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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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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

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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.

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International Thanksgiving 2014

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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Back In Busan (Briefly)

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.

 

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It’s Been a While

It’s been a while. What have we been up to?

Well, for one, we just got back from a field trip with our Sabbath school group to Gunsan. Normally, English Adventure Club ends at 11:30, but today we ended at 3:00. Our school booked an entire train car and we went to Gunsan, about an hour away, to have a picnic at a dam. It was good that, even though our group left some of the seats empty, we had the whole car to ourselves. The students had a lot of fun on the train and they were not afraid to let everyone know it. Train rides are usually quieter than that. I can only imagine what other passengers would have felt if they had been stuck with us. 🙂 Just so you know, I loved hearing all that excitement and screaming. In the classrooms it’s not fun to hear, but I loved spending time with the students on the train and outdoors, with no curriculum to get through.

I really enjoy my job. English teachers in Korea often worry that they’ll be stuck here in a job that isn’t their career, but for the time being, I’m not worried about that. Actually I was just telling Ashley last night that even though this semester has been the hardest semester at our school (for reasons related to scheduling, government interference, student placement, and a few other issues I should not express so publicly), I’m actually having some of the best times of my life overall (praise God). For one, I think God has blessed me with better teaching skills. I still have a long way to go before I become a true super teacher like our friends Linda and Courtney, or like our school’s fifth grade teacher, but I’m getting better and I won’t belittle myself with false modesty on that point. I think one of the keys has been getting to know the students more.

One of the things I dislike most about living in South Korea is being away from my family, especially the people in it who are growing the fastest and therefore have leaps and bounds of growing up done between visits home. By that I mean my nieces, who are growing up so fast. The longer I’m here, the less of them I get to see (I’m glad Skype exists, though, and I should use it more often to see them). I’ve realized, though, that what Jesus said about leaving family and receiving it a hundredfold in this life is true. I miss my family back home, but for now I have such a large family. Everyone at work gets along super great, and the children…I love our students. When I first came to this school, it was a job. I did not know these children and I did what I could for the students because that’s what I’m supposed to do. As time has gone by, however, my care for the students has multiplied, and I’m glad that God has blessed me with the chance to know them and to, I hope, be a positive influence for them. And I think that this is one of the reasons I’m a better teacher now.

Another thing that has made life great despite the hardships of crazy work situations is that God has blessed me with more peace than I’ve had. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t always accepting the peace God was trying to give me. Lately, I’ve been feeling that peace more often. A large part of it stems from a simple decision to not dwell on negative thoughts unnecessarily, but to submit them to Christ and choose to think instead of things that are better. So if there’s a problem I have no control over and so thinking about it is a waste of my time, or if I’m annoyed, or if I’m tempted to think some other evil, I have to let Christ deal with it instead while I pray for my family, pray for my students, thank God for my blessings, think about my stories, think about what I’d like to do for my next vacation, or even just look forward to the meal Ashley and I had planned to eat. I’m not some expert at this kind of thinking, but even doing it a little is so much better than dealing with the stress that comes from negative thoughts and feelings.

I mentioned my stories, and that’s something else that has made my life great and for which I can thank God. Early this year I decided to add two things to the list of required daily activities (things that are required every day are, for example, breathing, drinking water, praying, reading the Bible, and telling my wife I love her). I added playing bass guitar and writing short stories. I have missed a few days of playing my bass guitar (when I’m away from home for the weekend, for example, or that day I was sick and simply forgot), but I have not missed a day of writing, even if it was only one sentence (which is the daily minimum; five minutes of playing is the minimum for bass guitar). These hobbies have given me more joy in life, especially the writing. I take this hobby seriously. I want to get better at it. And I find, as I said, that thinking about my writing helps improve my mood.

Finally, my wife and I feel like our marriage has been tightened and strengthened over time, and it was already great to begin with. We can only thank the LORD for that.

