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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.

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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

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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!

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