Monday, November 23, 2009

Eat, pray, travel.

My Bible study group members took a weekend expedition to Ulleung-do, an island situated off the east coast of Korea in the middle of the East Sea. While the weekend was filled with far more time travelling than I anticipated, it was still great to get away and spend some time in a beautiful place with six good friends.

Friday my Bible study booked it out of school and jetted over to the bus station to catch a 3 hour bus ride to Pohang, a coastal city known for its steel and its seafood. We settled into our waterfront hotel and then ventured out to the fish market to experience the raw chaos of bartering vendors, brimming aquariums, and tubs crawling with crabs. We had a tasty meal of sashimi and king crab and reveled in the fresh seafood experience.

Early Saturday morning we boarded a ferry and rode for 4 tumultuous hours out to the tiny island of Ulleung-do. Nature did not grant us easy passage, and most of us were at least partially seasick by the time we made it to shore again. Thank goodness I had taken Dramamine to ease the symptoms! Some of my friends were not so lucky.

We had exactly 24 hours on the island before our return ferry. We probably slept for about 14 of those hours, all sandwiched together under blankets in our chilly cliff-side cottage. The remaining 10 hours we wandered the sunny coastline, pausing to take photographs besides scenic rock formations, to hike winding mountain paths up to ocean overlooks, and to marvel at the lines of squid drying EVERYWHERE. When, I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Parking lot? Let’s hang some squid! Rooftop? Perfect location! Stairwell? Street side? Rental car store? Dry that squid! Squid! Squid! Squid! We ate island specialties like garlic leaves, squid (duh!), and bibimbap made with mountain vegetables and soaked in the fresh sea breeze that glided through the tiny coastal villages. It was great.

I have to admit that I was secretly hoping the one daily ferry would be cancelled and we would be forced to stay on the island an extra day. Alas, no magical freak storms at sea detained us and we all made it back safely for Monday morning work. Oh well, we had fun while it lasted!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

a wonderful warm winter day

As far as I'm concerned, today was the first real day of winter. While I am sure I will be ready for the sun again in several weeks, today I ushered in a new season with open arms.

This morning, my alarm sounded and I had the luxury of snuggling in my bed a few extra minutes before stepping onto my heated floor (something I love dearly about Korean apartments). I made myself a cup of tea and lingered in my pajamas as I gathered my things for the day. As I glanced out my window, something I rarely do with a college dorm 5 feet away, I was pleasantly surprised to find snow flurries dancing about busily in lieu of the glare of my neighbor's television screen. I quickly dressed for church and rushed outside, afraid the moment of winter fun would pass. The Californian in me still gets giddy about snow, even when it melts on impact.

For the last few months, I have been attending a new church group. There are about 15 of us who gather weekly at a coworker's apartment and hold a church service together. I love the family atmosphere and the genuine desire for spiritual growth in the group. This morning the Willoughby kids had prepared a drama to go with the message and Heather had made us delicious homemade cinnamon rolls. Both were wonderful touches to an already positive morning. Follow up church with a bowl of one of my favorite Korean soups (duk-gook) and conversations with two of my closest friends here...a perfect morning.

I spent the afternoon doing things around the house I had been putting off all week (like cleaning). While these tasks were not exciting, I was glad to ignore work and do some things for myself. I made it outside to play soccer for awhile and laughed to myself as I put on my winter hat that the girls always tease me about. While I was disappointed at first that no one else showed up for our usual Sunday scrimmage, perhaps lingering indoors instead of embracing the sudden onset of winter, I enjoyed working out for an hour on my own in the crisp winter air.

This evening I decided that the morning's snow flurries justified putting up my Christmas decorations. I pulled out my tree, fixed my ridiculous reindeer's broken leg, dangled ornaments from the doorways, and strung lights. I also downloaded some new Christmas CDs and blared them through my apartment as I danced about between the rooms, adding little holiday touches here and there.

Now, I get to sit on my heated floor, drink yet another cup of tea, and soak in the Christmas cheer of my cozy abode. Ah, winter. Welcome ^.^

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Pepero Day!

Yesterday was Korea's version of Valentine's Day. The result: mounds of chocolate, four foot tall stuffed animal versions of the candy, sculptures of cookie boxes, giant baguettes dipped in chocolate. Happy Pepero Day everyone!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Excited for Christmas

As the semester gets busier and busier and my ever-growing mountain of grading becomes increasingly daunting, I am becoming more and more eager for a respite. Whilst the pull of family and home are always present, this Christmas I could not pass up the alluring opportunity to visit a friend in Israel (at least I get to see Mom in February). When I found cheap tickets with a free 5 day layover in Istanbul, my Middle East trip to visit Gail become a reality. Even better, my friend Elizabeth (who used to work at TCIS with me) has arranged to meet me for most of my Israel adventures and we are planning to spend a few days in Egypt and Petra, Jordan! My worlds are going to converge in just a few weeks! SO excited. I am also stoked to be spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and to have several days for solo Turkey exploration.

The countries I get to visit:

Some of the places I am excited to see:

The friends I get to see! (pics shamelessly stolen from their facebook pages):

Playing with photos is way more fun than planning units or grading essays.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Don't let me watch Project Runway.

When I do, I feel the need to go make earrings out of ridiculous things... like clothespins, buttons, or Rubik's cubes!

At least this pair serves a dual function: they act as unique accessories AND provide entertainment for my students.

PS- my kids love nerdy American eighties paraphernalia. There is a Rubik's cube club at my school Cracks me up :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Easily bored.

I stopped coloring my hair in Korea when I finally accepted that I am more likely going to get purple or orange locks than the desired highlights. I still get a bit restless, though...

Exhibit A, Seoul addition: