Thursday, January 27, 2011

Challenge #8: Gyeonju

Yesterday was a long, full day.  I got up and bonded with the treadmill before we started off on our adventure.  We traveled to a nearby city called Gyeonju.  (Note: if you ever go there, do not get off at the train stop called Seogyenju, it is the wrong part of the city and it will take you forever to get to all the historical stuff).  Our first stop of the day was UNESCO World Heritage site: Bulguksa.   Basically it is a Buddhist temple that was really important back in the day.  It was built in 528 and destroyed in 1593.  (They rebuilt in the 1970s and that is what we saw)
This is the entry to the main temple area.
I think we have seen too many Buddhists temples.  The first one I visited in Korea, I was like, "ooo, this is so interesting."  Now I am like, "this is exactly like the last one we saw."
Click on the pic and it gets bigger
We did discover one difference about this temple area.  There was an area where people had stacked rocks.  I am not sure why or what the significance of the stacking of rocks is, but it looked neat-o.

I am not sure if I mentioned, this, but it was cold and windy.  Really cold and windy!  After we walked around Bulguska and had eaten our PB&J sandwiches, we headed back down the mountain and to the Gyeonju National Museum.  This place was pretty cool.  Here we discovered a really big bell. 

According to our touristy book, this bell was made in 771 and did not ring the first time they tried to ring it.  So they did the only logical thing (actually NOT logical at all to my 21st century American mind).  They melted the bell down and mixed in a body of a young girl.  Her last words were, "Emille!" (the word for mother at the time) and so it is now named the Emille Bell (emille rhymes with simile).  I guess it is the biggest bell in the country.  Of course, none of the aforementioned information was on the plaque by the bell....

We also walked around some museums (there are several different museum buildings all within the National Museum area).  For the most part, the museums contained jewelry, bowls, daggers, and horse riding equipment.  After the museum, we walked around this big park with tons of dead grass.  (This is where our trip started getting anti-climactic.)  We were in search of an astronomical tower.    My amazing husband's school had built a replica of  this tower out of milk cartons.  I was really excited to see the real thing.  We found it.  Not as large as I imagined.  The name of it is: Cheomseongdae  (sorry it does not rhyme with any other word that I know)  It is amazing to me that this was constructed in the 7th century and is still around today. 

The last stop on our journey was Tumuli Park.  There were lots of big mounds of dirt (they looked perfect for sledding!)  I guess they were burial places.  We got to go into one of the tombs and see how people (by people I mean royalty) were buried back in the day.  They were buried with a ton of swords and bowls.  Seriously, I think every bowl that the king ever ate of was in that tomb.  It was interesting to see how people thought of "the after life" and how people tried to prepare for it. 
See the mounds?  Perfect for sledding or rolling down

To end our day we tried to find this quaint little restaurant that our touristy book described (It said it had Thia chicken salad on the menu!).  After walking around for a long time (okay maybe it was not that long, but it was so cold and windy that it made it feel like a long time and I had been hungry for the last hour too) I finally gave up.  My amazing husband and I gave in and opted for McDonalds.  Ohmygoodness!!!!!!!  I have missed America and did even know how much.  We had an enjoyable train ride home and talked about our favorite parts of the day.  Did I mention that this is the city that I will be returning to in 10 1/2 weeks to run a marathon through?  (minor detail).  It will be fun to see how spring has changed the city.  Hopefully it will not be windy and cold on that day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Challenge #7: Motivation

I had NO motivation to go to the gym today.  Thanks to my amazing husband, I finally made it there.  (He pretty much (figuratively) dragged me kicking and screaming there) but once I got there and started going it was not too bad.

Side note: I rediscovered pecans today.  I LOVE them!  I found them at a Western grocery store and got some to top my baked sweet potatoes.  Delicious.  Do you know that when you search on the internet for how long to zap your sweet potatoes in the microwave, it tells you to use the potato button?  (I have no clue what buttons mean on our microwave...I some how doubt that they have a baked potato button).  Oh yeah, Koreans have like 3 types of potatoes.  There are normal potatoes, sweet potatoes, and then there are some in between potatoes that they call sweet potatoes (but taste like normal potatoes to me).  So far I have not seen any red potatoes.  I think I am rambling now.  Anywho, go eat some pecans.

