Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pig cheek?

I realize that a large portion of my blog entries have to do with questionable cuisine choices; this entry is no different. That's all part and parcel of living in or traveling to new and different countries. In Australia, some people eat kangaroo. In Vietnam, I saw cat on the menu. Here in Korea, I've sampled dog stew. Now I know that it's easy to judge my choices based on America's conception of which animals are "politically correct" to eat, but to some people, eating deer or hot dogs/brats is disgusting. I do have my own "line", just as everyone should. No matter how open minded culturally I try to be, I still couldn't bring myself to eat live octopus. I guess there's just something about it being alive in my mouth that I couldn't bear.

Anyway, I was invited to another strange sounding dinner--one of pig cheek. I guess in America we are "specific" with naming certain parts of animals as well: pork loin, chicken breast, thigh, rump roast, etc...but I guess I just never considered eating an animal's cheek. It creates quite a visual, doesn't it? Anyway, it was good. I wouldn't have known the difference between that and any other part of the pig. It was a good night out with two fun Korean workmates, Seung Han and In Seo.

Korean restaurants definitely follow the "Function over form" rule. Some Koreans think that the shittier the interior of the restaurant, the better the food will be. I read that there's something about remodeling that's bad luck.
Throwing the pig cheek on the grill
Look closely! It's Seung Han's picture! He was on the wall at a local bar--he must be a regular.

Dr. Fish

There's a new fad in Asia called Dr. Fish. Dr. Fish is a cafe with shallow, warm-water foot pools containing hundreds of tiny minnow-like fish imported from China. For some strange reason, these hungry creatures like to nibble the dead skin off of people's feet! Ewww! Doesn't sound like a good dinner to me. But my curiosity was piqued, so I had to go check it out. It was only $2 for 15 minutes of foot-soaking and fish-nibbling. It felt SO weird! Like ticklish but almost too much stimulation. My friend Kelly and I couldn't stop laughing and it was difficult for us to keep our feet in the water. I soldiered through it and I'm pleased to say that my feet are smoother than ever.

The Land of Oz

So it's been awhile. I've had motivation issues. Anyway, as many of you know, I was in beautiful Australia for an entire month the end of December through the end of January. We drove from Melbourne up the east coast to Cairns. 3387 kms (2104 miles). To sum up: a country of open roads,bright blue skies, stunning beaches, marsupials, and barbies (BBQs). I'll let the pictures tell the story. You'll have to overlook a slight contradiction in the photos-- first, I'm petting a beautiful kangaroo and then I'm eating one. I'm a complicated gal.

Me and Roo (Before)
Probably a poor choice of photo order
The next logical step...kangaroo steak on the barbie. Delicious. (After)
Our Wicked campervan. Ours was "Smokin' Angels". We slept in there.
Geoff and I on the Bondi-Coogee beach walk
Saltwater pool (they call it a "rock pool"--built into the ocean) overlooking Bondi Beach, Sydney

Nivea and I at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Brisbane. And no, I didn't eat her.

Yarra Valley Vineyards
Rolling hills of Yarra Valley (near Melbourne)
Me and 90 mile beach (it was deserted...unbelievable)
Overlooking Bondi Beach in Sydney
The infamous Sydney Opera House. View from a ferry on the way to Manly Beach.

It was an awesome trip. I'm a pretty lucky girl.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Don't burn the day away

I was listening to some music today, and this song hit me hard.