That was kind of a big tangent. What else have we been up to? We visited some of the tour sites near the DMZ, which is the four kilometer-wide buffer zone that runs along the border between North Korea and South Korea. (A common misconception is that the DMZ is the border line, while it’s actually a zone that takes two kilometers from each country along the border line to make a buffer where no one can go.) One point along the tour was an observation building that was meters from the DMZ. So at that point, we were a little more than two kilometers away from North Korea. It was only too bad that the sky was hazy that day, so we couldn’t see very far into the country, even with the coin-operated binoculars. One of our friends managed to see a Korean farmer walking home, though!

Probably the coolest part of the tour was going into two of the four tunnels that were discovered a few decades ago. These tunnels were dug from North Korea into South Korea in an apparent attempt to plan an attack on Seoul that never happened. It was cool not only because it was neat to see these tunnels and learn about their importance in Korean history, but also because it was underground and therefore much cooler than the hot air there was outside.

We didn’t go to the most famous sites, such as Panmunjeom, which is probably the only place where you can be within meters from the border, where the guards stand watch from both sides all day, and where some people even cross, technically, onto North Korean property in the rarely-if-ever-used conference room set up along the border for meetings. That tour is more expensive and takes more time than the tour we went with, but that’s okay. It’s also much stricter (wear nicer clothing and no pointing, for example, or you might arouse the suspicions of a North Korean officer). We learned quite a bit about Korean history and the DMZ just from the smaller tour sites we visited, and I’m glad we went. Like I said, the only disappointment was the visibility that day. 

Also, we went to a science museum with our school a couple of weeks ago. This field trip was held at the end of May instead of in late April or early May because of the Sewol ferry sinking. Many people in Korea at that time called for an end of all school field trips forever, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. Most schools simply postponed their trips. We’ve also noticed an increase in safety awareness on field trips. Field trips in Korea are very carefree, but now there are more head counts, more buddy systems, and more double-checking. In addition to the field trip postponements, our school’s sports day competition was postponed. It’s usually on or around May 5 at our school, but now we’re having it in October. May 5 was considered too close to the national tragedy to be having fun and games. It was unfortunate and made a lot of people, students and teachers alike, upset, but it’s done now, so it is what it is, I guess.

And finally, one of the things that stressed us out about work was that, to deal with some of the government-mandated transitional curricula changes, our school had nine hours of English-language classes when it advertises ten in its English immersion program. It decided to fill that tenth hour with “musical class.” At first I thought it meant we were getting ready really early for the English Cantabile (an English program in winter that sort of misuses an Italian word as its title and which sometimes involves the students performing a musical). Then we thought it was just a class period of singing English songs with the students. Then, it turned out, “musical” class is “drama” class, so we all had to pick a short play and have our students practice it for an upcoming event on June 27, in which parents will be invited to watch the twelve performances (two for each of the six grades at our school, since grades are divided into high and low level). There were more changes to this class than I’ve mentioned here. The most recent one was actually a relief: parents will no longer be invited to the event, so Ashley and I, who have more musical classes than any other teacher, at three each (it’s just how the scheduling worked out, I guess), won’t have to look incompetent in front of our students’ parents when they see how poor the plays are. We only have this class one forty-minute class period per week, so there’s not much time to prepare, especially when some days are holidays or classes are canceled for other reasons. Also, directing a play in a language your students aren’t 100% comfortable in is not easy at all. So now only the rest of the students will see the plays and it won’t matter as much if the students didn’t memorize their lines or anything. Our head English teacher was rather upset about the news though. He put a lot of effort into his play and now the parents won’t be watching, so that’s a bit of a bummer.

Those are some of the notable things that have been going on in our lives lately. I’m sure there’s more but I can’t think about it right now. And I don’t want to make this rambling blog post any longer. So here’s the end:

The End

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An Eventful Decision

A few weeks ago our school told us there would be an all-grades field trip on Tuesday, October 22. Last week, they updated the announcement to indicate that the field trip would take place on Monday because the tour bus rental companies were already booked for Tuesday. On Friday, at the end of the school day, our school told us that we would have the option of staying home. Normally, we go with the students on their field trips. If the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders go on a different field trip than the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, we go according to which grade we’re assigned (I’m assigned to the 4th grade for events like this and for reading their English diaries). But for this field trip, we had the option of staying home.