Fun fact about Koreans today: Did you know that Korea uses the metric system?  I knew that in my head before I came, but living it everyday is a total different story.  I am constantly do conversions in my head.  Koreans have even less knowledge of the American system than I do of metric.  Here are some handy reminders in case you travel to a metric country anytime soon:

4.5 kilograms is about 10 pounds (One of my co-teachers who is smaller than me weighed 4.5 kg when she was born!)
5 kilometers is about 3 miles (or 10 km is 6.25 miles)
2.5 cm is about 1 inch (I am 173 cm and my amazing husband is 190 cm.  Koreans ask us all the time how tall we are!)
3.8 liters is about 1 gallon (this is not very helpful)

I recently discovered that my cellphone has a conversion thing on it.  So helpful.  I still try to do my mental math.  Here are some more to help you out
1000 won = $.90 US dollars (as of right now)

38 degrees Celesius is hot! (maybe 100 deg F)
24 or 25 degrees C is room temperature
5 degrees is cold!  (the temperature of my classroom when I get there in the morning)
2 degrees is optimal refrigerator temperature
and the all time famous 0 degrees C is freezing which is 32 F

-17.8 degrees Celsius is 0 degrees F

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Challenge #6: A walk in the park

I took the day off from running, giving my body some time to recover and stay injury free.  But I had a lot of energy and a little bit of cabin I talked my amazing husband into going hiking with me!  (cha-ching!  does anyone say that anymore?).  The first step was trying to figure how to get to the mountain.  But I used the handy-dandy internet and wonderful public transportation site and we were on our way.  We went hiking at Mount Apsan.  I had read on some other people's blogs that it was really easy hiking so I was thought it was going to be a walk in the park.

Nice Beginning
After navigating our way to Apsan Park, we began our hike.  It was just like the other bloggers had said, nice clear paths.  It was so nice to be in nature.  We even saw a chird (a mix between a bird and a chicken, I am not sure what it was) as we started our hike.  The air seemed cleaner.  The sun was shining.  It was a great day for a hike.  All the pictures that you will see in this post were taken by my amazing husband.  (He is way better at taking pictures than I am).  And any picture you see, you can click on and it will be a lot bigger.

People working out!
Then we hiked a bit further.  The path became less paved and more dirt.  And more snow.  And way steeper.  I was panting.  (So much for being in shape).  I decided that we needed to take a break.  Guess what we saw?  A gym.  Halfway up the mountain, in the freezing cold there are people working out.  I am pretty sure I have never witnessed this.  People hike halfway up a mountain to workout in the outdoors in the middle of winter.  Gotta love Koreans.

After hiking for like 2 hours we finally made it!  We were on top of the world!  Would you like to know what is on top of the world?  A helicopter landing pad (true story).  Here are our pictures from the top of the world.


So pretty!

Our lovely city!

 So then after making it to the top of the world, it was time to go back down.  We decided to try a different trail for the way down.  It was so steep! (Side note: we did not see any other people on this trail, I think everyone else knew it was too slippery and steep to hike on...) They had wooden posts in the ground and rope connecting the posts.  I was holding onto the ropes most of the way down.  It was fun trying to stay on our feet.  I felt quite accomplished with our hike.  It was so nice to be in nature and the quiet peacefulness that comes with hiking.  
The rope that helped me down the mountain.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Binks!

