Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lost in Translation

...or Stolen in Translation. 

WTF?!?  Does George Lucas know about this?  And what's with the teddy bears?  Baby Chewbaccas?

"Star Wars" on a box of generic pencils

This Week's Kids

This week's batch of Korean cuteness.  My little lovebugs gave me so many hugs! 

Too bad Arabella is blinking, but John looks super cute.  He's my Best Effort Student this week.

Alice (in front) won my Global Citizen Award..

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hoi An

Hoi An is a surprisingly lovely town.  It boasts a quaint atmosphere perfect for long strolls, easy beach access, a small harbor for catching tour boats, a couple of islands for biking around, and of course, the best deals on custom-made silk garments.

The town was originally a tiny village, but a boom was created by American soldiers looking for a little R&R, making it into the size it is today.  The goods sought then remain the biggest tourist draw today.  These are the many tiny shops offering custom-made clothing.  In fact, Hoi An is still one of the few places for foreigners to buy clothes that fit our larger body sizes (Vietnamese sizes compare to children/junior sizes in the States), and the deals on silk are incredible. 

I took a long, slow stroll through town, finding hundreds of tayloring shops and a few cafes here and there.  Unlike other Vietnamese towns, Hoi An was a clean, unhurried place with comparatively little traffic.   

Silk Tie Display
Custom Jacket Samples
Find a shop (among hundreds) with the sample garments you like and choose from their fabric selection, or bring a photo and some fabric.  They'll make anything you want in one or two days. 
Like I said, you can get anything you want, but PLEASE DON'T get a dress that makes you look like a giant swirly cone.

Silk Lanterns

Relaxed street in Hoi An

Along the Harbor

Sitting out the afternoon torrential downpour--a Vietnamese staple.

Next blog:  More Hoi An Pics

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooking in Korea: Rice-Cooker Yogurt

It's really difficult to find affordable, plain yogurt in Korea.  So far, I've found mostly sugary yogurts and one brand of overpriced plain yogurt (about $3 USD per cup).  I came across this idea when searching for alternative uses for the rice-cooker that came with my apartment (since I'm never go to make rice in it, rice already being the easiest thing to cook on the planet).  I've been making my yogurt at home ever since.  Now, I can make about 10 cups of yogurt for $3!  Plus, I know exactly what is in my yogurt--no refined sugars or other mystery ingredients.  Here's how to make it:   

Fill your rice cooker with fresh milk (우유).  At the same time, set aside about a cup of plain yogurt so that it can warm up to room temperature while the milk heats.  The first time you make this, you will have to shell out for store-bought yogurt.

Set the cooker on heat.  Close the lid.  Check on it every few minutes.  If you are the forgetful type, you can set it to the "keep warm" setting, it just takes longer to heat the milk.

Heat the milk until it is hotter than bath water but not too hot.  It's the right temperature when you can keep your clean pinky finger in the milk for 10 seconds without burning your finger.  Unplug the machine.  Stir the yogurt into the milk.  If the yogurt is not perfectly at room temperature, it's not a big deal.  Stir it in anyway.  Close the lid, and leave it closed overnight or while you are at work all day.  Don't open the lid to check on it!  You will only lose the heat needed for the yogurt bacteria to grow, and you risk ruining the batch.

About 8 hours later, open your rice cooker and see all the wonderful yogurt you've made.  Transfer it to a jar or other airtight container and refridgerate.  If you like your yogurt sweet, add honey or a thawed package of frozen berries. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Secret 시크릿 MV-Starlight Moonlight 별빚달빚

The latest hear-everywhere K-pop hit by Secret (super trendy & cutesy girl group).  The fashion, tastes, and body language are very much Korean!  If you are interested in Korean culture, I find that the music videos are usually spot-on.  Hope you like it because it's one of those songs that's gonna be stuck in your head whether you like it or not!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chuseok 추석 Food

Chuseok 추석 (pronounced very closely to Chew Sock) is a harvest moon celebration.  It is the most important holiday in Korea.  People return to their home villages to feast and to pay homage to their ancestors by leaving food offerings on family graves.  Children dress in traditional clothing called Hanbok (한복).  Restaurants and stores shut down.  Some places, like the Korean palaces and other places of cultural value, stay open and host special events.  (I'll blog about 한복 and special events on a later post.) 

I had my own little 추석 celebration of Korean food.  Some of it was traditional to 추석 and some not.  I ate on the floor in Korean fashion.

From the top center: Tteokbokki (thick rice noodles in fishy spicy red sauce), Roll Cake, Steak with Sesame Leaves (honestly have NO IDEA how that fork got there--must be Kris's), spicy red bean paste, daifuku (sweet, soft rice cake with black bean filling), and on the plate center: Candied rice cakes, Plate right: Manju (baked pastry with sweet white bean filling), Plate left: Medicine cookies (fried rice cookie).