Oh isn’t it strange
How we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should wash us all away
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing
But look at my blood
It’s alive right now deep and sweet within
Pouring through our veins
Intoxicate moving wine to tears
And drinkin' it deep
Then an evening spent dancing it’s you and me
This love will open our world
From the dark side we can see the glow of something bright
There’s much more than we see here
Don’t burn the day
Don’t burn the day
Don’t burn the day away
Is this not enough
This blessed sip of life is it not enough
Staring down at the ground
Then complain and pray for more from above
You greedy little pig
Stop just watch your world trickle away
It’s your problem now
It’ll all be dead and gone in a few short years
Just love will open our eyes
Just love will put the hope back in our minds
Much more than we could ever know
So don’t burn the day
Don’t burn the day
Come sister, my brother
Shake up your bones, shake up your feet
I’m saying open up
And let the rain come pouring in
Wash out this tired notion
That the best is yet to come
And while you’re dancing on the ground
Don’t think of when you’re gone
Love! Love! Love!
What more is there?
Cause we need the light of love in here
Don’t beat your head, dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There's bad times, but that’s ok
Just look for love in it
And don’t burn the day away
Look, here are we
On this starry night, staring into space
And I must say
I feel as small as dust down here
What point could there be troubling
Head down wondering what will become of me
What concern we cannot see
But no reason to abandon it
The time is short, but that’s alright
Maybe I’ll go out in the middle of the night
Take your hands from your eyes my love
All good things must come to an end sometime
But don’t burn the day
Don’t burn the day away

"Pig"--Dave Matthews

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I arrived back in Seoul Sunday, only to get some terrible news on Tuesday. My dear friend Joel was taken from this life without warning Monday morning. Joel and I had some wonderful times together before I came to Korea. Joel is a very giving man, a wonderful musician, and could be a bit scatter-brained at times (he knows it). Joel is very much loved and already tremendously missed by more people than I can count. My heart goes out to his family and friends, who lost him way too soon. I know he's in a better place with his mom and impatient to move onto the next thing. He has a fiercely strong and independent spirit and laughed at my corny, over-the-top jokes. I chatted with him online shortly before leaving for Australia. He seemed happy and as always, wished me well on what he considered to be "the coolest trip he's ever heard of". He always started the conversation with "Hey lady" and I'll miss it.

Joel rockin' out. I told you he was a great musician. He could imitate a song on the guitar or piano just by hearing it once. He secretly dreamed of being a rock star (well, maybe not so secretly)
Joel and I in Cancun, Mexico for his friends' wedding (Corey and Mandy). We had a fantastic night. The best club ever-we agreed. Coco Bongo.
At my cousin Heidi and his brother Brian's wedding in Destin, Florida, May 2005. He was the best man and I was the maid of honor.

Joel will be fondly thought of often by many people, including me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Herb Doctor

Although this has been on my list of things to do for a long time, I just got around to going to a true Oriental doctor last Friday. By Oriental doctor I mean someone who practices Eastern medicine. Like acupuncture. What better place to visit one of these people than in Asia?

Anyway, a Korean woman I know and trust took me to him. She's been seeing him on a weekly basis for over a year now, and she swears that she's experienced marked improvements in her energy level and ailments. Sold. For approximately $25 per visit, I can swing that.

The first thing he did was take my pulse with his fingers. Then he asked me some questions and had me lay down on the table. After some poking and prodding on my stomach and back, he decided that my liver is a bit weak (ok, ok, no drinking jokes). I don't know how he deduced that from pushing around on my core, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. So here come the needles!

He's a special kind of acupuncturist. Not only does he stick needles in, but he also injects some kinds of herbs with the needle. So he chose only certain places (meridians--where the energy flows), about 3 points on my stomach and 3 or 4 on my back, and one right below my neck. The first needle in the back actually made me jump. And that area is still sore 3 days later. The rest of the insertions didn't hurt at all; the needles are very thin. Oddly, only one insertion left a bruise. On my stomach.

After the 5-8 minute treatment, he took my pulse again. On both wrists. He claimed to already notice a difference. Again, I'll buy that for now.

I haven't noticed anything different since the treatment. I was coming down with a cold when I received it, and it still turned into a full-blown cold. But I'm not throwing in the towel yet--repeated treatment was advised (maybe weekly) until I feel a difference. So I think I'm going to try it for awhile and see what happens!

My international Korean class

Me, Merek (my class partner from Kazakhstan, aka Borat) and the woman from India.
My teacher Ji seon Yang (Korean) in the middle, Guatemala and Venezuela.
Krystal (American) and my teacher salsa dancing to Julio's singing!

