give kids what they really need and that is a real home.”

“…Girl on a bike too big for her and a boy similar in age comes up and puts her feet on the petals and pushes her.”

“…Was holding a kid and shouting ‘fly, fly’ and making a flying motion and he started and he started saying and doing the same. Then, I say ‘good, good!’ with a thumbs up and he follows.” (Melted my heart. I think it dripped all the way down to my feet).

“Leonie and I stuck around and hung out with the boys aged 8-10. They love our presence. They are just so kind and have such bright beautiful smiles. It doesn’t seem they are treated as well as the girls, so it feels wonderful to give them treats during out walk out of the orphanage.” (We later found out the orphanage for the older boys is separately run from Ban Vieng Ping). 


“I feel so much more home here. Every person seeks to fit in and in a foreign country this is difficult, if not impossible, but here in Thailand I at least feel accepted, a similar feeling.”

“I am currently sitting on a ledge just above the Ping River and just two people away from a monk, looking onto Warorot Market, taxis pass, trees cover me in shade and most importantly, every single person looks so nice. Oh, and here come a man selling fruit drinks in a bag!”

“Love the traveling culture. There is never information that you can’t ask another and then there is the precious information you receive that you never thought to ask about.”

“In Chinese culture, it is not acceptable to point at the moon because there is a fairy that lives in it. If you do, you will receive a cut behind your ear.” (I learned this from a new friend from Malaysia after pointing at one of the most beautiful full moons I’ve ever seen. Fortunately, I am free of cuts. Loved the story because it reminded me of The Moon Man). 


“Bank fiasco solved!” (Was ATM access-less for almost a week!)


“Met a lady living in Singapore that wants me to stay with her if I visit after Thailand.”

(An elephant looked into my soul at Patara Elephant Farm on this day.)


(Traveled the longest zip-line in the world on this day). 


“Fell asleep under a palm tree near the boys orphanage after work.” 


“Today, we made the morning special by taking our two kids to the field near the boys home instead of to the playground…Whenever a person, car, and motorcycle passed, each of their free hands (the ones not tightly gripping our fingers), would make waving motions.” (These children need to relax just like any human being and they just can’t do it when constantly surrounded by so many people, so the escape was perfect.)


“It’s so weird to me how American ‘pop culture’ is world-wide. I’m sitting here with a friend from Malaysia and one from Germany and they are teaching me about what is popular in my own country…”


“Staying an extra week!” “I feel so involved in the Thai community, not so out of place like I feel in Korea. I will work harder to achieve this once home (Korea).”

“Have made what will probably be a life-long friend. She will soon be in Germany and me in Korea, which I just can’t believe. We are so much alike.” 


“We always seem to lose track of time…we love them/time with them so much.”

“It feels good to be volunteering and staying put in the same place for over three weeks. It has allowed me to feel more like I am living within the culture rather than being a tourist looking in from the outside.”


“In Bagkok with Leonie. It’s very different than Chiang Mai. We took the train here and once close to town, the rail tracks were lined with tin houses that by most standards would not be livable. It hurts my heart to see such living conditions in a place that foreigners take for granted.”


“Much of this trip can be described in one word: serendipity.”

“Saw the most amazing sunset today, but it was too quick, just like this trip.”

“I will survive played again in a bar tonight.” (During the first weekend, Leonie and I serenaded our roommate, April, with “I will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor. We then decided it would be “our” song. It then played in four different places we visited…)


“…will sift through my growing ‘to read’ and ‘to listen to’ lists when I get home.” 


“When I leave the orphanage each day, I leave about seven crying babies crying, just needing to be hugged.” (Saying goodbye each day was so difficult and why we never got out of there when we were supposed to.)


“While walking down to the field near the boys orphanage with two children, a woman driving by stops and says: ‘you are so kind to the kids. I really appreciate what you are doing. Thank you!’” 


“Just moments before leaving the orphanage and before he knew I was leaving, Golf (a child I really bonded with), walked right up to me a kissed me right on the cheek. This is usually something I do to him, but never before has it been vise versa. I then looked around at what I am leaving and almost lost it.”

“On the taxi ride home, I either had a lump in my throat or tears falling down my face. I couldn’t decide which was better.”

“I really think I will be back after my contract in Korea; I just can’t see myself not.” (And I can’t imagine never seeing these kids again.)