I wanted to give a shout out to my mom, Binks.  It is her birthday today.  I was like, I should think of a story about us and put it on my blog.  This was the first one that came to mind:
We were in the parking lot at HyVee when I was 15 and I was learning how to drive.  I was driving the awesome minivan and I tried to pull into a head on parking space, but I did not get it quite right.  So I backed up and tried to do it again.  And again.  And again.  I tried like 8 times and still could not get it.  My mom and I were already laughing at this point in time.  So we switched places and she was going to show me how it was done...but she was laughing so hard that she could not do it.  It took her 3 tries to get parked.  Then at the very end when we finally got parked, we noticed that car next to us had a guy in it and he watched the whole episode.  We lost it, we laughed so hard! 
Happy Birthday Mom!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Challenge #5: Trying to finish

I try really hard to be a good wife.  I could give you a list of things that I do, but that would be boring for you.  This week on the "good wife" list I had watching my amazing husband's favorite movie (I think it is his favorite movie): Lord of the Rings.  I am a girl.  I like girl movies.  I do not like adventure movies (that is what my amazing husband calls them).  I attempted to watch this epic movie once before, but I could not get through it.  I thought that it was going to be some amazing plot line or have really great characters.  Let me tell you the whole story: good vs. evil.   Who is going to win?  duh!  Good.

Here are some characters from the movie
I do not like battle scenes at all.  I do not like to watch people fight.  Not my cup of tea (I am drinking tea right now, white peach tea.  That is my cup of tea).  So anywho, I decided that I was going to watch all of the first (of three) movie this week and like it.  I did make it through the first movie, but I am not sure I actually liked it.  I tried to be positive, but then my favorite character died.  Nevertheless, I finished watching it.  I did it.

Fun Korean culture fact: There are men who drive trucks very slowly down the street.  They sell things out of their trucks: potatoes, oranges, garlic, whatever.  Usually it just one item per the entire truck.  How do these truck men let you know that they have wonderful things to sell?  They have speakers on their trucks.  They play a chant over and over and over and over and over again.  I do not remember this street selling thing every happening in America (well there are ice cream trucks, but they play happy music and sell ice cream so that is completely different!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Challenge #4: Find good tasting cupcakes

Desserts do not taste the same in Korea.  I hope that my amazing husband does not read this as he will be rolling his eyes by now.  I have been complaining about desserts since October.  I know I need to get over it, but (sigh) I like desserts and it is so sad that they do not taste good.  I like to eat cupcakes.  They are moist and delicious and cute!  Korea has completely failed me in cupcakes (and regular cakes too).  They are dry (which is the opposite of moist!).  They only have a hint of flavor.  The frosting tastes like air.  I seriously think I could have an awesome bakery here if I could get the ingredients somehow.

Anywho, we finally made a tiny bit of progress last night!  We were downtown and walked past a cupcake shop (I took a mental note).  I told myself not to get my hopes up.  We were back within a hour to try it out.  The picture below is borrowed off of some other person's blog.  It is not mine.  I did not have my camera with me.  Obviously this person was also excited about the cupcake shop as well.
The sight that greeted our eyes!  Yes the cupcakes are cute, but this is Korea.  Everything is cute
What did I see when we walked in?  Cupcakes, lots and lots of cupcakes there were all types: Red Velvet and a whole selection of chocolates: Chocolate Brownie, Rocky Road, Cookies n Cream. Then I spied the Caramel Macchiatos and Coffee Something (I do not remember the exact name) Plus there was blueberry and green tea.  My amazing husband was planning buying 3 or 4 cupcakes.  I was like, "hold the phone, we are buying one and seeing if it tastes good!"  (I did not say this is hushed tones.  I really hope that the people working did not know English.)  But then I was in a quandary.  What cupcake should I pick?  I finally decided on the Red Velvet.  It was piled with frosting.  All cupcakes in the store were the same price, 2,500 won (maybe $2.25 US dollars) and these cupcakes were not big.  They were miniature.

So I tried my first bite was okay.  The cupcake was dry and not infused with the flavor I thought it might be, but the frosting was IN CRED IBLE.  It tasted just like the frosting from America.  So, we decided to try the Caramel Macchiato and Chocolate brownie.  They were the same as the red velvet, cupcake bad, frosting amazing!  So I was mostly satisfied.  My poor digestive system went into sugar shock I think (:  I think we may be visiting the cupcake shop again.