As it's been 2 years since I first came to Korea, I thought it might be a nice gesture to the country and my coworkers (who are all Korean) to try to learn a bit of the language. Currently I know bits and pieces; functional Korean, if you will. "How much is it?", "I'd like to order..." "Where's the bathroom", "Help me", "Turn left", "shut your f*cking mouth", know, just the necessities.

Now just so you don't think I'm an ethnocentric jerk, let me explain something to you: it's absolutely non-essential to speak Korean to get by in this country. I'm here to teach English, afterall, so my job does not by any means require it. And more often than not, I encounter people who would rather practice their English skills than allow me to practice speaking Korean.

Because I don't plan to live my life here (3 years max, I promise!), and because Korean isn't spoken in any other country, I don't feel that it's a great use of my time to learn to speak Korean fluently. The basics are just fine. So I sound like a cave(wo)man--so what? ME SHANNON TEACHER.

This leads me to my first Korean class experience. It's really cool actually. Only 3 American professors (like me) are in the class while the rest of the students are diplomats of various countries! They work at their respective country's embassy in Seoul. Let me just give you a sampling. We've got Guatemalans, Venezuelans, a Pakistani, Kazakhstanis, Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Bangladesh citizens. (sorry if I didn't use the correct label- I really tried).
I sit by a guy named Merek. He's from Kazakhstan. Of course I've had the Borat conversation with him. Evidently their country at first hated that Borat claimed to be from Kazakhstan, but decided in the end that it was good for tourism. (Evidently it put them on the map).

Among all of these ethnicities, I feel decidedly un-exotic. That's surprising, because usually I feel pretty foreign being the only American among all Koreans. Let me give you an example. One night our Korean teacher told us to bring a food or drink native to our home country. The man from Venezuela brought a rum/brandy/congnac made in his country, a man from Kazakhstan brought these chocolate-covered dates with Russian writing on the wrapper, and I brought Dunkin Donuts.

Another interesting tidbit~ the man from Venezuela is actually a famous singer in his country! He brought in his album and let us listen to it. His name is Julio Ceasar Gonzalez. Cool. You should hear the stories I tell them about what I used to be in video just hasn't been released yet.

Anyway, it's pretty cool meeting and interacting with all of these amazing diplomats! How much Korean I learn is secondary...I'm here to socialize, not LEARN! The pictures are from a Korean culture cooking class. We learned how to make "Chap Chae" (a noodle dish). It was fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Korea's Britney Spears?

So I recently found out that one of the most famous Korean pop stars, Lee Hyori, attends the university I teach at. She's even a Communication major (my department). Exciting!

What does this mean for me, you ask? Perhaps a brush with fame. Maybe she'll see me and want a foreigner for her new video. Or a foreign friend. Or maybe she'll just walk past me. Whatever.

Last year when I arrived in Korea, one of her songs, "Anyclub" was really popular and I liked it, so I started checking out what else she sings. I guess you could say she's the Britney Spears of Korea. She even covers one of Britney's songs ('Get Ya').

Just thought I'd share some exciting news and a small part of Korean pop culture. Here's the video of "Anyclub", if you're interested. Culture yourselves, people! For the dudes who are reading this, watch the video. She's pretty hot.
And if I see her on campus, I'll give her a shout-out for you.
Lee Hyori. I'm pretty sure this photo wasn't taken in class.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Manila and Palawan

My trip to the Philippines was amazing in many ways. I think the best way to go about explaining it to you is in highs and lows.

We danced and drank all night with "little people" at the Hobbit House in Manila. It's a bar that's modeled after "The Shire" from Lord of the Rings, complete with a complete staff of "hobbits".

We were upgraded from a beach cottage to "the Villa" (one and only) on Sangat Island. Our 3-story villa was made out of all natural materials found on the island, had 3 hammocks on the porch, and our shower was a cave! Did I mention we had our own private beach?