We were told about fifteen minutes before the end of the work day, so we had that much time to decide if we’d be going or staying. At first, I wanted to go on the field trip. It was to be a visit to a forest area. Nature-based outings are always enjoyable, and we English teachers like to have time with our students outside of the classroom environment. (I don’t know if the Korean teachers do because they have so much more work to do when it comes to field trips!) Most of us agreed to go on the field trip. It would be fun. But then our co-worker Alex said, “It’s just tempting to have that three-day weekend.”

Did somebody say, “Three-day weekend”? Even though Alex ended up cementing his decision to explore the forest with the students, those words eventually led Ashley and me to putting ourselves on the short list of teachers opting to sit this one out. The head English teacher was the only other name on that list.

But we didn’t exactly stay home. While our school was exploring the land of trees, Ashley and I were exploring the land of shopping. We decided to go to Seoul on Sunday and stay until Monday afternoon, taking the 4:25 train back to Gwangcheon so that Ashley could still attend her women’s prayer group meeting at 8:00. (We returned to Gwangcheon at 7:00, carried our purchases back to our apartment by 7:10, and rested for about 15 minutes before heading to catch the 7:30 bus to Hongseong.)

We have open class coming up next week (meaning parents will come and watch our modified and not-really-representative classes), and this brief trip to Seoul was a kind of pamper preparation for that stressful event. Last week we turned in our lesson plans for open class, and it was very good to have this outing to both celebrate that benchmark and to pause before the next stretch of work to be done. We bought a few new items of clothing, and I was excited to find a regular store that has a few things my size, although it’s also possible to go to the “big size” stores in Itaewon.

The other wonderful thing about visiting Seoul was the food. I’m sure I’ve said it several times before how much I enjoy Korean food, but sometimes I need something different. Like a proper hamburger. Sure, I can go to Lotteria (the Korean version of McDonald’s, although they also have McDonald’s, but in fewer places) if I want a burger. There’s one in Hongseong, but I refuse to eat their hamburgers. On a rare occasion, I enjoy their chicken burgers. But there’s something way off about their beef patties. Burger N Shake near the theater does a better job at hamburgers, but they, too, are a fast food joint. The hamburgers I’m after when I haven’t had one in a while (which, as it turns out, is the point when I covetously see people eating Lotteria burgers) are the homemade kind or the kind of hamburgers that look like this:

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The first one was the “Fireball” that I ate, and the second one was the “Chili Burger” that Ashley had. They were quite delicious. If you’re reading this in Korea and want to know of a good burger shack, try Chili King in Itaewon.

We also ate at a standard Korean fried chicken house and VIPS, a Western-style buffet. Food is my favorite, so I had a good time.

Finally, our last stop was the Foreign Food Mart. One of our friends is a student from India who is taking classes in baking. He is an awesome cook. Recently, he made some killer hummus. I used to make hummus from time to time, but that was before I came to Korea. I asked him where he found garbanzo beans and tahini in Korea. So he told me about the Foreign Food Mart, where I could get chick peas in a can or dry. (He recommended getting them dry because they are cheaper and only need boiling. I agreed because they would also weigh less without the cans and water.) So we visited the Foreign Food Mart, collected a few bags of chick peas and other things (such as green beans, which Ashley has been craving and are not available in our region). I’m going to try making the tahini myself, as Ripul says it’s just a matter of roasting sesame seeds and grinding them with oil. Sounds easy enough. I don’t know when I’m going to try making hummus, but now I have the ingredients.

Hmmm, this blog post seems to have turned into an entry about food. Well, what can I say?

No, really, what can I say? It’s rude to talk; my mouth is full.

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