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Brian

In less than a week, Ashley and I will return to Michigan. I’m looking forward to being back home, but I’ll also miss some things about living in Korea.

First on that list is transportation. I don’t have a car in Korea, and I don’t need one. Sure, there are places I can’t easily get to and places I wouldn’t visit without one, but nearly everywhere I’ve needed to go has been a cheap and easy bus, train, subway, or cab ride away. The system is very extensive, convenient, and inexpensive. After several years of paying a bit more than a dollar to ride the Busan or Seoul Metro, I bought a four-dollar ticket for a ride on the DC Metro, which has longer waits between trains, and felt a small stab of culture shock. (And that was for a non-peak travel time, meaning it could have cost even more.)

I’ll also miss South Korean telecommunications. Until our bill decreased by about three or four dollars recently, we paid $30 a month for high-speed Internet and cable. I have truly unlimited data—with no hidden data or speed caps—for my smartphone, plus ample talk and text time, for the equivalent of about $52 a month. Comparisons between the speeds of Internet in various locations throughout the world usually put South Korea fairly high on the list, with much higher speeds than in the US.

What’s next on my list? Buckwheat noodles in cold broth, called 물냉면 (mullaengmyeon). I’m sure I could find some way of eating this wonderful summer food in America, but I can’t imagine it would be easy. It might not even be good. The thing about mullaengmyeon is that it’s really good when it’s good, but sometimes it’s just bland and disappointing. There are places where I know I’ll get an excellent bowl of cold noodles, guaranteed. There are places where I know I’ll be disappointed. And there are places where it could go either way. Until you try a place’s mullaengmyeon, you really can’t tell. So if I find them in America, I hope they’re in the first category.

I’m really looking forward to having no language barriers when I go back to America, but one nice thing about Korea that I will no longer be able to enjoy is the language barrier. Sometimes, it’s nice not to understand what everyone is talking about, to be able to tune out conversations. I can read on the bus because I’m not distracted by suddenly hearing, “…one more time, I swear, I’m going to go over there and give him a piece of my mind.” Isn’t that a conversation on which you wouldn’t be able to help but to eavesdrop? In Korea, I might be able to catch the gist of a conversation, but I’d have to try. The words wouldn’t simply infiltrate my ears, distinguished and recognizable over the generic sounds of talking.

And, of course, I’m going to miss the wonderful people here. I’ll miss my students and friends, although many of the latter have already moved on from Korea. Still, there are a few left whose company I really enjoy, and we won’t get to see them until we maybe meet again in America when we’re all back home and settled—or in some other country during a vacation, as some of our friends are from Australia, India, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, and so on. My students may occasionally give me a hard time (and I’m sure the feeling is mutual), but they more often bring a smile to my face and have a special place in my heart. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to them, especially this year’s 6th graders. I’ve taught them since they were in 2nd grade, and I’ll miss their graduation coming up in February.

There are some other great things about this country and living in it, but I’ll save some for…

Ashley

In no particular order, here are some things I’ll miss about living in South Korea.

Transportation – I know Brian said it already, but this is a big one for me. I have really enjoyed being able to get from one end of the country to the other, and almost everywhere in between, without needing a car.

I’ve also learned that, for me, riding trains is a very peaceful and meditative activity. It’s easy to maintain deep focus, breathe, and pray. I find my best thoughts as I watch the scenery pass the windows by.

Safety – Korea does have its problems, but here I’m generally not in a demographic that has to fear for my safety. Being in the US is definitely more comfortable for me, culturally, but I just feel much safer in Korea than I have on any of my vacations home. I haven’t made a habit of this because it’s a bad habit to have in the US, but a black woman walking home alone at night is no biggie, and you can even leave your belongings unattended almost anywhere here and no one will touch them. If you lose your wallet or ID, chances are high that they will be returned to you.

Health Care – Health care is truly affordable here in Korea. As English teachers we have access to the National Health Insurance Service. I am pretty sure that medical costs would be much lower than they are in the US even without that insurance (People I know have gotten LASIK/LASEK or had multi day hospital stays and treatment without breaking the bank). And we have full coverage with doctor visits, vision and dental. We don’t bear the cost for our every-other-year (mandatory) health screening, and preventative care is covered, so we don’t have to be having an emergency to be covered. Going to the doctor, dentist, or even buying a new pair of eyeglasses is not a burden on the wallet at all. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world.