We did in fact see monkeys. They even took over our porch for awhile. Geoff was surrounded by about 10 of them at one point, but luckily they were nice enough monkeys to back off.

Kayaks were included with our villa (since there are no roads or motorized vehicles on the islands-only walking paths and the ocean). We snorkeled, relaxed in natural hotsprings, took boat rides to neighboring islands (one of which had a freshwater lake!), and napped in hammocks. Truly paradise.

The weather in Manila was crap. It rained most of the time. Dirty, dirty rain.

Manila was very dangerous. The gap between the rich and the poor is astounding.

We all got sick at some point. I thought it could be malaria (there is a risk of that). But I was wrong. So technically, this could go in the "high" section.

We had some transportation issues. Almost missed our once a day island flight (14 row plane) and our jeepney (cross between a bus and a jeep) ride through semi-flooded dirt roads was terrifying.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. I would recommend going to Palawan, and specifically Sangat Island. It is very eco-friendly, and not overrun by tourists. There are only 11 cottages on the entire island, and the staff was amazing. Their motto was "Anything is possible". I don't normally say this, because there are too many places I want to travel to, but I plan on going back.

These were the boats that we traveled in. I'm the boat model. Yikes. That pose isn't going to sell anything.
Monkey business on our porch! (you may have to double-click and enlarge the image to see the little guys)
A view of our villa, private beach, and kayaks! This was taken from a stilted over-water walkway used to reach our beach.
Our villa up-close.
Dancin' with a hobbit...just another Saturday night in Manila.
Geoff and I showing off our mad kayaking skills!
Courtney and I taking a shower in our "grotto" after a long day of relaxing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Philippines

Coming up at the end of September is the Korean thanksgiving celebration called "Chuseok". We get 3 days off of work, plus the weekend, so that translates into a 5-day break. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I won't let such an opportunity pass without traveling. Therefore, I'm going to the Philippines with my friends Geoff and Courtney. Courtney is relatively new here (she arrived in June) but we became fast friends. She's from Colorado but lived in the Chicago area for several years (and has family in Paddock Lake!). We talk about things like the Brat Stop and Prime Outlets. Among other things.
We leave tomorrow and get back at 5:30 am next Thursday morning, right before work! Talk about squeezing every last drop out of a vacation....I don't have any appointments until 2pm that day, but Courtney has to be to work by 9. So hopefully our flight will get in on time along with our airport shuttle.

We'll be staying in Manila (the capital city) for 2 days, and on the island of Palawan (specifically Sangat Island) for 3 days. The Philippines has close to 7,200 islands so our selection had to do with the fact that it's a very eco-friendly island (lots of wildlife and nature) and few tourists. If we would have wanted a real touristy place, we could have picked Boracay or Cebu, but I figured they'd be similar to Cancun, Mexico.

Our island supposedly has monkeys on it (woohoo! I'm totally going to hang out with MONKEYS!) and we're staying in one of only 10 beachfront cottages on the island. There's also a hammock involved per cottage (I already called it). We get kayaks upon arrival as a means of transportation since there are no roads on the island. Here's the website link to where we're staying:
The 'photoalbum' tab is especially cool. Here's to hoping that the weather is nice!

Other summer festivities

While I was back in Milwaukee, I was busy everyday seeing people and doing summer things. I went to a Brewer game (and tailgated), Six Flags Great America, summer outdoor brunch with bloody marys, campfires, cookouts, and various parties. Not to mention meeting Sarah Jessica Parker...but that was another entry.

Keri and I drinking bloodies at Cafe Hollander.
My boys tailgating before the Brewer's game. (Matt, Jeff, Josh and Steve)
My girls. (Dawn, Heidi and Keri. Where's cousin Heidi?)
At the game....the boys had much better seats, but we were dangerously close to the Bernie Brewer slide. We considered sliding down....but I've already broken enough Brewer slides for one lifetime (Lakefront Brewery).
Josh's parents had a huge cookout since he was back from Boston. We had a campfire and slept in tents in the yard.