Traditional 추석 gift in an upholstered woven bamboo case is filled with 추석 sweets, all of which are made of rice.
  This didn't last long in my presence!

This Week's Kids

Every week at my school, I get a new batch of kids.  There are 90 kids in total each week that we run our basic 5-day program.  Between twelve and sixteen kids are assigned to me as my homeroom kids.  I see all 90 kids throughout the week, but I see the homeroomers the most.  I have been trying to remember to bring my camera on Fridays for months, and today, I finally remembered.  This week's kids were really fun, happy kids. 

My Homeroom.  As you can see, flashing the peace sign is a photo-must in Korea.

My Girls

My Little Hams

These boys are from another teacher's homeroom, but I did teach them a music class.  The boy in front is named Blue.  Blue busted out with the best ballet dancing in music class.  I am talking jaw-droppingly graceful moves.  AWESOME kid!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Disco Isn't Dead! least not totally

You can't live in Korea without becoming obsessed with K-Pop.  Either you LOVE it, or you really, really HATE it because it is EVERYWHERE.  Personally, I love this happy crap! 

Here's the latest for you to enjoy.  The first video is really funny, by the total K-utie-pie, Seo In Guk.  It has been on the subway televisions for the past couple of weeks and always makes me laugh.

The next videos are by T-ara, the uber-K-popular chick group (and my personal fave) that inspires Seo In Guk's video.  I put both video versions of T-ara's latest song which pays tribute to the legendary Saturday Night Fever. 

Finally, a clip of the Night Fever line dance from Saturday Night Fever for comparison purposes and for fun because for some of us DISCO ISN'T DEAD! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Can you believe it?  Humboldt County's own Lost Coast beer is being served in All-American Diner in Itaewon, Seoul.  When I first saw the Flatmo posters on the walls, it didn't even register as being out of place in South Korea (probably because I am so used to seeing his art everywhere in HumCo), but then it dawned me!  I can have a taste of my Humboldt home right here in Seoul.  They've got Tangerine Wheat and Indica.  Awesomeness! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lost in Translation

You know your shoes are cheap, generic knock-offs when they are called GAG.

Nha Trang

After a day in Ho Chi Minh City, I board a night bus to the eastern coastal town of Nha Trang.  It was my first time on a sleeper bus, and I thought it was really clever--transportation and accommodation in one. 

It was easy to find a room close the beach in Nha Chang.  So, I checked in to my room, put on my swim suit, and headed to the beach.  When I bought my conservative one-piece before leaving the states, I figured it would pass as unoffensive just about anywhere.  I was wrong.  Appartently, the extreme heat of Vietnam is not enough to warrant bathing attire.  Locals came to the beach in full street attire and swam fully clothed in jeans, sweaters, hats, and shoes.  Judging from the local ogling, my one-piece was a bit of a scandal in Nha Trang.  However, I matched each local ogle for ogle as I stared agape, imaging the discomfort of walking home in wet jeans.  Luckily, I evently found a small foreigner section of beach with other swim suits wearers to blend in with.  However, I decided to shorten my stay in Nha Trang after learning of its main tourist attraction which is to awful to name on my blog.  I left the next day for the lovely town of Hoi An.  Here are a couple of pics from Nha Trang. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Here are some of my favorite pieces from 2011 ASYAAF: Asian Students and Young Artists Art Festival at Hongik University in Seoul.  It is, by far, the best student exhibition I have ever seen, filling three floors of the university's exhibition hall with incredible talent.  This is a small selection of the overwhelming number of great pieces on display.  Most of the artists are Korean.  A few are from other parts of Asia.  Some of the shots had the unavoidable glare of lights, but I hope that this doesn't distract too much from the essence of the pieces.  

Nearly life-size ceramic "Spiderman"

3D architectural model

Found object art

One of a collection of portraits of people with their hands.

Many picture tiles come together to form one large picture of orderly Seoul

Collage cityscape

Look for the little critters

Painted by a Korean Dead Head?

This is a very life-like painting.  Even in person it looked like a photograph.  I had to get really close to confirm that this was a hand-painted piece.

One of the best pieces--very detailed and accurate Korean setting
The next few pictures are really cool.  In these lenticular prints, one picture has two images.  Depending on the angle it is viewed from, it is either a scene from the Sistine Chapel or a military bunker.  It was difficult to photograph both views completely, so the images bleed together in the pics. 

Last Supper or Dance Party?

Reclaimed Fabric Art

Fabric Collage