We’ve moved!

Come see our new site!

Hello there loyal Seoulful Adventures readers,

You may have noticed that we haven’t posted anything here in awhile. Well the reason for that is mostly that we are no longer in Seoul, so it’s hard for us to have adventures there. Our exciting, frustrating, filling, amazing year in Korea has come to an end. Since we last posted here, we started a great overland adventure from Bangkok to a new teaching job in Hungary. Unfortunately, that trip had to be cut short because we both got really sick with Dengue Fever in Thailand. After a couple days in the hospital, we decided to take a vacation in America.
So now we are back home resting and preparing for new adventures. We are going to keep cooking, writing, taking photos and experiencing new places. To document all those new things we have started a new blog – Just A Rough Draft. We’ve moved some of our favorite Seoulful Adventures posts over to the new site, but we will keep this site around for awhile. We’ve also changed our Twitter handle from @foodandseoul to @justaroughdraft, but if you are already following us you don’t have to do a thing.

We would love if you would become a Just A Rough Draft reader, and we look forward to reading your comments.

Thanks for everything,
Andre and Anna


Culture Whiplash

Korea to the Philippines back to Korea again. Confucian culture to Americanized South East Asia back to good ole Confucius again. Temples and mediation to beaches and barbeques back to ommmm again. You get the idea. When we landed in Manila, we had a few things to un-learn, a few things to re-learn, and a few things to just learn in general. Most of them came as a surprise; we hadn’t realized how set we had gotten in our Korean mannerisms and how different the rest of the world was from this wartime island we now call home.

SAMMICH! A delicious sandwich that costs less than $10?! Gimme!

First and most obviously, we had to stop bowing our heads with every encounter. In Korea, it’s just what you do. You give a gentle dip of the head and shoulders as you say hello, goodbye, thank you, your welcome, I-don’t-know-you-but-you’re-looking-at-me-so-I-might-as-well-give-some-recognition-to-this-awkward-moment. The bow is a part of life here. A single movement that bookends all personal encounters. We had forgotten how engrained this had become in our everyday movements and how out-grained it is in the rest of the world.

Without noticing that no one else was doing it, we did this in the Philippines, too. We bowed to the man opening the door for us in Starbucks. Oops. We bowed to the woman who gave us our menus. Darnit. We bowed to the tricycle driver as we stepped out of his sidecar. Crap. We quickly learned this just wasn’t acceptable – we looked funny. For several days, Andre and I had to verbally spank the other as we bowed, a kind of informal cognitive behavioral therapy. And by the end, we were all bowed out to the point we had to consciously get the bow back when we returned. Albert Ellis would have been proud.

Fighting CocksYea, the cocks for cock fighting were definitely something to get used to, too.

Second, we were dumfounded at the amount of English spoken throughout the country and throughout the class structure. Besides the fact that English is everywhere (which makes sense because it is the official language of the Philippines), it isn’t even exclusive to the higher classes, those with the most money who go to school to learn it. Rather, everyone spoke it, some better than others, but all had a general idea of the things necessary to know at least those nuggets of English specific to their job. The number of times Andre and I sat in the back of a taxi listening to our friend talk to our drivers and we looked at each other shaking our heads, our mouths agape, our eyes wide open were countless. Is this what life is like in other countries? You can talk to people? Even if through a language barrier, you can still talk to them? You can tell a taxi driver where you want to go and they understand? If they don’t, you can show them your guidebook and they can read it? What?! It was…beautiful.

Beautiful fishies
What kind of fish is that? Oh right, I can just ask the lady manning the fish stand. Booyah!

The lack of English in Korea is further trumped by the lack of Koreans who understand accents, slight variations of pronunciations, and “pigeon Korean” (“Me milk need”) of their home language. They have had so few people learning their language and so few outsiders in their country in the past that they haven’t worked up a base-knowledge of other interpretations of their language. So, we stand stranded at a crossroads: I don’t understand you, you don’t understand me, we are both trying, we are really trying. 95% of the time we leave conversations feeling frustrated and saddened. “If only we could talk to them,” I think. “If only we could understand…”

Third, tipping: it exists! I had completely forgotten about it considering Koreans not only don’t do tipping, but refuse tipping, even if it’s just to keep the change. So, being in a place where tipping is not only expected but sometimes forced upon you was a little surprising. I’m not going to lie, it’s great not needing to tip. But, that’s not how the world works. Just something to get used to again, I guess. It was fun while it lasted.

Lechon Seller Want to be more specific about your Lechon order? Oh right, we can. Because this dude totally speaks English. English FTW!

Fourth, (this one is for the ladies) Asian bathrooms are well-known as being squatty potties, but what I didn’t know was that there are different kinds of squats. In Korea, it’s a oval-shaped hole in the ground that you fold your body over in an irregular Z shape. Fears of bad aim are rampant at these toilets and proof is in the sticky, smelly floors, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. Take what you can get. In the Philippines though, they have toilets just without the lovely seat on top. They also usually have signs saying not to sit on the toilet at all. Well, this is a whole different group of muscles necessary for this squatting. Unfortunately, a whole different group of muscles that I don’t seem to have. Let’s just say, I prefer the Korean hole-in-the-floor squatties. And I’m going to be doing some major squats before our next travels.

We went from zero to sixty and back again in one week’s time. Being in Korea for 11 months left me jolted with the striking differences between Korea and the rest of the world. Those differences now seem so natural to me, even though I still feel like an outsider. Well, that’s Korea for ya.

Back in the Bow

Well, that hiatus was a bit longer than we had thought it would be. Andre’s family came to visit then before we knew it we were in the Philippines having the time of our lives. And now we have about three weeks before we pop this joint and head on a 4 month trip from Bangkok to Budapest.

Here’s just a smidgen of photos from our latest adventure to show you what we’ve been up to before we start posting more and keeping you posted on all of our culinary (and non-culinary) adventures!

This side of Paradise Absolute paradise (and I swear this photo has not been altered in any way. It’s just that gorgeous.)

Choco-Banana Shake, a good book, sunshine Some downtime on Apo Island, Negros, Philippines

Mango shake, a good book, sunshine The mango shake was a favorite treat on our trip. Delicious!

Just relax Finally, away from Korean beers and to some actually decent ones!

Ready and waiting

Ironman 2 is apparently much simpler than meets the eye. At least, according to a first grader of mine, it is pretty straight forward and as he says, “Very good, Miss Anna, Ironman 2 very good!”

Every Friday, I help four students write letters to their e-pals and at the same time I aid two boys write their own stories. William has recently gotten into the groove of writing summaries rather than originals. Now, he doesn’t know what a summary is, exactly, nor does he know that if he claimed these stories to be his own they would be plagiarism. But if you can’t plagiarize as a first grader, when can you?

So, for the past few Fridays I have gotten thrillingly straightforward, yet grammatically stilted one-page stories of scared Pokemonsters, blazing blue Avatars, and, most recently, deadly Ironmen. It’s this most recent story that I will share with you today because when I read it, I was amazed at the simplicity that William brought to the story. It somehow lands on all the directly important pieces of the plot and yet still shows the movie through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy who saw the movie in English with Korean subtitles.

Ironman 2 as presented to you by William

What does a girl with theatre degree from Northwestern University do in a recession? Make theatre with unsuspecting little Korean children of course.

Once a week over two months, four charming snot buckets wrote, acted in, and assistant directed their very own play. And all of it in English. And, I swear, I barely helped at all. This was an unexpected class that I taught, but I man-handled my way around the office until I got them to agree with how I wanted the class to go. I would not force them to write about what I wanted them to rather than what they wanted to. I would not write the drama for them, perhaps the speech is a little less than perfect but they wrote it. And I would not, would not, would not perform it for parents. Having a final product is very important for the parents, too important. It’s actually probably more important than the actual class and what their students learn (yes, I have judgement oozing out of my fingers right now). So, this video is the best of both worlds solution: the students get to perform their work and see it performed and there was no pressure, plus their parents get that final performance/confirmation that their children are speaking English that they so crave.

One of the most rewarding parts of it all? Seeing Kevin’s (the Baby Crow) face light up in one of the most genuine little smiles I’ve ever seen every time I mention this movie. Seriously, it’s an amazing sight.

So, here it is. The Mean Crow and the Lady Crow (yes, the title is different in the video-it’s a slightly outdated version). Enjoy it. Savor it. And be generally dazzled at the beauty of children and their willingness to play whenever they are given the chance.

Rock on, theatre, rock on.

In college I was known for cooking, a lot. And more specifically, baking. It calmed my nerves, soothed my mind, and, half the time, let me play with dough.

Dumplings ready for their strawberries
Photo by Anna Waigand

This week, a past roommate of mine (who is getting married this weekend and I’m incredibly sad that I can’t be there to be one of her bridesmaids, but I will be thinking about her all week, and everyone needs to think happy thoughts for sunshine and warmth in Charlottesville, VA for this weekend!!) sent me a message that simply said, “btw http://smittenkitchen.com.” We are both avid bakers and cookers, especially in the late-Saturday-night-don’t-go-to-Burger-King-for-drunk-munchies-because-Logan-and-Anna-are-making-butter-drenched-biscuits-for-everyone kind of a way. Cooking is the glue that stuck us together at parties and late nights when our boyfriends were playing Halo in the other room. Knowing that she has a good eye for food porn, I checked the website out. First, I must say that the photography is gorgeous. Second, the recipes look delicious. And third, Smitten Kitchen’s admittedly small kitchen still seems moons larger than ours over here at Seoulful Adventures.