Random Positive Encounters – These can happen anywhere, I know, but there is just something special about meeting strangers in Korea and being asked if you are “Made in America.” I have had countless positive experiences with Koreans who are curious about my culture, or who just want to practice English or talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elvis Presley. I have even had positive experiences with people who know almost zero English, and who are simply kind and beautiful human beings who have done their best to make me feel welcome in their country.

Some of these encounters, I would never have been open to back home. We learn as children not to take food or beverages from strangers, but here I have done both. In Korea elderly women want to give you snacks or fresh produce (that you have no idea how to prepare), juice, coffee, or little yogurt drinks. And you smile, and you take it, whatever it may be, and you google how to cook random types of squash. I will miss that.

Coffee Shops – Yes, I know that we have coffee shops in the US, but in Korea the coffee shop culture is different. They do generally have a coffee shop on every other corner, but every coffee shop is not a big chain like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Whether you live out in the countryside or in a big city, you can find mom and pop type coffee shops, where you can meet the owners every day and they can learn your name and what you like to order. These small coffee shops each have their own unique ambiance and varying menu offerings. Spending hours talking with my husband or with friends in coffee shops is one of my favorite things to do. It’s nice to have options. If I ask myself, “Do I want a franchise experience today or a more personalized one?” No matter where I am, there’s a shop for that.

팥빙수 (patbingsu)  – Patbingsu is a shaved ice dessert with condensed milk and sweet Adzuki beans. It can have fruit, ice cream, cereal, chocolate, or almost anything sweet as additional toppings. During my first summer in Busan, I was actually a little grossed out by the sight of it advertised everywhere. Because, “Seriously, who would want beans with their ice cream?”  One day after classes when we were sitting around in the office, my co-workers asked me to try a basic version of it. It was just shaved ice, condensed milk, and Adzuki beans. I was surprised at my delight. Then it struck me that coffee is also made from beans and having it with milk, cream, and sugar is not strange either.

Ever since then, I have enjoyed the regular availability of this delicious treat. It can be found everywhere during the hotter months. Some Westerners don’t like it because of the beans, but I have enjoyed almost every variation of this dessert that I’ve tried. It’s nice to share with friends.

Walking paths – In Korea there are walking paths / bike trails in every town I’ve visited. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a Podunk town or the big city, there are places set aside for people to get outdoor exercise. You can always find people riding bikes walking their dogs or jogging there. In Gwangcheon, the path is bordered by cherry trees (lovely in Spring) and runs along the river, past a small park, and up to the base of Mt. Oseo. In the afternoon, elderly people smile and greet us as we pass. Outdoor speakers add music to our evening walks.

Students – Of course, I will miss my students. Some of them I have watched grow up for four and a half years. Some of them, I’ve been teaching since they were in first grade. I’m going to miss their humor and fun, and I’m going to miss their honesty. I’m going to miss the graduation of the 6th graders I’ve been teaching since they were in second grade. I can’t count the many hugs I’ve received in the past four and a half years, or all the times I’ve been surprised into laughter by a student’s wordplay, quick wit or dancing skills. I’m going to miss these people.

Friends – Of course, I will miss my friends. These are the people that helped make life bearable. Despite all the good things I’ll miss, living as a foreigner in a strange land has not been easy for me. And these friends have been so special. These are the people with whom I had book clubs and Korean classes, attended prayer groups, chatted in coffee shops, had movie nights, game nights, girl’s nights, and rooftop barbecues. These are the people I worked with, climbed mountains with, and complained to about this and that. They say that friends are the family you get to choose, and they’re right.

 

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These Korean Days

 

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Mashed potatoes, carrots, chicken wings, stuffing, deviled eggs…

On Thursday, November 26th, we had our fourth annual International Thanksgiving Potluck in Gwangcheon, South Korea. This was the second time for us to host the gathering at our apartment. Fifteen guests from six different countries attended (from Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea and the US). It was great to have everyone over and sample the different dishes. Brian prepared his famous stuffing, which was a hit, as usual. I made baked chicken wings, which I assume people liked–there were no left-overs. We played a game where everyone wrote down what they  were thankful for on a small sheet of paper, mixed the papers up, and then everyone had to guess who had written what, which was more fun than I had hoped.

Take a look through the slideshow below to see what our last few days have been like.

