Archives for the month of: February, 2015

Today is my last day in Korea. I’m sitting at the airport on this very busy travel day (the long holiday weekend for Seollal, also known as Lunar New Year, began today), watching people come and go, wondering if their adventures are just starting or coming to an end. Did I really just spend the past year living in Korea? Did this adventure really just come to a close?

While there are certainly things I’ll miss about Korea, like the food and the adorable faces of my students, I am really looking forward to moving on. In just 20 hours I’ll be hugging my mom, cuddling with my cat and embracing the warm Florida breeze. I can’t wait.

I had every intention of writing a detailed post about what I’d miss, what I wouldn’t miss and everything I was looking forward to coming back to, but my last few weeks here really got away from me. I have a feeling I’ll have clearer vision of what it means and how it feels to be moving on to the next chapter once I’ve settled in back home anyway, so stay tuned for an update.

Thank you to everyone who followed my adventure and supportted me along this journey. And thank you, Korea, for giving me such an interesting year full of challenging yet fun and insightful times. I really will miss you and your kimchi.

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For winter break I traveled to Japan and met up with some friends for an awesome, although brief, trip. I flew to Osaka and took a train to Kyoto to meet Kinsey and Lars, who are currently living in Australia, as well as Shun and Charlie who were visiting from California and Washington. Lars lived in Japan during his college days and Shun is Japanese, so it was great having them help navigate, translate and take us to places we probably never would’ve gone had we not been with them.

We spent the majority of the time eating, drinking, and shopping, with a little bit of historical sightseeing mixed in. We used Airbnb to rent a place in Kyoto for two nights and a place in Osaka for two nights. Overall, I found Japan to be much cleaner and calmer than Korea, especially Kyoto. The food was equally delicious as Korea’s (except for the sushi, Japan wins in that department), and I was very happy to be able to drink tasty Japanese micro-brews (sorry, Korea, I’m way over your Cass and soju) and of course, sake.

I really hope to go back to Japan someday in the spring or summer. It was still beautiful in winter (despite the season, there was a lot of green foliage which reminded me somewhat of Seattle in the winter), but I imagine it to be even better when everything is in full bloom. Until then, I hope you enjoy this mass upload of photos.

I was so excited to meet up with Kinsey in Japan!

I was so excited to meet up with Kinsey in Japan!

The entrance to a typical Japanese house.

The entrance to a typical Japanese house.

A side street in Kyoto.

A side street in Kyoto.

The entrance to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine in Kyoto.

The entrance to Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inaari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inaari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha

The snazzy craft beer bar in Kyoto. They had 24 different beers on tap, all made in Japan.

The snazzy craft beer bar in Kyoto. They had 24 different beers on tap, all made in Japan.

Kinsey and Shun at an izakaya (a Japanese tapas style bar) offering all-you-can-drink for 90 minutes for just $12. It was a fun night.

Kinsey and Shun at an izakaya (a Japanese tapas style bar) offering all-you-can-drink for 90 minutes for just $12. It was a fun night.

Lars and Charlie

Lars and Charlie

A bike parking lot! Bikes are everywhere in Japan.

A bike parking lot! Bikes are everywhere in Japan.

We found a cat cafe in Osaka. Here's Kinsey's cat impression.

We found a cat cafe in Osaka. Here’s Kinsey’s cat impression.

An old sake vending machine in a cute neighborhood in Kyoto. We tried to buy a bottle, but it wasn't working.

An old sake vending machine in a cute neighborhood in Kyoto. We tried to buy a bottle, but it wasn’t working.

A vegetable vending machine! You can see broccoli in the bottom left corner. It seems they have vending machines for everything in Japan.

A vegetable vending machine! You can see broccoli in the bottom left corner. It seems they have vending machines for everything in Japan.

We found several excellent coffee shops in Kyoto, which was awesome because I'm a bit tired of Korean instant coffee. I also ordered what was described as "egg toast" which came slathered in ketchup. The boys ordered french toast that was amazing.

We found several excellent coffee shops in Kyoto, which was awesome because I’m a bit tired of Korean instant coffee. I also ordered what was described as “egg toast” which came slathered in ketchup. The boys ordered french toast that was amazing.

Dotonbori, Osaka

Dotonbori, Osaka

Conveyor belt sushi. Each plate was only $1.30 and it was delicious.

Conveyor belt sushi. Each plate was only $1.30 and it was delicious.

Shun took us to a restaurant in Osaka that is known for okonomiyaki (a type of savory pancake) that you cook at your table. You are given a bowl with all the ingredients which you mix up then put on your grill. They came with cabbage, onions, a batter of some sort, and egg and a type of meat (we tried one with pork, one with beef and one with seafood).

Shun took us to a restaurant in Osaka that is known for okonomiyaki (a type of savory pancake) that you cook at your table. You are given a bowl with all the ingredients which you mix up then put on your grill. They came with cabbage, onions, a batter of some sort, and egg and a type of meat (we tried one with pork, one with beef and one with seafood).

After the pancakes are cooked, you add a delicious sauce and katsuobushi (dried bonita fish flakes) to the top. The were so tasty!

