Wednesday, November 16, 2011



I suppose it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  There I was back in August raving about my wonderful adventures in Japan and then haven’t bothered to update you on a thing since. Like my thoughts on being back in the United States, or my, shall we call it, eventful trip through the San Francisco airport. Like driving thousands of miles down Route 90 and gradually realizing that maybe, just maybe another year in Korea’s not for me right now. Or the ensuing job hunt I’ve embarked on and the not one but two positions I’ve been offered that have been postponed by slow-moving FBI paperwork. The past three months have had their ups and downs, their Kimchi and reverse culture shock, but all in all I’m glad to be home.

So as the leaves continue to fall outside and the times keep on a-changin’, so must this blog. It’s hard for me to provide you with thoughts from the thirty eighth parallel when I no longer live close to that latitude, much less the wonderful ROK it represents a hemisphere away. Sad sad. I can, however, continue to provide you with my thoughts about the ROK from time to time or whenever the mood strikes my fancy. So all is not lost, that is, if that would be acceptable to you. ㅠㅠ

안녕히 계세요!
 - Christine

Sunday, August 7, 2011


In celebration of completing an entire year of having a semi-real job, I rewarded myself with a quick trip over to Japan before heading home on August 9th. (aka in like 2 days!?!)

To be honest, Japan was not my first choice of travel destinations when I first began planning this trip of mine. Wanting to stay in Asia for obvious financial reasons, I was struck by a remarkable lack of places that would be safe for me to visit due to political unrest, recent bouts of terrorist activities, visa challenges, and so on. I suppose even Japan has that whole radiation thing, but given a lack of other options, I went with Japan and stayed as far away from Sendai as possible. Turns out it was actually a wonderful vacation!

As I'd expected, Japan was strikingly similar to Korea in a number of ways. I started my Japan traveling in Tokyo (not To-keeee-yo, as I've heard it called all my life), the biggest city in the world. While definitely a cool place to visit, I think my having spent the past twelve months in Seoul, another Asian metropolis probably desensitized me to the whole wow factor of the city... 

Cool architecture, bustling city, fun vibe, and delicious sushi. Win :)

After Tokyo, I headed out west to hike Mt. Fuji. As you know, I've been getting more into hiking in the past couple months, but Mt Fuji was a whole 'nother challenge completely. First and foremost, this mountain is nearly 4x taller than anything I've ever tried climbing before, the top reaching a height of 3776 meters. That's nearly two and a half miles straight up in the air, a little under half of Mt. Everest. I think some airplanes fly at this altitude. Clearly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into...

The whole hike up was surreal. I did a night hike so I started trekking at about 10pm, climbed all through the night, and reached the top just in time for sunrise. Which happened to look like this. Kind of beautiful. 

The whole way up however was pitch black except for the glowing trail of fellow hikers snaking up the mountain. Every now and then, you would look down and realize the stunning clear view of the Kansai region you'd had a moment before was completely blocked by the encroaching layer of clouds. Very, very cool experience!

What I realized along the trail, however, was that climbing Mt. Fuji was not just about the bragging rights and bucket list check mark, it's about the people on the journey with you, the hundreds of other lights illuminating the trail surrounding you. Early on, I started following two Japanese guys to make sure I was headed the right direction out of the parking lot. Maybe fifteen minutes later, they'd noticed my following them and offered me a pair of gloves to wear since the top of the mountain was extremely, extremely cold. We ended up being hiking buddies all the way up the mountain, all without their speaking a word of English besides "ok." Suffering from the combination of exhaustion with a touch of altitude sickness, I would not have made it if not for these two :)

After my twelve-hour hiking ordeal (that was so cool, but will never, ever be happening again!), I headed down to the mountain to sleep, shower, and gorge on Japanese food in the lovely little town of Kawaguchi-ko. After a day of hard-earned relaxation, off I headed to Kyoto...

Infamous Japanese bullet trains, the Shinkansen.

Now Kyoto has got to be the most charming city I've ever seen. The main streets look just like every other city I've ever seen, but a simple turn onto the right alley took you straight to the Memoirs of a Geisha back alleys you'd expect from Japan. Just lovely.

I spent a full two days in Kyoto, wandering the charming cobbled streets of Higashiyama, geisha spotting in Gion, and meandering through the garden lined alleys in Arashiyama. It was impossible to take a bad picture, every street seemed more gorgeous than the last. By the end, I was actually starting to feel overwhelmed by the number of temples and beautiful things, and headed off to Osaka. 

Now, since my departure flight was out of Osaka, I assumed I would be able to occupy myself there for the remaining two days of my trip. Negative. Turns out Osaka is an industrial port city filled with very few touristy things and lots and lots of sketchy people. The nightscape was pretty cool, but I was afraid to stay out late enough to really enjoy it. Furthermore, Osaka's subway lines were very limited in their English labeling, so it was incredibly challenging and frustrating to get around the city. To put it kindly, I will not be visiting Osaka again...

After taking a slew of mandatory evening pictures and visiting one castle, I got bored with Osaka and took a day trip out to Nara, another lovely temple filled, UNESCO world heritage sight-heavy town about an hour to the east of my hotel. 

What made Nara really stand out was that there were about 1200 deer wandering the streets and temples with you. Apparently in pre-Buddhist times, deer were considered the messengers of the gods, and today they're considered national treasures and given free reign of the town. It added a fun quirky flair to the day.

The world's largest wooden building, Daibutsu-den Hall at Todai-ji.