I’m impressed at everything she does in such a small space, don’t get me wrong, but it made me realize just how small our kitchen is. I mean, our kitchen is essentially one-quarter of our entire living space. Plus, we have a pre-teen sized fridge, three simple burners (an upgrade from our previous two!), four cabinets for food and dishes, about two square feet of cooking counter space, and, the biggest blow, no oven.

Strawberries and sugar ready for stewing
Photo by Anna Waigand

So, after searching Smitten Kitchen’s site and eagerly reading what beautiful creations they’ve made in their own teeny cooking space, I found one that I couldn’t resist for my own cramped kitchen: Strawberries and Dumplings. It’s a simple dessert recipe that involves all of my favorites: strawberries, sugar, butter and dough. Mmm, mmm goodness! And it’s entirely all too easy to make, even if you have a kitchen the size of a handicap bathroom stall.

After doing our nightly ballet around our narrow cooking space (Andre prepared some amazing vegetable stock while I was cooking…it tastes like Thanksgiving in a shockingly rich and satisfying way! Mmm!), Andre and I gulped down these little doughy morsels. They’re just what the summer’s plump strawberry stock demands.

Strawberries and dumplings
Photo by Anna Waigand

To make it yourself, check out Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberries and Dumplings Recipe.

Personally, I substituted low-fat milk for whole milk, salted butter for unsalted butter and half-white/half-brown sugar for the white sugar in Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. Don’t follow what I did though. I only made these substitutions because they are what I had on hand. I wouldn’t suggest the first two substitutions, unless you’re on a diet and want to forego the whole milk. There is some loss of flavor, but that’s just the price paid for calorie loss, isn’t it? Do opt to go with the half-and-half sugars–it’s richer and healthier.

Oh also, the recipe says it “serves 6, in theory.” Andre and I downed them all in a mere 30 minutes (at most). I’d say it could serve 6 very self-controlled, already full eaters. For everyone else, it serves 3-4 people, if you serve them as a dessert. It serves 2 people if you serve it as a mid-afternoon/pre-dinner snack (don’t worry, no one is judging here–dessert before dinner is a time honored right denied to the young so that you can enjoy it more when you are all grown up…go on, live a little.)

Walking up to Jogyesa Temple last Sunday, I had no idea what I was getting into. The courtyard was packed with people of all nationalities. Dancing and drumming echoed around the streets. Incense burned filling the air with a hearty, floral punch. Lanterns flooded the sky with colorful shade. Photographers craned their heads around crowds and searched out new photo-ops like a mother bird searching for breakfast.

The Buddhist Street Festival spanned several blocks of the 6-laned street in front of the temple. Buddhist culture was presented to anyone who wanted it, and most people wanted it. Incense making, acupuncture and moksa therapies, wish-making, lotus lantern making, Buddhist literature, temple food. White tents lined the street filled with smiles and a wealth of experiences and information.

At dusk, the infamous Lotus Lantern Parade began at Dongdaemun Stadium and made it’s way down to Jogyesa. Lanterns lit the streets for two and a half hours bringing ajummas and ajusshis, children and chanters, drums and dancers. Monks were applauded as they filed past the spectators. Fire-breathing dragon lotus lanterns the size of several cars were oohed and ahhed.

At the finale, pinks papers representing lotus petals rained down on spectators as lanterns were swooped up to take home and music blasted out of speakers above the crowds.

The day brought feelings of comfort, generosity, compassion, and loving kindness. Free things are given to you as you walk down the street. Free food was offered to us while debating where to go next. Everyone smiles and treats festival-goers, Buddhist or not, with respect and generosity. And it is infectious. I found myself still smiling on my way to work the next day. No other festival has impacted me as much as this one.

But this was just my own experience. There was so much to do and enjoy on this joyful day it was hard to take it all in. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. Do everything. And stay through to the end. You won’t regret it.

There will be a video later, but until then, here are some photos. Be sure to check out our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set for even more photos of the glory.

Taeguk in lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Happy birthday, Buddha! Photo by Anna Waigand

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Graceful lantern carriers
Photo by Anna Waigand

Fire-breathing dragons were a crowd favorite
Photo by Anna Waigand

Ajumma's and their lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Lotus petal rain and fire-breathing dragons Photo by Danielle Harms

For more photos, be sure to go to our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set!