Quick Korean fun fact of the day: Koreans love wearing scarves.  They call scarves mufflers (weird I know).  Everyone wears a scarf in the winter.  There are tons of little shops that specialize in selling scarves.  All they sell are scarves.  I feel like I have never encounter one of these in America.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Challenge #3: Order at a Korean Resturant without a Translator

Today my amazing husband took me on a date!  Can I rant for a moment please?  Why do married people never go on dates?  If you are married, set a "hot date night" part to your budget each month and go on dates!  It is worth every penny you spend (I promise).  Sometimes we go on coffee dates, which I like a lot.  Sometimes we go on dinner dates which I also like a lot.  Sometimes we go on order a pizza and have it delivered dates.  We also go on Take a Walk Dates, where we go for walks and talk (free!).  Do not talk about your children or work or stuff you talk about every day.  Ask introspective questions or talk about hypothetical situations (my personal favorite is what would room is on the fourth floor of your dream house?).  I would love to meet the person who told American culture to stop dating after you get married.  Dating is sooo much fun!  Why should getting married change that?  Do not tell me that you do not have time or money or whatever.  You can make time and you can go on free dates.  Okay I will stop ranting now.  Point of the rant: Go on a date with your spouse!

My amazing husband and I have finely honed our ordering skills when we are not with some one who can speak Korean.  Ready for this?  We point at something on the menu!  If there are pictures, then that is really helpful, if there are not pictures, we are surprised and try to enjoy whatever we get (this did backfire on us once).

The restaurant we went to today was delicious!  I had baked spaghetti and my hubby had pork cutlet (You can order bimimbap or sushi at the restaurant, but 5 months is a long time to go without baked pasta).  We both got a side of kimchi, soup, radish, and a salad (with mystery dressing).  Our meal all together was 14,00 won (so maybe 12.50 US dollars) AND  (this is a  big and) we got FREE dessert!  You have a choice between a scoop of ice cream or a cup of coffee.  We threw the no caffeine thing out the window and my amazing husband got a cup of coffee and I got the ice cream (we shared with each other).  Another great part about the restaurant is that it is about 5 minutes from our apartment!  I was so happy that we tried this restaurant out.  It was a success on all accounts.

Speaking of eating out, we eat with chopsticks here in Korea.  I had eaten with chopsticks once before coming to Korea.  It is really hard to use chopsticks at first, but be persistent.  If I can learn, you can learn.  Fun fact about Korea for the day: You will hear from every Korean that you eat with this dialogue: "Can you eat with chopsticks?"  (If you say no, they will reply) "Learning to use chopsticks will make you smarter."    I think I heard that sentence about 50 times in the first month we were here.  Everyone felt the need to tell me (and my amazing husband too!).  I do agree that different fine motor skills are utilized, but I am not sure that makes you smarter.  By Korean standards, if you are feeling a little on the not so smart side, pick up a pair of chopsticks for your next meal!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Challenge #2: No coffee

This challenge came as a surprise, but still a good one.  I love coffee.  LOVE IT!  I drink coffee several times a day.  There are many benefits to coffee: it tastes good, it suppresses hunger (which is great for 10:00 am break at school when I am ready for lunch but have to teach for 2 more hours) and it has a low calorie count (if you do not add sugar and milk)  Today, I did not have any coffee before church (I was planning on having some at church - they make it in a coffee pot!).  By the time we got to church, I had a splitting headache.  So I decided that my body is probably addicted to caffeine.  Thus the challenge today was getting through without coffee.  I do not think that it is good to have my body addicted to any substance, including coffee.  My amazing husband said that he would support me in this (I was surprised by this proclamation...he loves coffee a lot too!)  We are embarking on a week of coffee-freeness.  We will see how this goes.  I was supposed to go running this afternoon, but I ended up taking a 2 hour nap instead.  I love Sunday naps.  They are fantastic!

Fun fact about Korea for today: Coffee in Korea.  First of all, they do not have decaf widely available.  Crazy, I know!  Second of all, they love (if I knew a word stronger word for love I would use it in this case) instant coffee.  They do not have coffee pots (hence my love for good "black coffee pot" coffee at church). How to make coffee in Korea:
1.) Heat up the water in the electric kettle. (Make sure the water comes to a boil - supposedly the tap water here is not safe to drink.  I am not about to find out if it is or not.  So boil the water.)