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Santa

I was Santa in this year’s “Cantabile”* for our school. Check it out:

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*What is Cantabile? It’s some Italian word related to music. But to our school, apparently, it means a special program our school puts on where the school’s orchestra, drama club, and individual grades each put on a performance, one after the other.

And yes, I was Santa two days before Halloween. What can I say? Sometimes the things we do at this school just don’t make sense. :-p

My students in grade 5 conversation are quite fluent in English. We were talking about food, specifically the honey butter chips that are trending in this country at the moment. My students love them. I said they taste gross. Butter and honey is good on rice (even better: milk and honey on rice), but not on crispy potatoes. They made sounds of sheer disgust and looked at me as if I were speaking heresies against rice.

So one student stood up and challenged me to try her recipe. I don’t know if she’s actually tried this or was just listing ingredients as she thought of them. I suspect the latter, and you’ll see why when you read the next sentence. She told me to boil noodles, then add milk, ketchup, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, whipping cream, cola, honey, and butter. Now that I’ve typed it out, I’m positive she’s never tried this concoction before.

Well, half of the rest of the class decided they wanted to put their 20 won (about two cents) in. I think my first student had the most malicious recipe. The rest sounded okay. So I decided I would, bit by bit, try out my students’ recipes and show the videos to them whenever we have a few minutes to spare.

Here is the first video.

The following posts are in memory of my grandfather, Don Greathouse, who passed away January 7th, 2015. He was a big motivation for this blog and he is greatly missed.

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Cebu from above

Cebu

This was our first taste of The Philippines. Unfortunately, from the moment we left the airport we were met with uncomfortable scenes of dilapidation and grime. We had only planned to be in Cebu for four days, but I wanted to turn around and get out of there almost immediately. As the sun rose over a scene that left much to be desired, we crossed the bridge from the airport island to Cebu City. The city was not beautiful. As each we passed each group of buildings, I thought, “This looks sketchy.”

And then my heart was broken by a glimpse of half-naked children barefoot on a curb, beside the disturbing skeleton of a building that was either abandoned or under construction. There was no question in my mind that these kids were homeless. I’m not sure if I saw any adults with them. The taxi passed, again, through streets where I would not feel comfortable walking. I wondered nervously about the condition of our hotel. “Get me out of here,” I thought.

When the taxi turned the corner into the inclined driveway of our hotel, I breathed a sigh of relief. It looked safe. More than that, it looked clean! Wedged between the ruined crumbles of the building next door and a dinky shop, it looked FANTASTIC!

I breathed a sigh of relief as I waited for Brian to pay the taxi driver. He had a bit of trouble because—having just come from the airport—we only had large bills.

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Not the most spectacular view…

The room was small, comfortable, and clean. It had all the necessities and the air conditioning functioned properly. It became a sort of haven for me while we were in Cebu. It was my first experience staying in a hotel where you are provided with only a thin bed sheet. There’s really no need for a comforter in year-round warm weather after all.

The next day we decided to walk to the mall that was located a few minutes from our hotel. The road was a main road and it was a straight shot to where we planned to go, so we thought it would be fine. For a while it was fine, but then suddenly, not.

Women with babies on one-hip and outstretched hands begged for money, saying simply, “Christmas. Christmas…” There were entire rows of these women asking again and again for us to consider their plight. Barefoot children also begged for money, following us as we walked. We had no small bills, and even if we had had a little something, there were JUST. SO. MANY. I had never seen so many people begging in my life. I wanted to help them, but I didn’t know how. It was like being slammed in the face with a brick every time.

When we got to the mall, I was shocked, again, to see security search points at every entrance. I felt uncomfortable and unsafe. The food court was full of delicious-looking food, but I had no desire to eat. I drank a fruit smoothie and we made our way back to the hotel. I spent my time searching the internet for information about the poverty in Cebu City. I found a charity that helps impoverished families in the city with education, food, child care and more: http://riseabove-cebu.org/

After that, I did not go out for walks for any reason.

We took a taxi up to the Mountain View Nature Park, and for the first time I was glad to be in Cebu. From that distance, the city looked beautiful. We had been told that the night view was beautiful, but I preferred seeing the city and the ocean and the mountains as they looked during the day. We took the overpriced shuttle back down and were let out at a mall. There were few food options and it was night, so we had dinner there and caught a taxi back to the hotel.

