Buddhist temples and the top of the peak

Me and Jackie at the top of the peak

Yesterday, I went hiking in Gyeryongsan National Park with my friend Jackie, who has climbed all the local mountains plus some. Needless to say, she's quite the skilled hiker, and I...well, am not. But we had a good time going over the steep, rocky, even icy at times, mountain, starting at one Buddhist temple and ending at another. We could hear and see the monks starting their morning rituals as we set off. Well, not exactly starting. Jackie says they get up around 3 am. The trails in Korea are a jagged confusion of stones, sometimes in step formation, sometimes one can only guess what the stone-layers were aiming at. When going uphill, they don't bother with any sort of switchbacks, but instead ascend perilously straight up the hill (and are, therefore, equally hazardous downhill). For a morning of somewhere around 20 degrees F, there were a fair number of hikers on the trail. We hiked for about 4 or 5 hours, and by the end, my legs were screaming at me. But the view from the peak was incredible. I can see why the Buddhists retreat to this area. To be away from the smells and sounds of the city, apartment high rises, solid pavement, the clamor of traffic...life here may be harder, but surely it's simpler. Or maybe just more focused. That's where they've got it right.

There were fountains at each temple

Trail? At least there's a handrail...

See that light space in between the mountains? That's where we started. And we still have to go down...

Christmas time is Here!

Me, dishing out some poker at Mipa's

I spent Christmas with my friend from college, Mipa, and her family. They were good enough to let me crash at their apartment for a few days and share their Christmas time. It was so nice to feel like part of a family since I had to be away from my own. We whiled away the time playing uno and rummycub and watching old movies. Sunday morning, Mipa and I went to my church for a candlelight service, featuring an awesome slide show featuring the photographic talent of Ms. Julene Tegerstrand. You can check it out at her blog.

Christmas here is a smaller affair, not the gorging of gifts like we usually do in the States. At Mipa's, we opened one gift on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas morning. Yes, they even gave me presents, though I was the one who should have been gifting them! Christmas morning, we headed to a church in Daejon where Mipa's dad was preaching that morning. Even though I only understood about three sentences of the entire service, it was a lively church with wonderfully friendly people. It was a good time. Check out Mipa's flickr for some of these and more pics (not to mention her incredible illustrations!).

So much love and thanks to the Lee family for taking me in!!


Mr. Lee and Angela (Mipa's sister)

Mrs. Lee


Strawberry Jam

Only in Korea. Thank you, I will.




Welcome to Cho'nan! Last night Julene and I went down to Yawoori, the buzzing center of the city, for a photo shoot. Yawoori is packed full of huge department stores, a sculpture plaza, movie theaters, and shops of every kind. And, of course, it's where every American goes for the comforts of home. Comfort foods, at least. It's got your Outback Steakhouse, Chili's, T.G.I. Friday's, and Pizza Hut. Unlike home, however, you're talking $20-$30 per meal. But sometimes food is just that important.

Take me, for instance. That very night, I spent $4.30 on a short (read: really really little) peppermint mocha from Starbucks. Yes, they've come to Cho'nan. And all I can say is, thank goodness! Because while I write this, I am drinking the "coffee" that is most common around here: a little packet of instant coffee crystals with powdered milk and sugar inside. And in my opinion, that just doesn't cut it. So, as soon as I move into my permanent apartment, I'm going to spend $20 on a pound of Gold Coast and I'm going to enjoy every last, penny-pinching drop!

Before you worry your little heads about my monetary debauchery, know this: I usually have a great Korean meal for $2-4. Eat local! It's fantastically cheap, and equally delicious. My favorite so far is mandu-gook, a soup with egg, and meat dumplings (mandu)....mmmm....

It's still good to know that Chili's is just a few minutes away.....just in case.


Luck be a lady...

I do believe luck is on my side.

I just won a box of cookies, a free Duncan Donuts coffee, dinner for two at Bori Bap restaurant, and a month's worth of free yoga classes. All from a Christmas party during which I was half asleep from jet-lag and the main course was turkey and stuffing, of which I've recently had my fill, but was pure delight to the others who have been here in Korea for more than one day. Thus concludes my first day in Cheonan, and I say not bad.

The flight over was longer than I thought; 13 hours. It was uneventful. I watched "The Illusionist". They let me in the country with no problem. Do they even look at those customs forms? I'm pretty sure I could have smuggled in a small donkey, just as long as it had rollers and a handle. My baggage came through fine. By the way, I would like to proudly announce that they were, respectively, 49.5 and 50.00 lbs. Take that, 50 lb. limit!! And I slept like a brick last night, so I'm on my way to conquering jet-lag.

Earlier today, I went to the store to buy soap, peanut butter, jelly, and a towel (I dried off after my shower this morning with some pajama bottoms). The church group on campus gave me some milk, cereal, bread, bananas, and a 30,000 won ($30) gift certificate to Lotte Mart, so I was living large. Even at the grocery store, you're carefully watched by eager saleswomen, perched at the top of every aisle. Just a slight turn of the head is enough to start them jabbering their sales pitch, even to an obvious foreigner like me. Needless to say, I couldn't understand a word.

I managed alright until I stopped at the ATM to get some cash. I knew where they were from the last time I visited Cheonan and knew they had an "English" button for us gringos. However, in some scheme to frustrate the very small non-Korean speaking population, they removed those ATMs and replaced them with Korean only machines. So, after a series of random button pushes, I left with my wallet still empty. But I got a tip tonight at the Christmas party: look for the button with the most fingerprint smudges on it. That usually gets a withdraw. Genius, eh?

So, I'm here. And it's off to a good start. Let's hope my luck sticks around for when I try the ATM tomorrow.


pie master!

My first homemade pies! Okay, with significant help from momma. But completely homemade, crust and all. And, believe you me, that crust is no easy feat. Props to Grandma Ima, Aunt Becky, Aunt Sandy, and all those who make their own pies. You're my heroes.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


This is a first. The first. Entry, that is.

Okay, all, so I'm going to Korea, and I figure, "hey, new country. new blog!" So, I'll probably just post on here instead of plaguing your emails with mass, uh, emails....too many emails. So, let the journey begin! Wow, I'm really building this up. I hope you're not disappointed.

So, as an update, I'm leaving on Dec. 7th. Yes, pre-Christmas, don't remind me...*sniffle*....but don't worry. I'll spread Christmas cheer worldwide!

Also, if you've been trying to call me (you possibly being singular), don't. Not because I don't want you to call me, but because my phone is D-E-D...dead. So, anyone who reads this and knows I will want to talk to them before I leave (you know who you are), email me your numbers, pleeze! They were lost in the aforementioned phone.

One last thing. Anyone who wants to talk while I'm in Korea can always get Skype. It's a FREE online phone! Yes, FREE! (I'm being paid for this). And, if you have a Macbook, like I know some of you do, you don't even have to get a microphone. It's built in! Macs rule! (They're paying me, too.)

And, as one last last thing...anyone who can name how many and what movie quotes were used in this entry gets a prize.

Okay, I lied about the prize.