Missing the Train to Hogwarts: A Day at Leavesden Studios

I couldn’t go to London without making the trek out to Leavesden Studios. Since filming of the Harry Potter movies concluded , the two studio stages, J & K ( See what they did there?) have been turned into permanent … Continue reading

Top-Ten Tuesdays: Favorite Korean Foods

10. Waffles

blog.korea.net

blog.korea.net

My students buy these in prepackaged bags and try to munch on them in class.

9. Teok Rice Cakes

Korean rice cake dessert

Korean rice cake dessert

I didn’t like these at first, but with my school handing them out nearly every week, they’re growing on me.

8.  Rice Stew

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Leftover rice is allowed to boil until nearly burned. If seasoned with juices from leftover meat, this is delicious.

7.Soju

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The most popular alcohol choice in Korea by far.

6. Mandu Soup

koreataste.org

koreataste.org

Meat-filled dumplings in soup. Very simply and very delicious .

5. Instant Kapi

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Kapi is how “coffee” is pronounced in Korea.While Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts blot every corner, instant coffee seems to be popular, especially in office settings.  Everything-coffee,sugar,and cream-comes in one cute little package.

4.Japchae

yelp.com

yelp.com

Noodles and vegetables in a brown sauce. It  tastes amazing.

3. Tteokbokki

dukbokki and soup

dukbokki and soup

One my favorite Korean meals so far. Spicy, circular rice noodles in a spicy red pepper sauce.

2. Bulgogi

commons.wikimedia.org

commons.wikimedia.org

Flavorful beef cooked on a table-top grill. When it’s done, you wrap it in a lettuce leaf and make a scrumptious type of Korean taco.

1.Bibimbap

bibimbap

bibimbap

A mixture of ground beef,vegetables, and rice topped with a spicy red sauce. If you want to try the best of the best, head to Jeonju, the home of Bibimbap.

Have a favorite Korean dish or top-ten list of your own? Comment below!

The Best of China: Learning Mongolian on The Great Wall

My days in Korea are filled with school, Skype sessions home, and more school. So, I was very much looking forward to a week of new sites and experiences. Luckily, if there is any word to describe my time in China, it would be new. Completely novel,unique, unfamiliar and – at times – baffling.

In eight days I saw four different cities, took a flight, and spent a night on a  train in the countryside. It would be impossible to share every moment so I’ll settle for recounting my most memorable parts of the trip in a new series called The Best of China. There will be a new post about my trip every week in August.

The Great Wall

On my second morning in China, I set out for the The Great Wall. After a two-hour ride from the center of Beijing, the bus pulled into a parking lot. It was pretty unremarkable at first; just concrete,a few dozen venders setting up their stalls, and a Subway restaurant.

Then I looked up. Through the fog, I could just make out the famous fortress.

Can you see it?

Can you see it?

That’s when it hit me. I was actually going to climb the Great Wall.

Despite others telling me I would miss out on the “authentic” experience , I bypassed the hour-long hike and took a scenic cable-car ride to the top of the wall. As I reached the platform,  two Chinese men leisurely standing around  began gesturing wildly. “Sit! Sit!”, they yelled. I looked around clueless and then saw the cable car quickly making its way towards me. I sat-or rather, fell-into the seat just in time. The safety harnessed snapped into place and in seconds, I was flying over lush, dense forestry and getting closer and closer to the wall. Now I could just make out the watchtowers and the sparse Chinese flags placed randomly around them.

The cable car ride

The cable car ride

Finally, I was there. My feet were planted firmly on the ancient Great Wall. Fortunately, there was still plenty of  it left to climb. Even after reaching the top, it was a strenuous walk up and down the jagged stone steps and many watchtowers. Even though it was overcast and there was a nice breeze, I still ended up drenched in sweat. Some areas were crumbling and others were well -preserved but all of it was steep.  So steep that women kicked off their heels and sandals and it wasn’t unusual to see people on all fours.

Stairs of the Great Wall

Stairs of the Great Wall

Most impressive were the venders, who trekked to the highest peaks with pounds of food and souvenirs strapped to their back.  I got the chance to speak to one of the venders , an older women who kept removing her glasses to wipe the sweat off her brow. She motioned to one side of the wall and , said “Mongolia” and pointing to the other side said , “China.”  Finally, she pointed to herself and proudly said “Me…Mongolia. Two hours.” She ran two fingers across her hand to mimic walking. This woman was telling me she walked two hours  just to get to the Great Wall. That’s not even counting the time  and effort it took her to climb up the wall. “Everyday?”, I asked her while handing her 10 yuan for some water and a photo she took of me. She handed me my camera and still smiling, just nodded. “Everyday.”

One of the many vendors

One of the many vendors

The trek wasn’t all bad of course. If you took a minute to pause and look around you , there were views like these:

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The Great Wall Black & White

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Great Wall

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Early Morning= Empty Wall

After three hours of  wandering, I raced a Toboggan back down. The six-minute ride offered the perfect opportunity to  reflect on the history I just experienced and marvel at the beauty of this place one last time. I closed my eyes; tried to imagine what it would have been like to build this wall. Or to be one of its watchful soldiers, running up and down the twisting stairs multiple times a day.

And yeah, I’ll admit it – I was singing the Mulan soundtrack in my head.

Caution: South Korea Thus Far

I could perfectly describe my Korean experiences so far in one word:overwhelming. That’s not to say it’s been bad at all-I’m learning and seeing new things every  day and that is, after all, what I came here for. But sometimes when the things that were so simple and easy back home-like getting a cell phone,swiping a bus card, or even getting home- takes so much extra time and effort, it’s easy to be exhausted. I also think I’m realizing that I’m going to be here for at least a year, which means I don’t have to rush anything.

How I Feel I Need To Be At The mOMENT

How I Feel I Need To Be At The Moment

When I was in Spain, I accepted every invitation and took every weekend trip I could because I knew I only had six short months-just a handful of school breaks- to see Europe. While a year can go by just as quickly, I’ve decided that I can ease into this transition. It’s okay that I didn’t KTX train to Seoul within the first month or that I couldn’t order a meal in Korean if I was starving. Being so new and having no idea what is going on or what I’m doing is an icky feeling, but it’s part of being a true expat. So, I embrace it.

I’ve come up with some personal goals to help me ease into this new experience. Maybe they can help others in the same situation.

5. Learn the Language

I’m starting my second week of Hangul classes. Fluency is too much to ask for; I’m just hoping to no longer be illiterate in Korean  by the end of it.

4. Stop focusing on “I”

I feel like I have too much time to think ponder the meaning of life, how I should know it by now, and every embarrassing moment since 4th grade. So, I want to find activities- like volunteering,yoga,freelance- to fill the void.

3. Build “Girl and Her Pink Backpack”

This is an amazing opportunity to travel so I want to see as much as possible and record even more for others to experience also.That brings me to the next goal…

2.TRAVEL

On the weekends and during vacations , I want to see Korea and Asia.

1. Be comfortable with the process

I’m not going to learn the language overnight, be the perfect teacher by tomorrow night, or be up for every outing every time. That’s okay. I’m here-I’m going to take advantage of it. That’s all that matters in the end, right?

Oh, Korea. I will try!

Oh, Korea. I will try!

Do you have any tips for settling into a new place?