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Outdoor courtyard of Ayala Mall

We took a taxi to Ayala Mall. Like the malls we had visited earlier, it had security and a search at the entrances, but, once inside, it felt like a mall back home; one that just happened to be ridiculously large. It had a beautiful courtyard area and a variety of restaurants to choose from. We relaxed in a coffee shop. We took our time people watching and talking. We looked at the well-manicured shrubbery and the fountains. Later, we ate dinner at a restaurant called La Mesa. After dinner we waited for a taxi at the taxi queue outside the mall.

Then we waited and waited some more. The strange thing about taxis that I noticed in the time we were in Cebu City had to do with how much of a hassle it was to catch one. Even though we were standing in the clearly designated taxi area with an attendant, and dozens of people were lined up and waiting, there was no line of taxis waiting for us. Not even one or two. It even seemed that the unoccupied taxis seemed reluctant to stop and pick anyone up! The attendant would energetically try to catch a driver’s attention—the driver might even look him straight in the face and pass right on by more often than not! Some people grumbled and left the line in disgust, but we stayed put. This was not the first time we had had to wait for a taxi, and I did not care to try going it alone again. And slowly but surely the people ahead of us in the queue were climbing into cars and heading to wherever they needed to go. After waiting in line for about an hour, we were able to do the same.

On the day we left Cebu City, I felt a huge sense of relief to be getting out of there. It was like Christmas. And, conveniently enough, it was actually Christmas Day. The flight attendants sang popular Christmas songs and I slept. Cebu hadn’t really been one of the places we’d wanted to see. It was just a stopover that somehow worked to help lower the price of our plane tickets. It hadn’t been one of the places on our list at all, but I was glad to have seen it. Otherwise I might have remained a little bit more blissfully ignorant. The Philippines is a breathtakingly beautiful country, but I will never forget the poverty I saw there.

Puerto Princesa

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I woke up just before our plane landed in Puerto Princesa. My first impression upon arrival was something like, “This is more like it.”

My favorite thing to do while staying at the Blue Lagoon in Puerto Princesa was to sit on the porch in front of our bungalow and relax. The room was nothing special, but the hotel had a decent restaurant and I can never get enough of green, flowering surroundings. The forest was beautiful. The weather was perfect and there was often a breeze that reduced the overall effect of the humidity. We explored very leisurely for the first few days after we got there. It was easy to catch a trike to the downtown area.

I really enjoyed riding the trikes everywhere. I loved the slow pace of traffic and the courtesy of the drivers. One driver, Mr. Bong, ended up taking us on a half-day city tour for a better price than our hotel would have offered. We went to the crocodile farm and saw crocs of all sizes. We went to a park called Baker’s Hill where there was a talking bird for me to try to communicate with. (It meowed at me and I meowed back.) We also went to the butterfly museum before rounding everything off with a stop at a souvenir shop.

The weirdest thing on Palawan for me was the butterfly museum because it also included a tribal village where the indigenous people of Palawan seem to be put on display. It was an awkward sort of exhibit that would not be considered acceptable in the United States. I hadn’t been keen on visiting the tribal village exhibit, but our guide insisted. She opened a wooden door and led us away from the butterflies into a little mock village where two young men in red plaid loincloths seemed to be waiting around with nothing to do. We saw men explain some of their traditional instruments, religious beliefs, weapons and products via a translator. We learned that the people come down from the highlands and stay in the tribal village for a few months before returning to their home. Their demonstration was interesting, but I did not feel comfortable visiting people in such a zoo-like environment.

The most exciting thing we did was go island hopping. I tried snorkeling for the first time ever and I really enjoyed it. I think that it was only after the experience of snorkeling in the sun that my stress level finally realized I was on vacation.

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We have a candle-lit dinner by the bay walk.

Boracay

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The secret to our success. Brian budgeting on the beach.

It wasn’t until we got to Boracay that I realized how spotless Puerto Princesa had been or how comfortable it was to walk along the streets there. Boracay is great, but it’s also crawling with noisy tourists. The beaches are beautiful but constantly overcrowded.

Brian and I had just planned to relax and only participate in a few tourist activities. Our plan was to walk along the beach visiting coffee shops and restaurants, taking some time to dip into the ocean or doze in the sand. The problem was that every ten feet there was someone trying to sell us something, whether it be sailboat rides, scuba diving adventures, snorkeling trips or selfie sticks. In Boracay we practiced the necessary art of saying “No,” or “No, thank you, we did that yesterday,” along with my personal favorite, “No selfie stick.”