2.) While the water is heating, get out paper cups and empty one packet of instant coffee into each cup.  Yes, one packet per cup  (:
This is the most common Instant coffee packets in Korea.
3.) Pour in the hot water (Koreans pour in like 4 oz.  I prefer to fill my cup up) and use the empty packet (if you are spoon-less) to stir the water and coffee until the coffee is dissolved.

4.) Enjoy!  Koreans (the ones I know) have the amazing ability to drink really, really hot coffee.  They are always done with their coffee and I am still blowing on mine and waiting for it to cool off.
Notice the all the cream and sugar!

  • The coffee packets already have cream and sugar in them. 
  • If someone does not want coffee, you can use the hot water to make tea, or just hot water
  • You can make exactly how much coffee you want
  • There is no coffee grounds to worry about
A Korean paper cup

  • There is no big warm mug to wrap your hands around.  The paper cups are like 6 oz I think.  Think of the cups you when brushing your teeth.
  •  It is really hard to find black coffee here
  • There are about 50 calories per packet

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Challenge #1: Run 14 miles

Well, winter vacation has begun!  I am going to blog each day about little details of Korean life - they are not earth shattering, but they are different than America.  I also have a list of challenges to accomplish during break so you will hear about those too!  The first challenge of winter vacation was to face the COLD wind and run 14 miles as part of my marathon training.  I am really thankful that I have an American running buddy to chat with while I run.  I am not sure if we ran exactly 14 miles, but we ran for a lllloooooonnnnggggg time.   Unfortunately for me, my body decided that it needed to use the restroom around mile 8.  So we stopped in Tour Les Jours (a bakery place) and asked them if we could use the restroom.  BAD DECISION!  Have you ever seen a really gross bathroom?  Well think of that except no Western toilet.
The Squatty Potty
I have tried really hard to embrace Korean culture, but I despise squat toilets.  I use them and I try to tell myself that it is better than what most of the rest of the world has to use.  Thankfully we have a western style toilet in our bathroom in our apartment.
Funny story: One time I was in a public restroom and being the American that I am, I tried to look at the bottom of the stall doors to see if I could see feet so I knew which stalls were occupied.  Squat toilets stall doors go all the way to the ground, so all the Koreans that were washing their hands were staring at me and laughing.  So do not look at the bottom of the stall door as you will only see the ground.
Anywho, I did run 14 miles and accomplished my goal for today!

Friday, January 14, 2011


So I get to go on 2 weeks of wonderful vacation in 65 minutes.  I can not wait.  I am going to walk directly home and put some sweats on and do nothing.  I am really pumped.  I will keep you updated on my exciting vacation adventures.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


For the record: I made dinner on Wednesday night.  I used to cook for us all the time in America.  But then we moved.  I stink at stove top cooking.  I freak out and flip the pancakes too early.  I burn the scrambled eggs.  I do not put enough cheese on our quesadillas.  So I have allowed my amazing husband to cook for us most nights.  I get to wash the dishes and clean up afterwards, that is our deal. 
This is not my picture, but this is what the finished product looks like
 My roommate from college gave me a Korean cookbook before we moved here.  I tried my first recipe from it.  In Korea it is known as galbi, in America it is barbequed short ribs.  We had made galbi once before, but I actually used a recipe this time.  The most important part is marinating.   The first time we mixed three parts soy sauce with one part water and one part sugar.  Chopped up some onions and mixed it all up.  (If you want to do it this way, it will turn out fine). But I decided to try the recipe and see what happened

I started with chopping some (4 or 5) scallions (you can use the whole scallion not just the white part at the end).  Then I chopped up an entire Asian pear.  Make sure you get all the juices in the bowl or whatever marinating container you are using.  The pear is important because the juices help to tenderize and sweeten the meat.  Then I took a break to answer the door.  There were some cult people going door to door.  It happens pretty often here.  They are very insistent in ringing the door bell.  They were really interested in me making galbi (at one point I thought the older woman was going to walk into the apartment), but the only English they knew was, “I love you” and they felt the need to say it quite often.  After the interruption, I sliced up half an onion.  