And with that little side trip, I completed my tour of Japan. Turns out Japan is a great country filled with some of the kindest people I have ever met, and I am so glad I ended up spending my summer vacation there! There are a couple things and places I will probably never venture to again, but overall, it was a wonderful experience and a beautiful country. End. 

 - Christine - 

ps. If you're looking for more pictures of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, click here. If you want to see more of Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara, click here. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I did it! I finished my year of teaching in Korea!!!

This year had its ups and downs. Its good times, its bad. Its kids I wanted to strangle, its kids I adored. Its never ending Kimchi-eating jokes. And of course, let's not forget its almost-run ins with the labor board. Yes, this year was certainly an experience, and a memorable one at that. 

Of course my favorite part about my job was my kids. I was initially skeptical about teaching upper elementary and middle school students, considering I'd never taught before, especially this particular age group I hadn't had any real encounters with in years. But turns out they were amazing :)

Gah I adore them all! I'm going to miss them all so much!

 - Christine - 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I like big words. And apparently so do my kids.

We've just finished up with yet another set of level testing at my school, which led to a whole 'nother set of silly student quotes. This time, the funniest came from the unfortunate usage of their cell phone dictionaries.

Admit it, you have at some point or another, used a thesaurus to look up fancy schmancy words you don't really understand in order to make yourself sound smarter. I know you've done it, (or at least I know I've done it enough times to make up for all of us). After all, an ostentatious and circumlocutory lexicon derived primarily from erudite and tortuous discourse makes one appear to be vastly more intellectually avant-garde than the quotidian plebeians around you. Duh.

Now, I have banned cell phones from my class for this very reason, but somehow my kiddies always manage to sneak them out during tests and look up unnecessarily large words they don't really understand in a failed attempt to make themselves sound smarter. Instead, I end up giggling at their papers and marking off points. A healthy sprinkling of big words is always good, but unless you know how to use said big words correctly in a sentence, bigger is not always better.

Take a look at just a couple of the lovely student quotes I've received recently. Can you think of some more simple (or dare I say, forthright?) words that would have made their sentences so much better?

Our school students reduce their pants or skirts.

Every school in Korea requires students to wear a school uniform, because uniform is school's miniature.

But now I have a countermeasure and I'm not scared.

I mature in the subway station.

I don't relinquish the money, but the money flies away.

Third, you can find a map and walk to your house. It is a little bit hard, but inevitable.

I want a reconstruction my uniform.

My school uniform is so unfashionable and countrified.

I like my winter uniform better, because summer uniform's sentiment is like a sailor suit.

I endeavor to like my school uniform.

Fancy sounding words (and phrases) aren't always better. But they sure are silly :)

 - Christine -

(ps. shorten, symbol, plan, wait, let go of, necessary, redo, old-fashioned, style, and try... I think!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Counting Down (again...)

At the risk of sounding cliche, I just don't know where the past twelve months have gone! Can you believe I have only 5 more days of teaching in Korea!?!?! What happened? Where did the time go? And how am I already 24? Whoa... 

I bet you're all thinking to yourselves, yeah cool, that's great, congrats and all, but what's next? Well, dear readers, let's talk a little bit about this future of mine, shall we?

Let me start out by sharing a very simple fact about myself. I am not much of a planner. At all. I am a chronic procrastinator opposed to anything even remotely involving decision-making, especially of the large-scale life-changing variety. When confronted with a decision to make, I generally just clam up, refuse to acknowledge that I am in the midst of a decision-making situation, try to weasel my way out of said decision-making situation by convincing myself that the whole thing is not really all that important anyways, before finally at the last possible minute, doing something about it. It's a ridiculous process filled with lots of anxiety (and animal metaphors). 

So for those of you looking for more concrete answers than "Yeah, I still have no idea..." here's what I know so far. If it's not specific enough for your liking, please refer to the above paragraph. I'm serious, it's unhealthy how bad at planning things I really am. 

July 27 -- Last day of teaching. Sad, (but also definitely not...)
July 28 -- Fly to Tokyo. At 8:40 in the morning. Bienvenido a Japan!!!
August 5 -- Fly back from Kyoto to Seoul. (See that gaping hole in the middle, the part about me somehow getting from Tokyo to Kyoto? Just let it be...)
August 6ish -- Take Kimchi back to our Bucheon vet for one final checkup, before...
August 8ish -- Fly to Cleveland
(September-ish -- Begin Korea round 2. TBD)

The last two dates are extremely rough estimates (emphasis on the rough part), so please forgive me if they are totally wrong. Something about not having any America-bound plane tickets yet to speak of plus the whole flying with a puppy thing. Yeah, there's a lot of room for change. I will try to keep you posted on my tentative itinerary, but since it turns out getting out of Korea is just as complicated a process as getting into Korea, I might not have the time. 

 - Christine - 

Trick Eye

Turns out monsoon season blows. Really, really blows. For those of you who have never experienced a real monsoon season, monsoon season is a period of about 4 weeks in Korea where you have torrential downpours. Every single day. It's been pretty depressing, dreary, and detrimental to my shoe collection. Very sad.

Luckily, however, Saturday marked the last day of the 2011 monsoon season. Horray! As an aside, I think my favorite coffee shop lady has a 6th sense about monsoon season. In between making me lattes and giving me free cookies, she would nonchalantly mention that, oh yeah, Saturday would be the last day of rain. And it was. Weird. Sun is a genius ^^

To celebrate the last day of monsoon season, my friend Becki and I decided to visit the Trick Eye Museum in Hondae. We got the idea from this one, and it was completely worth a trip into Seoul. Spending a rainy afternoon taking silly pictures, mmm yes please!

Super fun! Seriously people in Korea, do it!

 - Christine