What I learned while in Boracay was that everybody wants to get their hair did. Signs for hair braiding (‘reggae hair’ it read in Korean) were all over and tourists could get their hair braided in any style by local women. The most popular style was cornrows adorned with colorful rubber bands. People of various ages, ethnicities, and genders sat in chairs patiently getting cornrows done. Little White and Asian children played in the waves with hairstyles I used to sport as a kid. It was interesting and fun to see.

What I enjoyed a lot about Boracay beside the view was the locals’ positive reaction to my hair. Yes, it’s all about me. They liked it and they told me so, or talked to me about when they had worn locks too. It was a little friendly conversation starter. That was not a complete surprise to me because from Kalibo to Cataclan (where we caught the ferry to Boracay) our airport driver had been listening to reggae music non-stop. Once we got to Boracay I realized that it wasn’t just him. Reggae music was pumping from restaurants and shops, Bob Marley memorabilia was everywhere, and I saw several locals sporting long dreadlocks (while surfing, shopping or painting).

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Relaxing in a shady spot on the beach.

The best reaction by far was on our last day in The Philippines. We were walking up to the check in desk at the Kalibo airport. Brian gave them our passports and documents when the guys working behind the counter spontaneously broke into a Bob Marley song. They didn’t stop until we left. I just smiled and laughed.

One of the best parts of Boracay was our accommodations. Amihan-Home was just peaceful, tastefully decorated and extremely comfortable. It was a bed and breakfast type place with four or five rooms, two friendly dogs, and beautiful grounds. We weren’t on the beach, but it only took a few minutes to walk there. Because the house was on a somewhat steep hill, we always had a cool breeze flowing through. Out on the front patio, a dreadlocked artist in the process of painting an oversized portrait of our hostess added to the ambiance. After staying the first night on the ground floor in a suite adjacent to the lobby area, the owner suggested that we move to a quieter room upstairs. I was glad of the move since we could see more from higher up.I really enjoyed spending time on the balcony just watching the colorful kites of the kite boarders and dreaming.

The breakfast that was included was simple but delicious. We usually opted for the Filipino breakfast, which included seasoned beef, garlic rice, an egg and fresh fruit (usually mango). Coffee or tea was also provided. The way it worked was that each evening the staff would take our order and note the time we would be having breakfast. Then in the morning we would head downstairs at the appointed time and sit down in the dining room or outside on the back patio. I don’t know if the woman who cooked our meals spoke much English, but she seemed very kind. When our breakfast was ready, the staff would serve us our food and drinks. Sometimes there were other guests at the table with us, but often we were the only people on the patio enjoying a romantic breakfast (haha). On our last day in Boracay one of the resident dogs of Amihan-Home joined me and Brian for breakfast. It was a master of the pitiful puppy dog begging techniques, but, since I did not know the policy on feeding the dogs, I did not give in.

Visiting The Philippines was a great experience, and I hope to be able to return there in the future. There is so much more that I could share about this vacation, but it’s just not going to happen. I have to leave some things for Brian to write about after all.

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Korean “Thanksgiving” is Chuseok (추석), which is more their harvest festival with elder and ancestor reverence than a day of giving thanks. They have Chuseok on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, which happened early September this year. Thanksgiving in America, however, just happened two days ago. Now, we’re not in America, but does it mean we can’t celebrate one of our favorite holidays? Absolutely not. We had International Thanksgiving 2014 two days ago.

The origin of American Thanksgiving involved people who lived in a land natively and people who immigrated to that land. These people, of different cultures, languages, nations, and skin colors, gathered together to celebrate friendship and fellowship. And so that’s what we did. We weren’t in our native land, but we gathered together with people who do live in this land as natives, as well as others who come from different countries.

Altogether, we had at least five countries represented in our celebration: the United States of America, South Korea, South Africa, Great Britain (specifically North Ireland), and Canada. There were about 19 or 20 people. In the past two years, we have had these Thanksgiving dinners at our friend and co-worker Linda’s apartment. She lives in Hanawon Room Apartments (or is it Hana One-Room Apartments?), which, including the laundry/balcony area and the bathroom, is about 300 square feet, and only about half of that is space where folk can hang around. We’ve crammed, elbow-to-elbow, about sixteen or seventeen people for various get-togethers in times past.