Then I added about 4 tablespoons of soy sauce.  2 tablespoons of water.  2 tablespoons of oil.  You are supposed to use sesame seed oil, but we did not have any and it was cold outside so I was not going to run to the store for some.  I used olive oil instead.   You are also supposed to add some sesame seeds.  Koreans love their sesame seeds.  I did not have any so I did not use any.  Then add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 cloves of garlic diced up super small.  Mix it all together and put the meat in the marinade.  At this point in time I discovered that I had too much meat and not enough marinate.  So I dumped a bunch more soy sauce and water in until it looked good (seemed like the easiest solution)
Maybe it will look like this
I do not know what short ribs mean. I know nothing about cuts of meat (well I know what ground beef is).  Galbi meat is long rectangular strips of beef.  In Korea, it still has bones in it.  Anywho, you let the meat marinate over night and then at dinner time the next day, you pull out your pan and olive oil.   Heat up the pan on the stove top, put in some olive oil then the meat, you can cook some garlic too if you want.  While are you cooking it, cut it up into little squares.  (it will smell delicious).  Because our meat still had the bones it, I cut out the bones and threw those away.  Every good Korean cook has scissors and tongs in his or her kitchen.  I bought my amazing husband some for Christmas since we did not have any and galbi is one of his favorites.
Notice the tongs and scissors
I think you can grill the meat if you want....but we did not pack our grill :)  So you are almost done now.  I think the best way to eat galbi is make a little lettuce wrap.  Take a lettuce leaf, put one or two pieces of galbi in it, some bean paste (see picture), and garlic.  Fold it up and eat it.

This is the container for the bean paste.  It took us awhile to like it because it has a lot of garlic in it.  Now I love it.
Do not try to take a bite of the lettuce wrap.  It is super difficult and messy to bite the lettuce wrap. It is all or nothing.   Wrapping meat in lettuce is pretty common here.  We often eat pork wrapped in lettuce at Korean restaurants.
This is what the lettuce wrap looks like before you fold it all up.
We ended up having left overs.  So the next night, we cooked some mushrooms (just in water), mixed in the left over galbi and let the it simmer for while.  Then we mixed it with some rice.  It was also delicious.  So not only did I cook dinner but it also tasted good!  None of these picture that I used are mine, I just found them on google.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Additions :)

It is a new year and we have added some new members to our family:
Heidi is our new humidifier.  She is a cute little thing.  She is also very thirsty.  Maybe that is because she is such a hard worker.   Hopefully Heidi will help alleviate us from waking up with sore throats.

Isn't she cute?

We have also purchased a really relaxing chair to sit in!  We do not have any comfy chairs in our apartment so we were really excited about getting something comfy to sit in.  We bought some shelves at the same time as the chair because our first bookshelf is now overflowing with books.
Our chair is black instead of yellow and came with a foot rest thingy
I think getting the shelves and chair back to our apartment from Emart will be a memory that I have for a long time.  We had basically two options.  1.) Get a taxi  or 2.) Take the subway.  If we were in America we probably would have gone for the taxi option, but we are in Korea and taxi drivers do not understand us very well :)  So we took the subway, which meant we had to walk to the subway from Emart.  My amazing husband decided to carry the chair box on his head for awhile.  We have grown semi-accustomed to people staring at us whenever we are public....but I am pretty sure people stopped walking to stare at us while we were walking to the subway.  I was laughing hysterically while I followed him :)

It was one of the few times that assembly was actually easy and not too time consuming.  My amazing husband is an amazing direction-picture follower.  He did a much better job than I do when I am trying to self assemble. I just handed him stuff

 We also bought some socks.  They are sooo Korean.  My amazing husband's socks have a boy on them.  He is calling a girl (the girl is on my socks) by one of those tin can string phones.  Sooo Korean.  Koreans LOVE cute.  Our brains have been fried by cuteness since moving here. There are also T-shirts similar to this that couples wear.
I will have to try to get a better pic of them
Well guess that is new year's resolution is to run a marathon!