TOP to BOTTOM; L-R: Dinner with our real estate agent-turned new Korean friend, 1600+ Pandas, our babies
“fireworks fantasy” at Boryeong, animal shaped ice cream in Seoul (with weird cereal pieces at the bottom, beach concerts in Boryeong, Chimac Fest, super moon over the city, chicken + beer fest (before we found the craft beers)
TOP to BOTTOM; L-R: Snorkeling selfie in Hawaii, water fountain show at Suseong Lake, mud festival
Our new slate flooring in our VA home, Itaaewon, Seoul, Beijing
Sunset at Waikiki, more chimac festival, Changdeokgung Palace (why are we doing this?)
One word to describe our first summer in Korea: HOT. So very hot. So very humid. And we both grew up in Texas so we know a little thing about heat and humidity. Air conditioning exists here but Koreans have a thing about not having drastic changes in temperature so even public places with AC were kept to a lukewarm temperature. Our house on the 17th floor was for the most part ok without AC, but there were several weeks when we just couldn’t tolerate it any more and had to blast the AC unit in the living room and sleep on the couch. As for the gym in my apartment — they refused to turn on the AC but ONCE THE ENTIRE SUMMER. It was literally like working out in a sauna. Or doing hot yoga. Without the yoga.
Besides being hot we spent a lot of time cramming in as many festivals as we could — Chimac fest (chicken + beer), Boryeong Mud Fest, and visited Seoul twice. Sly traveled a lot for work. His trips were often last-minute and short so I wasn’t able to travel with him except to Hawaii. Hawaii was a damn good trade off though. We took separate flights on separate days and after a brief stop in Beijing I finally met up with Sly.
I know it seems like our life is consumed with travel but I think living in another country makes every post seem that way. We’re trying to do as much as we can while we’re here, and I usually end up blogging about the bigger (more picture-worthy) events in our lives. But I want to remember the in between moments as well — the more boring, less photogenic, day-to-day stuff that filled up our days.
Some other summer happenings and memories:
+ Tensions between North Korea and South Korea were pretty high at the end of August. Korea feels so safe that sometimes I forget we are technically living in a war zone. We just happened to be up in Seoul while all of the missile strikes and moving troops to the front line and unaccounted N.Korean submarines was going on. Sly’s bro and family were in Seoul with us visiting from Japan and immediately changed their flight so that they could return to Japan in case things went sour. Then when things sort of settled (i.e. peace talks) they changed their flights back so that they could stay. Sly and I were pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. Since we live here it’s not like we had anywhere else to go, and we knew that if things really escalated that there was an escape plan for us (and the kitties) in place. I don’t mean to make light of a stressful situation but this sort of thing happens a lot between North and South Korea especially during the scheduled military exercises that happen twice a year. As my friend put it, “send the North Koreans a case of Johnnie Walker Black and call it a day.” As always, a much more eloquent and insightful explanation of these events can be found here.
+ After tensions simmered down between North and South Korea, the Pacific was hit with Typhoon Goni. Korea rarely feels the full force of typhoons, thanks to the typhoon-blocking countries of Japan and the Philippines, but evenso it was super windy and pouring rain for what felt like weeks.
+ Our house in Virginia that is currently being rented out flooded while the tenants were away on vacation. Our water heater exploded, the drain near the heater was somehow clogged, and the entire lower level had to be ripped up and replaced. For the most part the damage was covered by insurance, but things like the water heater and the upgrade in materials + labor was not (we chose to tile the floors instead of re-carpeting). One the one hand we always hated having carpet down there (we hate floor to floor carpeting in general, but especially so in the walk-out basement) so we got to finally finish the floors with slate tile the way we always wanted. On the other hand, we don’t get to enjoy our remodel, not to mention the whole thing was (is) super stressful. What’s more fun than home repairs? Orchestrating home repairs from abroad. Icing on the cake (and unrelated to the flooding): our built in microwave needed to be replaced.
+ While we were in Hawaii Sly’s grandmother passed away. She had been sick for some time so it wasn’t totally unexpected but of course that didn’t make it any easier. We were staying at our beach bungalow in the North Shore at the time (no electricity, wifi, etc) so we spent a day driving to the nearest Starbucks so that we could use their wifi to make travel arrangements for Sly to fly back to LA from Hawaii so that he could be with family. I’m sad that I never got to meet Sly’s halmoni, but also thankful that I was able to know, and continue to learn about her, through her cooking.
+ We have lived in Korea for over 8 months now. Some days it feels as if we just arrived. Other days it feels like we have been here forever. Eight months, and beyond being able to read Korean, I still barely know the language. I suck. My goal for the next eight months: apply myself for once.
+ Sly and I were on a major health kick this summer. (Notice the use of the past tense — we took a break for a while with all the traveling but are back at it.) We are generally pretty healthy in terms of eating and staying active and Sly lifts weights consistently, but we really became focused on it this summer. I started weight training (not Crossfit, else you would have heard about it by now, right? 😀 ) and loved it! Well, loved it as much as one can love going to the (world’s hottest) gym. Maybe one of these days I’ll go into more detail but in general I feel pretty douchey talking about stuff like this.
+ The cicadas were out in full force — and boy were they loud. Some of them managed to fly all the way up to our apartment where they stuck and made noise on our window screens. While the kitties were intrigued, we were not. Yuck.
+ We found a local pet sitter to look after our kitties when we were in Hawaii. The kitties stayed at the sitter’s house which was also home to a dog and another cat. They were pretty much terrified the entire time though Max befriended the other kitty (he loves other cats). Rufus came home with a bad case of feline acne which he has had in the past . It was most likely caused by stress and not eating out of metal/ceramic bowls while at the sitter. Poor guy. Don’t worry, they are both back to their spoiled selves and Rufie’s fuzzy mouth is on the road to recovery.
+ One of the worst things about living abroad is not having *as much* contact with friends and family. One of the best things: snail mail! We have received a couple care packages, some hand-written (!) letters, and lots of postcards. Snail mail, like long emails, pen pals and telephone calls is such a dying breed. I love that i’m able to Skype with family (still feels so Jetson’s like) but something about the written correspondence really bridges the gap of time and distance.
+ I finally discovered rash guards and surf suits! it took living in a country where people like to wear shoes and socks in the water at the beach to finally get on board with wearing long sleeves at the beach. I love spending all day on the water without having to reapply sunscreen every 30 minutes. My new favorite discovery is Seea swim/surf suits. So adorable, comfortable, and made in the USA! (PS — a lot of the swimsuits are on sale now that summer is coming to a close. PPS — these suits run small. Like American Apparel small.)
+ We found a new tasty sushi place downtown. After gorging on a massive set menu of food we got caught in a total downpour which led us to buying yet another umbrella. I wonder how many new umbrellas we will have by the time we leave Korea.
+ Books read this summer: Girl on the Train, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Boston Girl, and The Martian. All of these were beach reads. Currently reading: The Quick. PS — if anyone else is on Goodreads, hit me up! I love seeing what others are reading/book reviews.
+ We didn’t watch too many movies this summer except for Mad Max and the new Mission Impossible (while in Hawaii). Living overseas means we watch a lot of Hulu and Netflix, and have been catching up on shows we never watched the first time around, like How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock. (And also Gilmore Girls for me.) On Hulu we were hooked on summer programming such as Wayward Pines, iZombie, and The Island with Bear Grylls.
+ One of our go-to summer meals was okonomiyake — or Japanese cabbage pancakes. We have eaten a lot of these pancakes in the past, but never made our own. This summer we received so much cabbage in our CSA box that we were eating okonomiyake every other week. So good! The recipe is one of those that doesn’t really need a recipe: shred cabbage (and other veggies — whatever you want — and mix with beat eggs and panko/bread crumbs until you get your desired consistency. Flatten and fry in skillet. Top with whatever you like — we like siracha-mayo sauce (I mix up my own), Worcestershire sauce, bonito flakes, and sesame seeds. Cheap, easy, and uses up all the cabbage we keep receiving.
+ We learned that Korean corn is nothing like the sweet corn. One is waxy, chewy, tough and flavorless and the other is crisp and sweet. Guess which is which.
+ I ate the worst thing I have ever eaten in my entire life: hongeohoe, or fermented skate fish. If you like crunching into bones and the flavor of straight up ammonia, then you will love this dish. I have eaten, and liked, a lot of ‘weird’ foods in my life but this is just disgusting. Flavor: 0, Texture: 0. I’d give it negative points if I could.
+ I *finally* swapped out my winter clothes with my summer clothes. This was like two weeks ago? Now the weather is juuuust starting to cool off and I’m thinking that it won’t be long before I need to switch them back. Most likely that will happen in May.
While there were so many new and exciting and weird things to explore our first summer in Korea, I also started to feel the tiniest touch of homesickness too. My family met up at my cousin’s lake house this summer and even though we were able to skype with them, it just wasn’t (obviously) the same. I kept thinking back to last summer — how simple and perfect it was. The cooler weather and the arrival of my favorite season has made my heart long for Halloween displays and football season (complete with tailgating food), and Oktoberfests and Renfests with my sister and cozying up by our fireplace in our (newly tiled) den. Sigh. The only cure for homesickness is to dive back into our new home and plan more (mini) adventures.
Goodbye Summer. You went by too fast, as you always do.