This year was different. This year, Ashley and I no longer live in the same apartment building as Linda. We now have an apartment that has about 900 square feet, with a common area of more than 300 square feet. So we hosted the Thanksgiving dinner this year, and it was much more comfortable. Linda did not seem to mind at all losing her status as hostess. 🙂

Anyway, Thanksgiving dinner this year was a success. As much as I could tell, everyone had a great time talking, laughing, relaxing, and eating. Oh, the eating. As always, Ashley and I made my mother’s stuffing recipe (only there was no turkey to stuff it into, since turkey is not commonly eaten here; it’s possible to get a 15-pound turkey online for about 100 dollars, which is just too much for us). Linda kept telling everyone how great it was, having eaten it the last two years, so I was worried it would be too hyped for those tasting it for the first time. It was not, praise the Lord. Other people prepared and brought green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese with pepperoni, macaroni and cheese without pepperoni, apple cobbler, chocolate brownie pudding with ice cream, salad, carrot citrus salad, Korean rice cakes, fried chicken (we gotta have some kind of bird), pumpkin bread, sweet potatoes and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, fruit, walnut pie from a bakery, and pumpkin pie that I’m certain was made from scratch. Will wasn’t able to make it to the dinner, but that too-nice what-a-guy made the pie and sent it along with some other friends who did attend. In short, we had a delicious evening.

We also had a delicious lunch at work the next day because we brought a lot of the leftovers with us to work. There was just so much food. Anyway, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, wherever you are. I know I did.

So I forgot to take a picture of the table before it was dug into.

So I forgot to take a picture of the table before it was dug into.

Yummmmm!

Yummmmm!

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So we came back to Korea on the 7th of August (a Thursday), rested for the weekend, and went back to work on the 11th (a Monday). Actually, I didn’t have any jet leg. It was amazing. Because of the delay for the final leg of our flight back to Korea, I felt good and tired when we arrived at the airport hotel around eleven Thursday night. I went to sleep and woke up around seven or eight in the morning, so I was set.

We worked that week of the 11th, but only for four days. We had what is known in Korea as “summer camp.” For us, it means teaching a handful of students for four hours and then going home after lunch. August 15 is a national holiday, which means that for most years we only teach four days of this week. This year, August 15 was Friday. When we finished work on Thursday, we boarded the Saemaul train to Cheonan and then the ITX-Saemaul train to Busan.

We’d made plans to meet some of our friends we’d met when we lived there in 2011/early 2012, and the time and cost of going to Busan compared to other cities in Korea means we prefer to go when we have 3- or 4-day weekends.

Well, we went, and I think we had a pretty good time. I was a bit late in purchasing tickets, however, so the KTX tickets were sold out for the time we wanted. I had to book the slower ITX-Saemaul train instead. We also had to leave at 10 in the morning on Sunday. It was alright, though. Getting back in the early afternoon meant we had several hours to rest and relax before starting the second semester of the school year on Monday.

For a while, we just enjoyed our time away from our place in Korea. Sound strange after only being back in the country for a week? Maybe, but it doesn’t change that we spend nearly every day while in Korea in small-town Gwangcheon. Also, it had been a long time since we’d been in Busan. We enjoyed a nice Korean BBQ meal Thursday night and went to a buffet for lunch on Friday. The name of that buffet is Ashley. We also decided to catch a movie, one we’d never even heard of: Begin Again. We really liked it. The movie was character-driven and basically a feel-good flick about musicians.

On Saturday we met our friends, Brian and Kathleen, at Songdo Beach. Although we lived in Busan for a year, we didn’t visit all the beaches. Songdo is closer to where Brian and Kathleen live, while we usually went to Gwangalli Beach. Actually, Songdo Beach is nice. But the greatest part was seeing our friends. We all brought various things to eat and we had a picnic on the beach until we were sun-tired and ready for supper. We went to an American-style diner and the food was pretty good, although Brian and I both were disappointed by the size of the burger patties (if the bun had been the same size instead of twice the diameter, maybe it wouldn’t have been a big deal).

So it wasn’t much. We just had a picnic and dinner with our friends, but it was great to be on this mini-vacation. I don’t remember the last time we saw Brian and Kathleen, but I think it was a year ago or even more. The problem is that going to Busan takes more time and money than going to Seoul or Cheonan. Going for just a day or two doesn’t usually feel worth the effort. But it’s nice to go there once in a while, and I’m glad we did.