Sunday, July 20, 2014

Pictures From This Side of July

We've almost come full-circle in this crazy, Korean adventure. It's almost August, and we arrived here in August. The summer heat is becoming that disgusting humidity I remember from our first morning in Korea when I looked at Jeremy as we stepped outside and said, "Uh oh, what a dreadful place!" The approaching holidays are those we encountered during our first few weeks in Korea. The booty shorts are out and that funky, cold soup of noodles with the floating chunk of ice is making the rounds during this time of year.


Here are some things that have been happening in our corner of the world lately:

-Last week, we went on a date and took pictures. And we're so damn cute, here they are.

-Friday at school, the cafeteria served some kind of chicken soup. According to my co-workers Friday began the hottest part of the summer season. There are progressively hotter weeks and to "celebrate" we eat hot chicken soup. I told them that eating a popsicle made more sense to me, to which my co-teacher replied, "Yeah that would make more has something to do with the balance of hot and cold, yin and yang...ya know, I actually have no idea why we eat hot soup during the hottest season!"

-Last week, I learned that for every Korean family member that dies, the family gathers on that day, shares food, and memorializes that person. Every year. My co-workers were quite surprised that we don't do this in America. "Well," she asked, "what do you do then?" I didn't have a satisfactory answer. A co-worker joked that between the major holidays in Korea and all the dead family members, her poor mother spends most of the year planning for, cooking for, and cleaning up after these big family dinners. I asked if only religious people do this, they said no, that nearly everyone does so. Well, except for these young kids who have no respect...young kids. Pssssh.

-Yesterday, we went to the annual Boryeong mud festival. Now there's something that makes sense to do in the summer! We went with our friend, Jongmin, to this giant outdoor festival on the beach where you can careen down mud slides and have wrestling competitions with a bunch of other half-naked strangers.

There was an awesome concert of sorts and being how small Korea is, I was actually kind of surprised that Psy didn't show up (as he seems to quite often).

And here's inside the "Mud Zone"...

A good time was had by all.

Apparently, there's some kind of photography competition, so particularly wild (a.k.a. drunk)
foreigners, very quickly had a personal flock of paparazzi.

As you may notice, getting a "clean" shot was near impossible. 

-Next week, nearly every foreign English teacher embarks on a two week journey of either heaven or hell: summer English camp. Some have air conditioning, some don't. Some have supportive co-teachers, some don't. Some work half days, some don't. I am lucky in all three regards and I planned this summer's theme to be Frozen. Yes, the movie. Yes, overdone. Yes, many mucho online resources. Done! We'll make ice cream, we'll have wet relay races, we'll learn stuff. Yay.

-We've gotten quite good at using our bikes to get groceries, look at what we carried in ONE load on our bicyles!

-Here's what I've been cooking lately:

A chicken and broccoli bake thing that I added biscuits to the top of.

Recently, we inherited a tasteless watermelon and didn't know what to do with it. So I made watermelon lemonade and it was fantastic! A de-seeded and blended the watermelon, made a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water), added lemon juice.

Vietnamese crepes made with rice flour and coconut milk. Add veggies of your choosing and we use a soy and lemon sauce on top. Yum! 

And these are the differently abled crepes that just couldn't keep it together in the pan.  Fickle things.
Eggplant chips

Corn fritters

Corn fritters

Onion rings

super messy and time-consuming...

...but super yummy!

Thanks for reading along and cheering us along. We'll be seeing some of you in less than a month, and our one year Korean anniversary blog will be from America! Wahoo!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

In This Season

I'm not always sure what people mean when they say that a person is either an "optimist" or a "pessimist." I mean, are any of us ever one or the other. Aren't we all and/both depending on the day, the situation, or the season?

I like to think I am a person who tends to look on the bright side. But I'm not always that person. In fact, I can tell you with near-finite precision one week out of every month when optimism is quite-near impossible for me. 

But still, in this season of our lives, being an optimist is easier than it has been at other times. We have so many blessings. And still the pessimist in me wants to say, "All these blessings are making you soft. You'll forget how to persevere." 

But the optimist in me says, "No. All these blessings are teaching me gratitude, no matter what." And I like to think that all this gratitude practice is making me stronger, more resilient, more capable for what dark seasons come our way.

So, sometimes I find myself being grateful for really tiny things. Things that may not be worth mentioning at all, but still remind me that the good far outweighs all else. 

Things like riding my bike home with a load of groceries and the clouds unleashing a massive storm only once I'm in the door. 

Things like finding watermelon for six bucks, when it's been twenty bucks for months.

Things like the adjashee (old man) who rides around our neighborhood on a four-wheeler.

Things like a teacher at school who speaks very little English but always smiles a big smile at me in the hallway. 

Things like going to the grocery store for chicken breast, not being able to find it, but also not knowing how to say "breast" in Korean, so simply pointing to mine. It worked! Yay!

Today's gratitude practice goes something like this...

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon in Korea.

It's the kind of day that feels mild and sunny, but the rain still finds its way to us.

The laundry just finished in the washing machine. 

It plays a little tune (as does everything in Korea, including the rice cookers and backing up buses).

The sheets and towels are draped over every chair, ledge, and sofa we've got.

Sleeping at Last serenades us along with the trickle of rain outside.

The basil plants wave at me from the windowsill.

Jeremy reads on the couch.

Our tummies are full of French toast.

We have good health.

We have college educations.

We have jobs that pay us money.

We have a lovely home. 

We have friends and family that we love.

We have money in the bank.

We live in Korea. 

This is life in this season and I'm overwhelmingly grateful. 

Independence Day came and went without much hoo-ha. Went to work. Taught my classes. Had two Americans over for a BBQ on the roof. Watched Independence Day. Called it a day.

On Saturday, we slept in. Played Ultimate Frisbee and had two friends over who are Scottish and Irish. Had me a little geographical lesson with the help of Google Maps. Learned about how England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom are all different. Huh? Let's just say it's not for the faint of heart. I still can't explain it, you should probably just watch this here.

We're looking ahead to the next season. 

The end of July brings the end of first semester. Which means vacation and a trip to the States!

Then, we're bringing my parents back to Korea for a visit in September. 

Then, we'll be onto our second year in Korea. 

Oh, the blessings.