After the pancakes are cooked, you add a delicious sauce and katsuobushi (dried bonita fish flakes) to the top. The were so tasty!

The woman that worked there was really sweet and liked posing for the camera.

The woman that worked there was really sweet and liked posing for the camera.

We also ordered yakisoba. It was so good.

We also ordered yakisoba. It was so good.

Dotonbori, Osaka. So many people!

Dotonbori, Osaka. So many people!

We tried out a purikura (a Japanese style photo both). Twice. They photo shop you so much that you look like completely different people. Then you can add all kinds of stickers and embellishments. We looked ridiculous. It was hilarious.

We tried out a purikura (a Japanese style photo both). Twice. They photo shop you so much that you look like completely different people. Then you can add all kinds of stickers and embellishments. We looked ridiculous. It was hilarious.

Takoyaki, a flour based pancake-like ball filled with octopus. Little stands selling them at all hours are all over Osaka.

Takoyaki, a flour based pancake-like ball filled with octopus. Little stands selling them at all hours are all over Osaka.

Making takoyaki.

Making takoyaki.

Kiyomizu-dera, an ancient Buddhist temple.

Kiyomizu-dera, an ancient Buddhist temple.

An old man yanked my camera from me when we were at Kiyomizu-dera and snapped quite a few photos of us. Had we not been in Japan, I would've thought he was trying to steal my camera.

An old man yanked my camera from me when we were at Kiyomizu-dera and snapped quite a few photos of us. Had we not been in Japan, I would’ve thought he was trying to steal my camera.

A temple at Kiyomizu-dera.

A temple at Kiyomizu-dera.

Kinsey and Lars rubbing the rock for good relationship luck.

Kinsey and Lars rubbing the rock for good relationship luck.

Udon with seaweed.

Udon with seaweed.

We stumbled upon this cool old bike in Kyoto.

We stumbled upon this cool old bike in Kyoto.

Walking around the Gion district in Kyoto.

Walking around the Gion district in Kyoto.

Gion, Kyoto

Gion, Kyoto

A zen garden with Buddha in the background.

A zen garden with Buddha in the background.

An old tea house.

An old tea house.

Charlie and the giant bamboo.

Charlie and the giant bamboo.

Bamboo

Bamboo

Bamboo roots.

Bamboo roots.

The largest fanny pack ever at a department store in Osaka.

The largest fanny pack ever at a department store in Osaka.

Delicious ramen with pork and a soft boiled egg. There were also bowls of fresh eggs on each table that you could crack into your ramen or on top of a bowl of rice.

Delicious ramen with pork and a soft boiled egg. There were also bowls of fresh eggs on each table that you could crack into your ramen or on top of a bowl of rice.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

View from the top of Osaka Castle.

View from the top of Osaka Castle.

The moat and wall around Osaka Castle.

The moat and wall around Osaka Castle.

Really excited about sushi!

Really excited about sushi!

More sushi.

More sushi.

Somewhere in Osaka.

Somewhere in Osaka.

Hanging out in our apartment in Osaka.

Hanging out in our apartment in Osaka.

Bulgogi is a popular Korean dish usually consisting of marinated beef that is thinly sliced and cooked over a grill. It translates to fire (bul) meat (gogi), referring the grilling of the meat over an open flame, however it is common to see this dish being pan-cooked as well. There are different variations of the marinade, but they are all usually slightly sweet, making it especially appealing to those that don’t like spicy food. Soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onions, pepper, ginger, and sugar are common ingredients for the marinade, and you’ll sometimes find fruits such as crushed pear added for sweetness (my favorite!). When bulgogi is pan-cooked, vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, green onions and bok choy are often added, resulting in more of a soupy dish rather than just the grilled meat. I still haven’t decided which way I prefer bulgogi to be prepared, but I have come to the conclusion that I like to eat pan-cooked bulgogi with rice and grilled bulgogi with lettuce or perilla leaves for wrapping. I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and try my own version!

Pan-cooked bulgogi with onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots.

Pan-cooked bulgogi with onions, peppers, mushrooms and carrots.

Bulgogi that is being pan-cooked at our table with traditional side dishes of cabbage salad, cubed radish kimchi, bean sprouts, mashed sweet potato, kimchi and dried seaweed. It was all delicious!

Bulgogi that is being pan-cooked at our table with traditional side dishes of cabbage salad, cubed radish kimchi, bean sprouts, mashed sweet potato, kimchi and dried seaweed. It was all delicious!

This is bulgogi jungol (a stew of sorts) that has extra broth, glass noodles and rice cake in addition to the beef, mushrooms, onions and bok choy. At this particular restaurant they used fruit juices to sweeten the marinade instead of sugar, making it one of my favorite bulogi dishes so far.

This is bulgogi jungol (a stew of sorts) that has extra broth, glass noodles and rice cakes in addition to the beef, mushrooms, onions and bok choy. At this particular restaurant they used fruit juices to sweeten the marinade instead of sugar, making it one of my favorite bulogi dishes so far.